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Virtually real : being in cyberspace

Leigh, M 2014 , 'Virtually real : being in cyberspace', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis is an autoethnographic account of my search for the sacred in
cyberspace. The research was conducted in the virtual world Second Life, and
in particular in two role play communities set in Ancient Egypt. Virtual worlds
are often criticised as unreal, as just games. Here I explore the ontological
status of virtual worlds, recognising the priority for their inhabitants of lived
experience over purely rational assessments. This research is unique and
important as no monograph of role play communities in Second Life has yet
been published, and yet tens of millions of people spend an increasing amount
of time in virtual and game worlds, often preferring them to the meatspace
world. I recount my experiences with ritual in cyberspace, describing sacred
virtual space, and its relationship to sacred meatspace from a Pagan
perspective. I compare two initiation rituals, and describe how one produced
the perception of sacred space, in both meatspace and the virtual world, while
the other remained only a role play. Finally I analyse an opening of the mouth
ritual to reveal the way we make sense of our own realities by building on and
remixing what came before us, and to argue that there are many truths and
that objectivity is impossible in the human condition. This is the story of how I
became one with my avatar, despite my best efforts not to do so.
Themes of the fun economy, remix culture, and copyright inform the analysis
in the thesis. I explore Castronova's concept of the fun economy, the amalgam
of work, play and education which characterises twenty first century life in the
developed world. Freedom and fun are the motivators for the inhabitants of
virtual worlds and the bounds of these are defined by copyright. This issue is
examined through the lens of the Second Life permissions system and the
work of Lessig and his concept of remix culture. I argue that remix culture has
permeated the entirety of human history, giving examples from ancient Egypt
through to the present day, and consider the implications for human culture if
restrictive copyright laws continue to dominate legal frameworks, despite
their failure to achieve their desired ends. Exploring our future in cyberspace
though Kurzweil's concept of the singularity, I consider the possibilities of his
predicted combination of the worlds of meatspace and the virtual.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Leigh, M
Keywords: virtual worlds, religion, Egypt, ontology, second life, Pagan, role play, gaming
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 2014 the Author. This thesis is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0
International License.

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