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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Memento Mundi: Are Virtual Worlds History?


In this paper, I consider whether virtual worlds are history in two senses of the word. The first explores the implications of the life-cycle of virtual worlds, especially of their extinction, for thinking about the history of computerbased technologies, as well as their use. The moment when a virtual world “is history” – when it shuts down – reminds us that every virtual world has a history. Histories of individual virtual worlds are inextricably bound up with the intellectual and cultural history of virtual world technologies and communities. The second sense of the virtual world as history brings us directly to issues of historical documentation, digital preservation and curation of virtual worlds. I consider what will remain of virtual worlds after they close down, either individually or perhaps even collectively.

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