Cultural Presence

Cultural Presence

Erik M. Champion (University of Melbourne, Australia)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch018
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Abstract

In many text-based virtual communities, confusion exists between the notion of social presence and cultural presence. While social presence may be evident in these communities, cultural presence may require more than dialogue or persistent world data (that is, backed up by off-line databases and retrievable after by online sessions). It is also not clear how much cultural presence is available in three-dimensional online games and role-playing environments. While they may have a great deal of social presence, these environments typically provide for instrumental learning that develops understanding of the design rules of the virtual environment, not the embedded and embodied social rules and individual beliefs of the participants as a community. In the case of virtual history and heritage environments, it appears that we do not understand cultural information and how to provide for it or communicate it digitally. Virtual heritage environments are a good example of this lack of meaningful interaction (Mosaker, 2000; Schroeder, 1996, p. 115). Apart from such isolated examples as Blaxxun’s The Renaissance project or VRoma (“A virtual community for teaching and learning classics”), one may well wonder whether these environments are communities at all. People intending to travel to a heritage site may have different requirements to people just exploring a virtual world. People may want to use virtual technology in different ways: to use the information as a travel guide; to imagine, explore, or understand the past; or to meet and socially participate with other people. Virtual environments that would be helped by a sense of cultural presence could be virtual communities, language and social exchange sites, virtual travel and tourism sites, or virtual heritage sites.

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