Places of the Imagination

Imagine reading a newspaper for a place that doesn’t exist. You read about the people and their lives, their parks and their laws; you read about the criminals and the recently-shut-down coal mine; the complaints of water quality and the strange purple miasma billowing out of the gutters on 49th street. The more you read, the more the place seems to come alive.

Place is an act of make-believe. It might take years to design and construct a building, but through stories we can construct places in our minds within seconds.

I set out on a journey to imagine a digital campus, what does it look like? what does it feel like? what opportunities can it provide? I imagined websites as the rooms, links as the corridors, presence indicators to see people as they pass by. But none of this really matters. It is nothing but a vague approximation at applying physical metaphors to digital spaces—it forgets that place exists not in the screen but in the mind.

A digital campus does not need any complex technology, it does not need a platform, it does not even need a website.

All it needs is a story.

In its simplest form, I imagine a digital campus to be much like a newspaper of a place that doesn’t exist. One that is collectively written together. It is sent out each week listing challenges and events sprouting up within the community; stories of the virtual campus we’re all a-part of; the books people have found on the the nearly-infinite shelves of the campus library; people’s favourite hang-out spots?

You don’t “go” to campus, the campus comes to you; right there in your inbox on Monday morning. You don’t “stay” on campus, the campus stays with you. The campus is both everywhere and nowhere; it exists inside your mind and follows you wherever your mind wanders.