Digital Dwelling: Building in Online Worlds

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Reality Jamming 3

Presentation Title:

  • Digital Dwelling: Building in Online Worlds

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Abstract:

  • When given almost total freedom, many users of the “virtual”, online world Second Life (Linden Lab, 2003) invest considerable economic, creative, and emotional resources in search of a home. The goal is to establish a sense of belonging; the means are architecture.

    This paper frames online worlds as an example of convergence culture, a culture characterised by participation and interaction (Henry Jenkins). The paper then goes on to consider a specific, participatory and interactive practice, building projects within the online world Second Life (Linden Lab, 2003), as a practice taking place in an affinity space (James Paul Gee). Exemplary of affinity space, Second Life provides powerful opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, letting users teach each other how to build inside the world. Architecture is practiced among users in a craft-like and collective fashion.

    Theoretical discussion shows how online building challenges the concept of affinity space, and calls for it to be supplemented with notions found within architectural theory. The concept of affinity space offers an understanding of online building emphasizing the social while opposing any sense of attachment not socially generated. In contrast, the architectural concept of dwelling (Martin Heidegger) brackets the social and focuses on essential and non-social traits.

    The theoretical discussion is informed by case studies of building collectives in Second Life. The studies demonstrate how strong economic, social and emotional user investments intertwine in architectural building projects, generating a level of attachment that becomes easier to explain with recourse to architectural thought and its notion of dwelling.

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