The “Virtual Heterotopias” : Reimagining Nature-Culture Relations
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Revisiting the complex dynamics of nature-culture relations should take into consideration the juxtapositions between multiple spaces, times and meanings that constitute the current anthropological understanding of the concept of ‘environment’. As digital technologies were progressively incorporated into the ways in which the influences of the environment are perceived and reimagined, a new type of places appeared: the ‘virtual heterotopias’. They typify contemporary conceptualizations of the environment by simultaneously connecting and differentiating multiple spaces and times. In my paper, I draw upon the theoretical groundwork developed by Michel Foucault (1967) regarding heterotopias. I focus on how nature-culture relations are mirrored, signified and reimagined in virtual worlds (i.e. MMOG worlds). I consider the virtual worlds to be multileveled heterotopias where the digital counterparts of real elements from the environment seem more ‘real’ and ‘compelling’ than the originals. The new ways in which ‘virtual heterotopias’ are built in order to represent multiple dimensions of the environment ultimately contribute to a redefinition of heterotopias’ epistemological and anthropological relevance.
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