« Fifteen new papers on virtual worlds | Main | 56% LOL! »

Jun 26, 2006



After all, what's a personal blog but a chance to hear yourself speak?

Or an easy way to be ignored. Generally speaking, I have no idea who has read this post or that entry until I receive some kind of direct feedback about it.

But the notion of blog as home jives well with me; my blog is the place where I publicly archive my thoughts and perspectives on life, where all the trolling and flames that don't appear as comments get pasted, if I need to vent.

But in a different way, the blog exists because I think some of what I say would matter to others, and others come and read it because they think what I say would matter to them. In this way, they're like a salon. I open it to invite chatter; others come to participate.


Mm. Kinda reminds me of one of the reasons I stopped playing WoW; though there were plenty of pretty places to visit, there was nowhere especially mine that I could call home. Granted, the starter zones with all one's own race help a bit with grounding the player but ultimately s/he is left questing without a permanent home. Or is one's home the place where one's hearthstone is bound?


Interesting. Another possibility: We search for "home" in our virtual worlds because it's a concept we have embraced by necessity in our real worlds. In RL, humans have come to need homes in order to live successful, healthy lives. So much of what we do in virtual worlds is driven by our inability to imagine an existence that escapes those physical needs.

Of course, as you point out "home" ultimately represents not just a physical location that we must return to for rest and sustenance. Ultimately, home becomes our physical manifestation of our desires for comfort and pleasure--a place we can make and control that reflects back to us our own values.

That need to create places/objects/stuff that is "other" from us but is also reflective of us may be a need that transcends both the virtual and the real world.

And, as I write this, I'm thinking that this valuation of "home" may also be a cultural (Western?) construct. There are nomad people for whom "home" may mean something else entirely. Perhaps home for them is being located with certain people, regardless of physical location. Perhaps home is a place in their heads. . .

I just wonder, as we become more immersed in our virtual worlds and as we begin to live more authentically in those worlds, is it possible we'll break lose of these constructs of real life? I'm not saying we should. I'm just interested in the possibility that we may be holding on to them and recreating them in virtual worlds more out of habit and comfort than real human need. . .


I think people want a sense of "ownership". Not so much "home", rather that they have a stake in the world (real or virtual).

I blog because I like writing. It's a way of organizing thoughts. Hardly narcissistic by itself.

In terms of VW's, one of the most compelling things, for me, about UO was the ability to own "real" property in the world. To have a real home. Not a single magical doorway through which everyone accesses their own magical, other-dimensional apartment. Other players would see your home and know that it's yours. "THAT is X's house." It made YOU a permanent part of the world, whether you were logged on or not.


1. This all comes back to Richard's point that virtual worlds are best thought of as places, no?

2. "Home," however defined, is for most human beings one of the most powerful words in any language. A place of one's own (whether physical or social) is the safe harbor from which voyages of personal exploration begin and end.

3. As for blogging, while doing some offline reading recently, I ran into Montaigne's introduction to his Essays:


The Author to the Reader

Reader, thou hast here an honest book; it doth at the outset forewarn thee that, in contriving the same, I have proposed to myself no other than a domestic and private end: I have had no consideration at all either to thy service or to my glory. My powers are not capable of any such design. I have dedicated it to the particular commodity of my kinsfolk and friends, so that, having lost me (which they must do shortly), they may therein recover some traits of my conditions and humours, and by that means preserve more whole, and more life-like, the knowledge they had of me. Had my intention been to seek the world's favour, I should surely have adorned myself with borrowed beauties: I desire therein to be viewed as I appear in mine own genuine, simple, and ordinary manner, without study and artifice: for it is myself I paint. My defects are therein to be read to the life, and my imperfections and my natural form, so far as public reverence hath permitted me. If I had lived among those nations, which (they say) yet dwell under the sweet liberty of nature's primitive laws, I assure thee I would most willingly have painted myself quite fully and quite naked. Thus, reader, myself am the matter of my book: there's no reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure about so frivolous and vain a subject. Therefore, farewell.

From MONTAIGNE, June 12, 1580


Would it be wrong to call Montaigne the first blogger?



Your point that the blog is itself a point at rest in a virtual flux I disagree with. Most blogging, right now, is the product of very impersonal forces, and we are being, I would suggest, "moved" to blog.

There is the possibility of something more contemplative about blogging. But that occurs because blogging for most of us is writing, not podcasting, and writing is something that when done well, links all of us across time. That final possibility is blogging's potential, really, to bring back writing and craftsmanship in a big way.

Just some thoughts, and I could be very wrong about them.


I also used the de Montaigne excerpt to historically contextualize blogs. I am not sure I would go so far as saying that he was the first blogger, but he indeed started the 'essay' format, of which is often connected to the biographical style of writting. There are many interesting papers online (some found here - http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/) that outline this historical path of private/public writing leading up to the blog.

Interesting to think of the internet as an opportunity for nomadic living to those who are tied to rl spaces.


Niccolo Machiavelli said, "Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration."

