www.dichtung-digital.com/2003/4-mortensen.htm

The Geography of a Non-place

by Torill Mortensen

In role-playing MUDs, the arena is defined by the program and the builders, and mapping it is complicated and occasionally made even more so by those who create the arena.  Still the metaphor of space is powerful and enduring, and players speak of the different little bits of text describing different settings in the MUD as rooms. They talk of movement and speed, of roads and paths, when what is really happening when the character moves from Haven or Azur is that the program lets you sort through its stored information in a certain manner.  Only the administrators have power to access the information directly, all others need to follow some path, which creates an illusion of space and particularly of place.  This illusion of place is not restricted to MUDs though: the metaphors of physical movement are powerful and enduring, to the point that Sherry Turkle’s interviewee suggests that online is its own place (Turkle 1995:231).  But is the “place” I am accessing when I log on to the net comparable to physical places?  I will discuss this on the background of Mark Auge’s concept of a non-place (1995).


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