Just a brief post this time, since I’m still trying to write the conclusion to the book and don’t want to be too distracted, but here’s a thought: …
virtual worlds help to redefine what our notion of history actually is. Understanding what translates from the physical world to the virtual world when buildings with which we have an historical relationship are reproduced within a computer-generated environment leads to questions about our experiences and how these become associated with space. In part the new virtual builds may recall our own personal historical connection with the physical version of the building, but our emotional connection with that space is probably at one remove if we are just observing it within the virtual world. However, it is possible to imbue virtual spaces with their own history, through the design of activities, such as in Ian Upton’s Ritual Circles, to foster these experiences and through the actions of people exploring, using and attributing meaning to those spaces under their own auspices. The different nature of the various Globe Theatres within Second Life is testament to that, in that some, though less historically accurate, are located within community spaces and so have a historical significance to the community in which they are embedded, others which are historically accurate survive as showcases of the building skills and interests of its creators, and others are no longer in Second Life and now only exist as 3D models and photographs.
As we move more towards using virtual spaces, and in meaning being accrued to physical spaces via augmented realities, will history itself become a more fluid concept? As people modify the augmented aspect of buildings through their own adding of geotagged paradata, will this augmented aspect be considered part of the intrinsic historical meaning of a site, in the same way that a Banksy graffito is preserved and lauded in the physical world at present, or merely ephemeral or a nuisance? As different applications layer different paradata onto sites, will the history of spaces diverge, depending on whether you follow an Apple or an Android historical perspective?
And a final thought:
Through augmented reality, the mingling of avatars and physical bodies, as pioneered in the Extract Insert installation, will become more commonplace. The worlds through which we move will become tagged with paradata and the wider psychological immersion that comes with understanding a space will be greater. This will have its bigger impact, potentially, in those fourth places within the physical world. Places of ritual significance, performance spaces and game spaces are all those that possess greater semiotic significance and benefit from having that wealth of meaning made manifest. As paradata are tagged to the artefacts and people around us, then boundary objects become more accessible and the other members in our communities become more known to us. If we can enter these spaces projecting our avatars to others, through mapping them onto our physical bodies, identity becomes more malleable and roleplay more attainable. Potentially new types of spaces will arise, with new conventions and new ways to communicate as the affordances of both worlds collide and create a new synthesis. Those of us who can will live constantly in a state of metaxis. Those who cannot adapt will become increasingly alienated and isolated.