Reading Vaneeesa’s interpretation of what is presence in virtual worlds made me think of an article I read a while back (and which thoroughly influenced my research and interest in virtual reality) by Thomas and Brown. While I am applying their concept of presence to virtual environments akin to SL, MMOGs, especially WoW, were the original context of their research. Basically, Thomas and Brown posited that while the “action” occurs in a virtual space, any experience in such a space actually occurs in both virtual and actual contexts. In other words, players reflect on their in-world experiences in an actual context to form not only abstract concepts, but also relate virtual experiences (as we are doing on this blog) to both actual and virtual settings by sharing mutually constituted reality with participating, yet physically disconnected users.
What is so fascinating to me about their research is the concept that within any virtual environment lays a networked imaginative state that is at once unique to the individual player and collectively shared by all. As many of us have experience, this networked imaginative state allows us, while immersed in a virtual space, to think beyond what we see and act out on the screen. A shared imagined reality gives virtual environments, including blogs in my opinion, their power and allows for a shared sense of presence where users feel as if they are engaging with the environment as a shared cultural and social place. Without that we could never compare, as we have done, blogs or virtual worlds to the salons of yore.
What do you think about this theory? To what extent does networked imagination play a role in your virtual experiences and the bonds you form with others in these environments?
If any of you are interested in reading the actual article, here is the reference:
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2007). The play of imagination: Extending the literary mind. Games and Culture, 2(2), 149-172. doi: 10.1177/1555412007299458