Visual Culture Versus Virtual Culture: When the Visual Culture is All Made by Virtual World Users

Visual Culture Versus Virtual Culture: When the Visual Culture is All Made by Virtual World Users

Hsiao-Cheng (Sandrine) Han (The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJVAR.2017010105


Visual culture in virtual worlds is not purely authentic or purely imaginative. When culture emerges in a visualized virtual world, where everything that can be seen is created by its users, visual culture can be diverse and complex. Users from different cultural backgrounds perceive and construct meanings that may be different from those intended by the virtual world creators and other users. The author used observation, survey, and interview as her research methodologies to analyze visual culture in a visualized virtual world where the content is created by its users.
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Visual Culture In Virtual World Overview

Culture is based on people’s experiences and cultural backgrounds; therefore, cultures in the virtual world, which are created by users from across the globe, may therefore be more complicated than real world cultures (Han, 2015; Han, 2013a; Han, 2013b). “Reality is constructed from what we sense based on our experience, emotional condition, beliefs, and so forth” (Miller & Burton, 1994, p. 66). However, in the virtual world, users encounter not only their own culture, but also many other cultures. In addition, users of virtual worlds may see mixed cultures and many specialized groups (for example, focusing on education, business, music, or art), with each group sharing its own specific culture.

Second Life, one example of a virtual world, is the most well developed virtual world (McLeod, Liu, & Axline, 2014; Wang & Burton, 2013; Pellas, 2014). Users of Second Life see and live in diverse visual environments, including three dimensional animated visual objects built by residents from around the globe. The virtual world springs from users’ imagination, and there is almost no limit on creating a new environment or imaginative objects. The virtual world is not only a new realm for people to live in and travel through, but it is also a place for people to create their own visual environments and culture (Han, 2010).

According to Heidegger (1977), “a world picture … does not mean a picture of the world but the world conceived and grasped as a picture” (p. 129). When applying Heidegger’s theory to the virtual world, people need to be aware of how virtual worlds propagate ideas through images, and users need to resist unconsciously adapting and accepting everything that is transferred through the images. Images are not innocent (Mirzoeff, 2005). As Barry (1994) notes, about eighty percent of human perception is through vision. If a person’s ways of seeing are not precise, they may not notice the full meaning of everything they see. According to Freedman (2003), when people see an image they are used to seeing, it will not attract their attention. However, when they look at a new image, they may focus on it and try to relate their knowledge and experience to the image to make meaning of it. As Freedman states, “an expressive object, regardless of the meaning of the production for the artist, does not have inherent meaning; the experience of an audience with visual culture makes it meaningful” (p. 69).

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