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The Environmental Semiotics of Second Life: Reading the Splash Aquatics Store.
Graduate Journal of Social Science (2011)
  • Joseph S Clark, Florida State University

Nature myths have been described in a number of contemporary media texts, both overtly and through connotation. Media like multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) offer a critical challenge because they at times approach an immersive, felt realism that seems to transcend symbolism itself. Readers of these texts inhabit the space in a more compelling manner (in a phenomenological sense) than on's identification or engagement with a novel or movie. Because of the way this kind of virtual space inhabits a liminal space between real and not-real; material and embodied, yet completely constructed and artificial; it's especially interesting to see how other-than-human life and ecosystems are represented here. A common sight in Second Life is a kind of idyll, a natural-seeming area most often in the form of a forest through which avatars might stroll hand-in-hand or simply gaze upon, much as the 19th-century Romantics sought visual experiences of the Sublime. If we take such texts on their own terms, Nature is valuable and restorative. But the text also reinscribes a binary between "natural" and "civilized" areas, and the spaced are promoted (on search engines) as, primarily, places to relax and unwind. In other words, as a place for human consumption. Resistive readings are possible, and the paper describes several of these based on a close reading of several prominent Second Life constructions, concluding with a formative critical methodology for ’reading‘ virtual reality.

  • virtual worlds,
  • environment,
  • semiotics,
  • culture studies,
  • visual rhetorics
Publication Date
December, 2011
Citation Information
Joseph S Clark. "The Environmental Semiotics of Second Life: Reading the Splash Aquatics Store." Graduate Journal of Social Science Vol. 8 Iss. 3 (2011)
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