We often post thoughts on TN about things that happen in virtual worlds.
Note the "on" and the "in" in that previous sentence. Why do discussions happen "on" TN, but "in" virtual worlds?
In Designing Virtual Worlds, Richard argues that virtual worlds are, above all else, places, and that this distinguishes them from other internet-based phenomena. I've always thought this was right, probably in several ways. I think the language we use to refer to virtual worlds supports this and might even be used as a rough heuristic to determine how much a given piece of software is or is not a virtual world.
Consider the following 7 statement variations, and decide which you'd hear commonly and which would seem strange.
That event happened:
A: 1) on Terra Nova, 2) in Terra Nova
B: 1) on World of Warcraft, 2) in World of Warcraft
C: 1) on Facebook, 2) in Facebook
D: 1) on the Internet, 2) in the Internet
E: 1) on Second Life, 2) in Second Life
F: 1) on Pong, 2) in Pong
G: 1) on Halo III, 2) in Halo III
My impression (is it yours as well?) is that most of us will find the "in" statements more common and fitting than the "on" statements when the subject is a virtual world, whereas the "on" will be used more frequently than the "in" with regard to most other online phenomena, like web pages.
Perhaps this is obvious, because to be "in" implies being enclosed and surrounded by a thing, whereas being "on" implies only a surface contact with a thing. But it's also worth noting that some "on" events actually occur in terrestrial spaces (on stage, on the plaza) whereas some "in" events happen in non-spaces (in the army, in the summer). This might follow from the fact that a stage or a plaza are seen as surfaces that one stands on, whereas one can be in time (summer) and in social organizations (the army) because both are seen as potentially enclosing/surrounding individuals.
So if you agree with the above, here's the question. What are your impressions with regard to the use of "in" and "on" w/r/t Facebook, Pong, and Halo? Do events happen "in" or "on" those? And why?
Any pointers to relevant literature?
p.s. This is an Anglo-centric post. My understanding is that Russian, Japanese, and many other languages have different ways of speaking about "in" and "on." It would be interesting to know if the distinction here between web pages and virtual worlds is true in those languages as well.
p.p.s. Does this mean that Sherry Turkle's book Life on the Screen is linguistically dated?