Ethics, Place and Environment 10 (1):49 – 63 (2007)
This paper is concerned with tracing how the notion of place circulates and is understood in literature from the 1980s and 1990s on computer-mediated information and communications technologies. It provides a brief account of at least two ways that the notion of place circulates in the discourse of the virtual. The first is that these technologies enable 'new' spaces that are claimed to be separate from conventional spaces and places. The second, contradictorily, is that the metaphor of place is crucial as a setting for online social interaction. The paper also explores how we might understand the 'place' of place in the discourse of the virtual. It does this by drawing parallels from Jacques Derrida's critique of spatial metaphor in the text of philosophy with the use of place-based metaphors in the discourse of the virtual. This examination reveals that the reduction of place to metaphor in writing on virtual technologies belies the persistent and subtle force that is exerted by metaphor in general. Furthermore, the prevalence of place-based metaphors in the discourse of the virtual points to the ongoing importance of place as a wider concept. In particular, the notion of place is in fact fundamental to how virtual technologies are framed and understood. The paper concludes by sketching some of the possibilities and potential implications that emerge from this argument
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