Question 219 of 365: When do we need to invent places to be?

Harry Potter in Second Life - Dining Hall in H...
Image by DanieVDM via Flickr

The most creative virtual worlds are those that are in our heads. They are the ones that we create out of pure necessity. We need them in order to put things into their place. We constantly reinvent our past so that it meshes with our present. We recreate entire homes and outdoor vignettes that we used to inhabit so that we can actively remember being in that space. Places that no longer exist are particularly poignant.

My parents’ old closet and attic went away when I was 13, but I travel through the door and look at all of the things hanging there and in boxes almost every week just to prove to myself that it once existed. I look up and see my father’s old eagle scout uniform that I had never seen him wear. I see the boxes with tons of craft items thqt we would never play with because we got too old. I see the open insulation on either side of the attic that I was both terrified of and excited by. The window that no longer exists looking out into our neighbor’s second story. It was always cold to the touch and a little bit voyeuristic. This place now only exists as a virtual world, an invented space that only I can explore.

I started thinking about these kinds of memories in terms of spaces that will never exist, like online schools or online stores. These places aren’t buildings that were once tangible. They started off as part of the ether. What kinds of memories are created in those spaces that never really had back corners or idiosyncratic hallways? Is there anything that you can remember about those spaces that isn’t completely isolated and solitary. Each one of the experiences of shopping or learning was done from the comforts of your own home or out at the library or wifi hotspot. You may be able to remember the curriculum or the items purchased, but there isn’t a space that speaks to you when you run across it again.

How Can we be nostalgic for places that don’t exist?

It makes me wonder if we need to be letting ourselves craft the virtual spaces as concretely as we can and build our own back alleys and hidden compartments of learning and consumerism. What would happen if we provided one another the keys to the front door and we said that everyone should come in and start building the rooms that we need to make the space real. What if everyone could sketch and draw and create a single wall, locker or room that they would be able to invite others to come into and co-create?

I believe that anyone who takes part in creating the world around them will remember it better and engage in it more completely. We will start to see more informed consumers and learners simply because they have marked up their own little piece of the ecosystem.

This is not a gimmick. This is about how the future of our world will be concocted. If we are simply going to let the physical spaces fall away because they are more inconvenient than anytime and anywhere, thee must be something that we are replacing them with which allows us to remain engaged with some aspect of design and ownership. If we are seeing the end the school hallway, we must have other ways to engage in that social space without resorting to Facebook only. We need spaces that are inhabited by both adults and kids, which both can co-author.

Graffiti isn’t optional; it is a birthright.

We need to show others how awful it would be to feel nothing for how we learned or where we shop. Those are the places that we connect with one another and share stories. Those are the places that we must remain human.

We can do things more efficiently, more quickly, and perhaps even more effectively by doing them online. But if we don’t create the spaces to go along with them, we have done a huge disservice to our own future.

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