Posted by nea229 on May 10, 2010
Games and Virtual Geography: GRG 309
Blog (Extra Credit) Assignment #1
www.facebook.com as Space and Place
I thought this blogging assignment could pose as a convenient addition to the research material which I generated for my final research project in this class. The purpose of my research on virtual worlds was to investigate the various ways in which www.facebook.com could represent a virtual environment, and since the concept of environment is so closely related to the term, world, it will also be used in relation to the one that I believe exists in www.facebook.com. The method used in order to collect my research findings was to conduct a comprehensive, four question multiple-choice survey on 100 students at the University of Texas at Austin TX. The research data that was collected enabled me to gain valuable information about peoples’ perceptions and opinions about how this website could pose as a virtual environment, in the realm of “cyber-space”. One of the four questions that were listed on the survey sheet included a specific question about how www.facebook.com could represent a virtual “cyber-place” while spending time on the internet. I received a lot of questions from my survey subjects such as, what do you mean by “cyber-place”? Or simply, what is a “cyber-place”? I answered their questions to the best of my ability; as I am not an expert on the subject of either space or place and much less about how it relates to the cyber-realm, but I believe they received the necessary information from me that allowed them to answer the question. I essentially tried to ‘encourage’ the survey sampler to think of www.facebook.com as posing a ‘place’ on the world-wide-web that provided a medium through which people could interact and mingle with without having to be physically present in a physical, terrestrial location; and this medium is one that is known to “transcend national borders” and occurs at a global scale (Adams 1992: 118). After explaining this, in a matter of minutes, the sampler attained the idea. However, for the purposes of this blog, and to possibly clear up any misconceptions about the nature of cyberspace as it related to my research findings, I’ll try to present a little more information on the nature of “cyberplace”; as it will relate to the spaces contained within it, and inevitably contributing to a understanding of one of my most important research questions. The collective term for how concepts of place and space can relate to various computer networks is to define them as “virtual-place metaphors” (Adams, 1998: 88). One such metaphor that I believe provides an ideal definition for the term cyberspace, as I believe it relates to websites such as www.facebook.com, is to call it a virtual medium. Neil Postman defined a medium as something that represents the social and intellectual environments that are created by machines ((Postman 1985:84); Adams 1992: 119). The idea of mechanically reproduced environments where interactions between humans can take place at any given moment is an issue which the concept of “cyberplace” brings to light. My rational when explaining the nature of my question to the survey subjects was to advocate that if something like cyberspace exists, so too must a ‘cyberplace’ exist within it. www.facebook.com is a website that I believed could have qualifying characteristics of a certain cyberplace that exists in cyberspace. But where exactly is www.facebook.com located in the grand scale phenomenon that is cyberspace? Computer-network-activist organizations often claim that over the last 50 years, human society has crossed into a landscape that is unlike any of which it has ever experienced before. This unknown landscape is perceived to be one in which there is little shape and/or form, and it exists in the unexplored web of our electronic communications network ((Kapor and Barlow 1993: 1); Adams 1998: 88). This comes as no surprise when referring to Postman’s definition for medium as social and intellectual scenery that is reproduced by machines. The goal of such mechanical reproductions of our natural environmental systems is to invoke place experiences (Adams 1998: 89). Cyberspace can now be defined as the collective mass of environmental reproductions that contribute to place-like experiences on the world-wide-web. A specific location, even though its topography and boundary have not yet been analyzed or identified with certainty, is www.facebook.com. This website provides a medium through which interaction and communication between people can be facilitated. It is a cyberplace that exists in cyberspace, where interactions between people can occur without anyone having to be physically present in any one physical location. (scroll to the very bottom to view references)
Adams, Paul. Network Topologies and Virtual Place: Department of Geography Planning. University at Albany S.U.N.Y: “Blackwell Publishers”. Oxford, UK. 1998. (Pages 88-89).
Television as Gathering Place: Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison: Annals of the Association of American Geographers. “Association of American Geographers”. 1992. (Page 118).