Living with the Virtual: Baudrillard, Integral Reality, and Second Life

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-407
JournalCultural Politics
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
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Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Employing Jean Baudrillard's concept of integral reality, as articulated within The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact, and linking it with Tim Guest's journalistic/anthropological account of his experiences within Second Life, the article assesses the extent to which, in the era of immersive virtual worlds, Baudrillard retains a critical cultural currency. Expanding upon Baudrillard's identification of virtual reality as a key exemplar of integral reality, this is applied to an analysis of Second Life in the context of the argument that it constitutes a virtual space that offers to individuals a means by which they can “escape“ from their given realities by creating their own. However, the article also draws critical attention to the economic dimension of Second Life, and the disruptive, divisive and unstable nature of the virtual world (scamming, terrorism, social, ethnic and gender exclusion, and the high “churn“ rate of users), and points to the complexities and problems of uncritically accepting the apparent freedoms immersive virtual spaces ostensibly offer, factors which also raise critical issues for Baudrillard's notion of integral reality.