>ALPHA WORLD > walking in the virtual city 


Human beings have developed ways to organize and map the spaces they occupy. These maps record the topographical lay of the land (rivers, oceans, mountains etc.) as well as histories with its many economic and political aspects. A map can chart landmarks, monuments, national borders, property lines and various other infrastructures or 'grids of power' that regulate a space. Virtual space is no exception.

The Activeworlds WIKI presents a brief 'history' of AlphaWorld, the first public virtual 3D environment in which users could build their own structures. They have mapped AW's virtual space using a well-known mapping interface- Google Maps.


"AlphaWorld is the flagship world of the Active Worlds universe. It is also the largest in existence. Before the creation of AWGate, AlphaWorld was the "main" world in which all citizens would arrive and was for a time the only world available. Consisting of over 190,000,000 objects, in a land area equivalent to over 400 square miles, Alphaworld is seemingly endless, and to see everything would be a major undertaking.

AlphaWorld was opened in 1995 with the release of Active Worlds, the software itself also called at first AlphaWorld. It was the one and only public building world for some time until others such as Colony and Yellow came in the picture. "

To view A MAP OF ALPHAWORLD using Google Maps interface - click here

In this part of the walk you take on the role of virtual pedestrian and consider walking as a way of acting out space. We also consider how sites and histories are constructed through markers in public space.

2000N 7000E


If you have not yet teleported to AlphaWorld -
follow these steps:

  • Open the AW plug-in (click the shortcut icon
    on your desktop - to start up the program)
  • Log in by entering a user name and your email address.
  • Teleport to Alpha World:
    Select Teleport from the AW plug-in window. Enter the AW coordinates listed in the box on the left.
Arriving in AlphaWorld on a sunny day
Aerial view of the teleport arrival point
(the 'orange dot' in the centre).

After teleporting to Alpha World (AW) –use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard to have a look around.

  • What is the ‘time of day’?
  • This part of Alphaworld offers 'variable weather.'
    What is the weather like today? (Rainy? Sunny?)
  • Did you land inside another avatar's body?
    If so, how did you know?
  • What season is represented?
  • What kinds of signs and advertisements do you see?
  • Who or what are the Peacekeepers?
  • What is vandalism in a virtual context?

Select the camera button for “First Person” viewing mode.

Select >Visibility  >Float

TIP: To walk faster, hold down the ‘shift’ key on your keyboard while navigating your avatar.

Walk North in the direction of ‘The Owl and Moose'


In his 1984 book The Practice of Everyday Life, French writer Michel de Certeau looks at urban space as a dialogue between strategy and tactics.

Strategic aspects of cities are connected to authority or structures of power. This can be government bodies like the police corps, or public infrastructures like streets or buildings. The purpose is to systematize and impose order, or, in the context of this walk, they map the space.

Tactics is the agency De Certeau ascribes to individuals or group who navigate these "strategic" structures on a day-to-day basis. The tactical agency of the 'urban pedestrian' can both enact and subvert the powerstructures embedded in the space as (s)he moves between locations.

De Certeau writes:

"...it is a spatial acting-out of the place (just as the speech act is an acoustic acting-out of language); and it implies relations among differentiated positions"

First, if it is true that a spatial order organizes an ensemble of possibilities
(e.g., by a place in which one can move) and interdictions (e.g., by a wall that prevents one from going further), then the walker actualizes some of these possibilities. In that way, he makes them exist as well as emerge. (p. 98)

Quotes were taken from the chapter "Walking in the City" from the book The Practice of Every Day Life by Michel de Certeau.

A virtual world visualizes this idea of calling space into existence by moving through it.

If you set your >visibility to >float,
this code-generated environment will display as you come into its virtual proximity.

Brit's barn
Worlds Street
View down Worlds Street

World: aw
Coordinates: 2002N 7000E

After two globular streetlights, you will encounter your first AW Historical Society point of interest marker for BRIT’S BARN.

(If you are curious, you can drop in at the Owl and Moose pub across the street, before continuing this walk. If you do - what's on the shelves in the pub?)

