According to theorist Michael Heim, a virtual world is defined as a whole – not fragments, not a collection of parts, but a complete world – that is separate from a space we think of as “home.” “Home is the node from which we link to other places and other things…Home is the point of action and node of linkage“. This wholly cognitive division between the real and the virtual is what defines the space of the virtual. In this article, I have tried to undermine this division by describing narratological spaces that occupy the real, the virtual, and a thirdspace.
The users who participate in Internet story networks are savvy students of media and storytelling. They spend as much time analyzing and commenting upon storyworlds as they do contributing content to them, and as the stories of Bree and Maddison Atkins demonstrate, the users are invested in these narratives as something more than stories that take place somewhere else, inside a television set, on a computer screen, printed on a page. The world of these stories is their own world, and it is both virtual and real, physical and imagined. This blending is possible because, as many media theorists have argued, from Baudrillard onward, we are already immersed in the hyperreal. Not only is the simulacrum a reality, it has become the very node that constitutes “home,” and thankfully, users have begun to play with it.