[Air-L] PhD Thesis - Virtually Real:Being in Cyberspace

Morgan Leigh morgan at wirejunkie.com
Wed Mar 2 00:12:49 PST 2016

I have just uploaded my PhD Thesis to Academia and thought I would let
all the members of this list know about it. As far as I know no one has
published a monograph that is an autoethnography in Second Life.

The full thesis is available at

A book will be available shortly. I'd appreciate expressions of interest
for copies of the book as I am self publishing and need to gauge how
many copies to print.


This work is an autoethnographic account of my search for the sacred in
cyberspace. The research was conducted in the virtual world Second Life,
and in particular in two role play communities set in Ancient Egypt.
Virtual worlds are often criticised as unreal, as just games. Here I
explore the ontological status of virtual worlds, recognising the
priority for their inhabitants of lived experience over purely rational
assessments. This research is unique and important as no monograph of
role play communities in Second Life has yet been published, and yet
tens of millions of people spend an increasing amount of time in virtual
and game worlds, often preferring them to the meatspace world. I recount
my experiences with ritual in cyberspace, describing sacred virtual
space, and its relationship to sacred meatspace from a Pagan
perspective. I compare two initiation rituals, and describe how one
produced the perception of sacred space, in both meatspace and the
virtual world, while the other remained only a role play. Finally I
analyse an opening of the mouth ritual to reveal the way we make sense
of our own realities by building on and remixing what came before us,
and to argue that there are many truths and that objectivity is
impossible in the human condition. This is the story of how I became one
with my avatar, despite my best efforts not to do so.

Themes of the fun economy, remix culture, and copyright inform the
analysis in the work. I explore Castronova's concept of the fun economy,
the amalgam of work, play and education which characterises twenty first
century life in the developed world. Freedom and fun are the motivators
for the inhabitants of virtual worlds and the bounds of these are
defined by copyright. This issue is examined through the lens of the
Second Life permissions system and the work of Lessig and his concept of
remix culture. I argue that remix culture has permeated the entirety of
human history, giving examples from ancient Egypt through to the present
day, and consider the implications for human culture if restrictive
copyright laws continue to dominate legal frameworks, despite their
failure to achieve their desired ends. Exploring our future in
cyberspace though Kurzweil's concept of the singularity, I consider the
possibilities of his predicted combination of the worlds of meatspace
and the virtual.


Dr. Morgan Leigh

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