Virtual America: Sleepwalking through Paradise

Virtual America: Sleepwalking through Paradise

by John Opie


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803235717
Publisher: UNP - Nebraska
Publication date: 06/01/2008
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents


1.  Welcome to VirtuaLand: Old Dreamworlds and the Power of a New Modernity

2.  Antique America: Searching for Authenticity

3.  Human Kodaks in the Future Perfect: Virtual America Embodied in World’s Fairs

4.  Sleepwalking in America: A Brief History

5.  Finding Authenticity: Inhabiting Place in America


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