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After ModernityArchaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past$
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Rodney Harrison and John Schofield

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199548071

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199548071.001.0001

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Non-Places and Virtual Worlds

Non-Places and Virtual Worlds

(p.249) 9 Non-Places and Virtual Worlds
After Modernity

Rodney Harrison

John Schofield

Oxford University Press

In previous chapters we have considered how we might take an archaeological approach to the contemporary or very recent past in what would be recognized to be a fairly conventional series of archaeological ‘realms’—artefacts, places, and landscape. In this chapter, we will explore some of the ways in which an archaeological approach might be taken to some of the most distinctive features of late modernity. In Chapter 5, we explored a number of these features, highlighting non-places, the work of the imagination, and the virtual as key areas for archaeological inquiry. This chapter takes up some of the challenges of these new materialities (and, indeed, the new ‘virtualities’) of late modernity, considering the ways in which an archaeological approach to the contemporary world might help illuminate aspects of late modernity that have not previously been well understood. As in previous chapters in Part II, this chapter is broken into a number of sections reflecting broad themes relating to the distinctive features of late-modern everyday life—non-places; virtual worlds; experience economies and the work of the imagination; and hyperconsumerism and globalization. In Chapter 5 we looked in detail at Augé’s (1995) concept of the ‘non-place’. Augé uses this term to describe a whole series of spaces in contemporary society—airport lounges, shopping malls, motorways—that he suggests are to be distinguished from ‘places’, in the sense in which these spaces are not relational, historical, or concerned with the establishment of a sense of identity (all those things that characterize the traditional social anthropologist’s interest in ‘place’). These ‘non-places’ are primarily associated with the experience of travel or transit, and reflect the simultaneous time– space expansion and compression that he associates with late modernity. We suggested that such places rely not only on aspects of their generic design, but also on a series of ‘technologies of isolation’ that work together to produce a characteristic feeling of solitude and the emptying of consciousness discussed in Augé’s work.

Keywords:   Cars, Disneyization, Harris Matrix, Landfill, Motorways, Pastiche, Second Life, Theme parks, Virtual environments

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