A pivotal concern surrounding the recent growth in Massively Multiplayer Online Games and Virtual Worlds, and a question this paper sets out to explore, are the locations and conditions of the imaginary when moving between real and virtual space. Drawing from eastern and western philosophy, through Bergson, Grosz, Aurobindo Ghose, Sartre and Massumi, it will test definitions of the virtual and the imaginary against the backdrop of the virtual world of Second Life created by Linden Lab in 2003.
With an emphasis on embodied experience in virtual worlds, parallels can be drawn with yogic practices, and in particular, the practice of Tantra. The imaginary landscapes generated by visualisation practices and meditational techniques such as those in the Vajrayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism or the meditational practice Tattwa Shuddhi from the Hindu Tantric tradition, are deliberate in their virtuality. With their focus on the particularity of the image, the exact definitions and details, these landscapes are not meant to be materialised; their pristine and deliberate virtuality is used as a tool for developing and transforming the body and mind.
The new imaginary from virtual worlds is a multiple space translation and is a continual interplay between, and stimulation from, both image and presence. The third space, between real space and the virtual space of the screen, is the charged space of tele-presence; where presence and absence is acted out; pushed and pulled, contracted and expanded. The borders where the virtual leaks into the actual are in constant flux. This paper will define these new dimensions of experience that are based on a simultaneity or plurality of presence and absence and will argue that there are multiple and different imaginaries operating when interacting with virtual worlds.
This scholarly presentation of research is linked to the practice based submission 'Kritical Works in SL'.