Our ideas of "home" have undergone major changes in the last few generations. Until the Industrial Age, it's estimated that most people (like... 99.9% of us) never travelled more than 10 miles or so from the spot where they were born. Probably to the nearest trading town. Until the proliferation of the automobile, the same held true for the majority of people. More folks travelled, migrated, emmigrated, yes... but the norm was still to stay, "Down on the farm." And since, even in 1900, fully 80% of the population was involved in agriculture... we needed them down on the farm.

So... Home was a house. Home was a town. Home was YOUR town. Home was your school, church, Main Street and general store. Small wants to be big, so dreams of small homes were simply bigger houses, bigger towns... eventually cities. Mansions. Universities. Cathedrals. But the idea of "home" has been, for millenia, inextricably joined with "this place." This dirt. These roads and trees. This language, the people with this kind of skin and eyes and who play these games.

As the song says in "The Music Man," though...

It's the Model-T Ford made the trouble,
Made the people want to go
Want to get, want to get, want to get-up and go
7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 22, 23 miles to the county seat!

When you can "get-up and go" that easily... what is home? And when your job, family, company and friends (by the early 21st century) are distributed around the country and world, and when you use e-tools as the way to stay in touch -- rather than the soda fountain, church lobby, bar, store counter, etc. -- what does "home" mean anymore but those spots in your brain that get repeat, positive reinforcement from someone... somewhere with something in common?

My home-town is distributed. It's virtual. Some of my neighbors live here on TN. Some live in my email box. Some are on the other end of the phone line. That's not where any of us spend all our time. Because it's not the farm anymore. We travel all day, every day.

My home is distributed and virtual, too. As is my family. What's amazing to me is how much we try to "reconvene" so many of the artifacts of the past in a new space... longing for the effects, but instead painting pictures of that which once, we think, might have granted them.

The houses in SL are a great example. Frankly... they bug the crap out of me. They mostly look like RL houses. Why? Many people make them from "instant" kits. Why? And then fill them with pre-made furniture. Why? It is, I guess, playing "house."

House is not home. Farm is not home. Home is the feeling. In SL, I get the feeling by talking to the same people again and again whenever possible.

As for houses in SL... sometimes I like to walk into them when they're empty, poke around, see what kind of generic, oddly matched furniture folks have gathered together. That's "home" to me; virtual breaking-and-entering... ; )


I've been giving this some thought and I'm thinking that the MySpace phenomenon is more indicative of the blog/space as a reflection of self than the focus around a place that one inhabits because it's comforting. Physical homes, likewise, can be simply places that people live/congregate (as evidenced by those who clearly keep their houses for no one's pleasure than their own) or they can be elaborate canvases for self-expression.

The great thing about digital spaces is that they allow for the creation of a multi-layered persona: a physical representation of a personal space is just the beginning... behind that can exist a range of artifacts/connections to other people that serve to define a person more fully in the eyes of others. Not to be cynical, but when I think of homes on the Web, it's more about the show home/entertaining space than it is about a haven/escape. No judgment about that, really, but it may be a useful way to think about the creation of tools, etc. to facilitate their construction... almost just an extension of avatar customization.


Ah, 1580, an excellent year for blogging.

Martha: "I just wonder, as we become more immersed in our virtual worlds and as we begin to live more authentically in those worlds, is it possible we'll break lose of these constructs of real life?"
Who knows, but that does seem to be the underlying question, doesn't it? In the end, we're still only human behind the keyboard, but who decides what defines being human?.

Lisa: "I've been giving this some thought and I'm thinking that the MySpace phenomenon is more indicative of the blog/space as a reflection of self."
Of course, that element is definitely there. But like you say, the beauty of a virtual "home" is that it can serve many purposes simultaneously. And the fact that a place, even an online one, can be used to define us... well it would seem that, in turn, makes us places too, in a way.


Do humans feel the urge to "locate" because they exist _only_ inside physical _bodies_?

Nice connection to Lakoff's metaphor of the "embodied mind".


Until the results show otherwise it may be prudent to call "blogging" an extension or different flavor of Montaigne's efforts not the other way round. What evidence is there really _so far_ that any of the much acclaimed networked technologies represent "Progress" (with capital P) over what Montaigne or Machiavelli or Jefferson thought let alone achieved in practice?

Another interesting analogy is the

"Republic of letters"

the century-long process of networked exchange of hand-written communications (and occasional personal visits) between european scholars, writers, and scientists starting with the rise of the "humanist movement" during the Renaissance and ending sometimes around World War I (due to the influence of the "modern times" of mass culture and the overwhelming force ideological hostility, among other factors). And of course this "republic of intellectual exchange" was extended to thinkers in the New World(s) through many well-documented channels (although it seems today that much of the old bandwidth is about to get lost for good).

During this process (and taking advantage of this method of intellectual exchange across cultural barriers) so many fundamentally important achievements in science as well as ethics and politics were made (or re-established from ancient greek culture) that it seems worthwhile to comtemplate what exactly the 20th century was able to add to this mix. And whether the last 30 yrs of that century really did have such a big impact as the bulk of online conversations seems to suggest.

The comments to this entry are closed.