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Accepted Paper:

The "virtual heterotopias": reimagining the nature-culture relations  
Mihai Burlacu (Transilvania University, Brasov)

Paper short abstract:

In my paper, I focus on the ways in which the nature-culture relations are mirrored, signified and reimagined in 'virtual heterotopias'. I examine them using six principles of Michel Foucault's 'heterotopology' (1967).

Paper long abstract:

Revisiting the complex dynamics of the culture-nature relations should take into consideration the juxtapositions between multiple spaces, times and meanings that constitute the current understandings of the concept of 'environment'. In the last four decades, 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'. These places 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, and his 'heterotopology', as an analytical system. Based on a research project in which I approached the 'virtual heterotopias', I focus on the ways in which the nature-culture relations are mirrored, signified and reimagined in virtual worlds (i.e. MMOW). I examine them using six principles of Foucault's 'heterotopology'. Consequently, I argue that the accessibility of the 'virtual heterotopias' built with digital technology entails a form of 'hyper-illusion', in which the digital counterparts of real elements from the environment seem more 'real' and 'compelling' than the originals. The virtual worlds are actually far from Foucault's heterotopia of the mirror. Nevertheless, they can be considered multileveled heterotopias, because they render various representations of the environment into a multi-faceted 'reality'. I conclude that the new ways in which 'virtual heterotopias' are built in order to represent and/or reimagine multiple dimensions of the environment contribute to redefine heterotopias' epistemological and anthropological relevance.

Panel P100
Revisiting the culture/nature divide under the conditions of global forces
  Session 1