After Brit’s Barn, turn left (West).

Walk underneath the old barn structure with the trellis with flowers.

Follow the gray ‘cobblestone’ path heading south towards a wooden bridge.

Cross the bridge.

Turn right (west) onto WORLDS STREET

Continue your walk west on WORLDS STREET, passing a grey pyramid type structure on your right hand side.

Turn left at the second set of traffic lights / intersection.

  • Do you ‘stick to the road’ as you move your avatar through space? Why?
  • Have you noticed how some structures allow you to walk through them whereas others seem to be ‘solid’?
  • Is this ‘floating visibility’ interfering with your sense of control over or orientation in the space? Why or why not?
Mark's Kozy Abode
AW airlines

World: aw
Coordinates: 1996N 6985E

“Dean MacCannell’s The Tourist provides an explanation of how [...] information in the form of a ‘marker; or label produces a ‘sight.’

Quote from " Virtualities: Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture" by Margaret Morse (p. 201)

At the end of the street you will see Mark's Kozy Abode.

  • Marky’s Kozy Abode profiles itself as an ‘historical building’ – Why?
  • Do you pay more attention to something in real or virtual space if a sign indicates that it is a 'site of interest'?
  • Does your interaction with space change if you are somewhere in the role of 'tourist'?
  • Do you let a travel guide (person or book) direct you in terms of what to notice and how?
2 Blur Road - a property recently sold by CENTURY real estate... or so the sign says.
Show home?

2 blur ROAD
World: aw
Coordinates: 1989N 6991E

Enter this house by moving your avatar through either front or back door of the house.

Have a look around.

NOTE: You will likely find it difficult and frustrating to move around inside spaces while using the ‘chase camera’ mode as virtual objects will obstruct your vision. Toggle between ‘First person’ and ‘Chase camera’ settings and play with the eye-level buttons to navigate through these structures.

Exit through the backdoor (located in the kitchen of the house).

Walk South, crossing the lawn, towards Kool Worlds teleport center.

Turn left at the Kool Worlds Teleport Center onto the AWHS Loop. Continue down the road.

You will see the Weblinks Library on your righthand side.

Weblinks library downtown branch
Inside the weblinks library: visiting cnn.com

World: aw
Coordinates: 1976N 6994E

Visit Web Links Library Downtown Minibranch

Click on some of the computer screens.

  • Which web links are featured by this Web Links library?
  • Why would these particular sites be chosen?
  • Do these choices show bias"a preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment" ?

Continue along the AWHS Loop, crossing underneath the highway.

Follow the road going left, towards the Alphaworld Historical Society

"bias." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 30 Jun. 2008. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bias>.
Alphaworld Historical Society
The white arrow points to your next TELEPORT
The teleport to Yellow

World: AW
Coordinates: 1982N 7008E

Click on the red Active Worlds Content Guidelines sign. Read through some of theses rules.

  • Do you think virtual worlds should have rules of use?
    Why or why not?

Read the AlphaWorld Historical Society sign.

  • Why would one want to "preserve and protect our incredible virtual past"?
  • Whose virtual past may be implied in the "we"?

Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. The word is often used to indicate the first one of something.

The name Alpha World therefore translates as First World. Historically, the term 'First World' has often been used to refer to the United States and its allies.

  • Do you think that the content of virtual spaces is dominated by the 'First World'? Why?
  • Are virtual worlds a 'First World' privilege, in light of the fact that you need access to a computer and a fast internet connection?

To read Wikipedia's entry on First World, click here.

Walk east along the pond towards the teleport area –

Turn right at the far end of the pond

Locate the teleport for “Yellow” at the end of this row. The white arrow in the screenshot on the left point to the teleport.

Move your avatar into the ‘mirror surface’ – you will now teleport to YELLOW.

> continue walk through YELLOW

> BLOG about your DATA TRAVELER experiences

>start >aw gate



>blupearl >blog
>start >aw gate



>blupearl >blog