Virtual America: Sleepwalking Through Paradise

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University of Nebraska Press, 2008 - History - 260 pages
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Virtual America traces the complex relationship between Americans, technology, and their environment as it has unfolded over the past several centuries. Throughout history Americans have constructed mental pictures of unique places, such as the American West, that have taken on more authority than the actual gritty landscapes. This disconnect from reality is magnified by the new world of virtual realities on the computer screen, where personal immersion in interactive simulations becomes the “default” environment. Virtual America identifies the connections (or lack thereof) between our individual selves, an American identity, and the geography “out there.” John Opie examines what he calls First Nature (the natural world), Second Nature (metropolitan infrastructure/built environment), and Third Nature (virtual reality in cyberspace). He also explores how Americans have historically dreamed about a better life in daily, ordinary existence and then fulfilled it through the Engineered America of our built environment, the Consumer America of material well-being, and the Triumphal America of our conviction that we are the world's exceptional model. But these dream worlds have also encouraged placelessness and thus indifference to our dwelling in home ground. Finally, Opie explores Last Nature (a sense of place) and argues that when we identify an authentic place, we can locate authenticity of self—a reification of place and self—by their connectedness.

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Contents

Old Dreamworlds
1
Searching for Authenticity
39
A Brief History
107
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

John Opie is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Environmental History and Policy at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is the founding editor of the journal Environmental History and the author of Nature's Nation: An Environmental History of the United States and Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land, available in a Bison Books edition. Opie currently lives on the Indiana Dunes of Lake Michigan and teaches at the University of Chicago.

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