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  • 2021baxterphd

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Falling between worlds: The comings and goings of a virtual itinerant wayfarer in a creative community

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2021
Number of pages281
Awarding Institution
Award date19/02/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Second Life is a long established virtual world, set up as a user created space, rather than a games studio designed product. This longevity is interesting, providing an example of how humans can develop a presence in virtual space, and where people, re-embodied as avatars, interact socially and make things imaginatively and artistically. My avataric pseudonym in this world is Tizzy Canucci.

Within the research, I use the insights of an insider wanting to share my experiences outwards, through words and video art, rather than being a distanced visitor. This engages with the aim of both autoethnography and practice based or led research, an important part of which is to articulate a critical approach to being an objective inside observer. This approach of research from creation is also a multi-disciplinary one, connecting widely, but most significantly to geography, film, literature and history.

As a geographic and cartographic spatial exercise, the research positions itself as research enquiry rather than answering research questions, as exploring and discovering rather than starting with a preconceived frame. The various terminologies of film, video, moving image, animation and machinima, are discussed across time and material forms. I resist the label of ‘machinima’ for my practice as being too contained within digital game worlds. Exploring connections with feminist experimental film, animation and imaginative expressionism provides important insights, which leads to ‘video art’ as a better compromise. In terms of literature, translation and literary theory consider how humans communicate understanding through language, and extending it to understand how visual and audio material inter-relate as languages is a productive approach, rather than seeing technologies as mediating and determining.

These wider connections also see digital in its historical context, as a recent technological and social innovation of many – more pervasive, but not exceptional – giving a nuanced understanding of digital culture.