Friday, 30 August 2013

The Making of a Virtual Place and the Power of Words

Imagine a world without language, how would we communicate, express ideas and discuss them? Words bring character to an object or area previously blank or even invisible, “speech is a component of the total force that transforms nature into a human place” (Tuan 1991). Online, language is one of, if not the most vital feature to social networking sites and online communication in general. Creating a virtual place such as a social network, becomes “a place that promises to open up to other places when it is named” (Tuan 1991). This place, virtual or otherwise however, can be corrupted by history, memories and reputation, such as a beautiful seaside reef spoiled by its violent history (Van Luyn 2013).

The social network I have been studying of the past few weeks, Instagram, is not focused on language, but on images. To me, this ability to upload a picture of your own personal experiences, creates and sense of place, where friends share experiences. However, language does come into play through the comments a photo caption, allowing both the uploader and followers to express themselves through words. This sense of place can just as easily be spoiled, by events that evoke a negative view of the network and its users. For example, cyber bullying could create an unwelcoming feeling for a victim who has been abused on that particular site. Follow the link to a CNN article on cyber bullying.

Although Instagram’s image based layout assigns itself to a more visual form of social networking, rather than a text based one, language plays a vital role in the creation of a place. This virtual sense of place gives users comfort and a sense of welcoming, but can also lead to feelings discomfort and insecurity when the users or sites reputation is damaged.


Tuan, Y. (1991). Language and the making of place: A narrative-descriptive approach. In annals of the Association of American Geographers, 81(4), 684-696.  
Van Luyn, A. (2013). BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narratives and The Making of Place, Lecture week 5.
Elizabeth Landau. (2013). When bullying goes high-tech, CNN published April 15, 2013.

Picture reference:

The Power of Language

Retrieved from:
After over five weeks of being a part of this new social network, StumbleUpon, I have found myself using it more frequently to the point where I will spend considerable amount of time just 'stumbling' through websites. Because of this I have plenty of time to observe and contemplate the various sites I encounter. Most specifically I was able to look at how langauge imapcts or changes the perceptions of the subject being discussed on the website.

Van Luyn (2013) explained that myths in some cultures represent an ontology which is a systematic theory of explaining and making sense of and ordering life and the universe. An example I found whilst on StumbleUpon was a website called Myths Retold which was dedicated to retelling creation myths (ontologies) of civilisations and cultures. The specific example that I found while 'stumbling' was of a retelling of the Norse Mythology.(Warning: There is coarse language used)

"Myths have this power to an outstanding degree because they are not just any story but are foundational stories that provide support and glimmers of understanding for the basic institutions of society; at the same time, myths, by weaving in observable features in the landscape (a tree here, a rock there), strengthen a people's bond to place."
(Tuan, 199, pp.686) 
What I found with this 'retelling' was that because a langauge different to the expected langauge was used, it takes away the power of the myth as an ontology and making it more of a parody or a joke. The type of langauge used is very coarse and crude, and involves excessive amounts of hyperbole and ridicule of the main concepts. Tuan (1991, pp.693) states, in relation to language, that "if people have the power to build, they also have the power to destroy, and on the whole, it is easier to destroy than to build". By using language with specifically chosen words it has the power to destroy or tarnish.

Until next time,


Tuan, Y. (1991). Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative-Descriptive Approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 81(4) pp. 684-696. Taylor & Francis, LTD

Van Luyn, A. (2013). BA1002: Our Space: Networks, narratives and the making of place, Lecture 5: Stories and Places. Week 5 Notes [Powerpoint] Retrieved from

Image Credits:

Harris, J. (2013) Language. Retrieved from:

How Speech Creates Place


'Speech is a component of the total force that transforms nature into a human place. But speech can be an effective force acting alone or almost alone' (Tuan, 1991). We often say that words are our most powerful weapon; this is true in both an real world and an online setting. The entire basis of the social networking site Twitter is words. You are able to create posts or 'tweets' that are limited to 140 characters or less. These posts consist, for the majority, of words and may sometimes include links to media files or pictures. However, unlike Facebook or Instagram, the idea behind Twitter is that users have the option to create their identity through posts that tell the world who they are, what they're doing and what they feel at any current point in time.

During my last few weeks as a Twitter user, I have discovered that it is quite easy to lie about yourself and build a whole new online identity using this site. But not only that, it is also very helpful in strengthening your current identity and sharing it with various groups of people that follow your account. I have used Twitter for the purpose of strengthening my current identity, and I have found that I can not only create my own posts, but I can also retweet the posts and updates of others if I agree with what they have written or enjoy their tweet to any degree. This not only shares my thoughts and feelings with others, but it also lets them know what interests I have through the people I follow and the people I retweet.

The site itself also assists in creating a feeling of space and place through features of the site, such as your individual 'Profile'; which is the page where followers can see your tweets and read about you. As well as a 'Discover' tab which introduces you to users and posts you may enjoy based on the people you currently follow.
They have also created a tab called 'Home', which allows you to see a feed of what the people you follow are all currently tweeting, much like the 'News Feed' feature on Facebook. However, the largest creator of place and space on Twitter is the use of hashtags; a feature which has become so popular that Facebook and Instagram now use it. Hashtags, if clicked on, take the user to similar posts that have also tagged the same topic in them.
If you are interested, you can read more about Twitter hashtags by clicking this link:


Dodaro, M. (n.d.). What are Twitter Hashtags? The Hidden Power of #Hashtags. Social Media Marketing   Company - Top Dog Social Media. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

Tuan, Y. (1991). Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative-Descriptive Approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 81 (4), 684-696 Taylor and Francis,  LTD

Image Credits:

Robertson, A. (2013). The Verge: What happens when free speech and hate speech laws collide on Twitter? Retrieved from:

Virtual Networks and their Story and Place

 # Blog 3: Virtual Networks and their Story and Place.


Habbo hotel is a social networking site that is similar to “Sims”. It is a game that can be played online, considered as a virtually reality. The sole purpose of this site is to create a virtual, digital, character that is like an avatar; which has the ability to form cybernetic interactions with anybody in the world. This network gives the user’s the ability to be a part of online chat rooms, regular day-to-day post boards, and allow the user to make various changes on your digital character’s appearance and the room which Habbo Hotel has allocated the user. Like majority of virtual networks they all have a sole purpose, to create online interaction devices that allow the user to find friends instantly. Often these friends can be regular users from the age of 13 and up, come from all over the world, speak different language and can from various cultural backgrounds. To evoke a sense of space and place within Habbo Hotel virtual like avatar images are used to display each character and the communication to each other is at simple and similar to the typical online chat messaging.     

For online communication to occur some form of language needs to be spoken. Language is the simple forms of any “text” that can be seen virtually or privately. However, language is advancing and creates place which can be described through personal thoughts, feelings, and people’s perceptions. In virtual networks, the narratives and the making of place can also include various stories and places. As Petray (2013) explained in week 2 lecture, power can be seen as a relationship that shows three core elements; domination, competition and cooperation. These can be interpreted as such things that are different to its actual meaning, which may affect the reader’s response from what was actually being stated. Thus giving the reader, alternative power to choose how they would represent them and respond to these actions.   

Although all social networks aren’t fundamentally made for each user’s requirements and needs, it ideally creates a sense of meaning and belonging. Van Luyn (2013) discussed in week 5 lecture, “space becomes place through humans imposing meaning on it and a sense of place is created through humans perceiving, as well as contrasting that location”. When online the virtual space users interact in is known to be of non-reality and as Tuan, (1991) mentions “… the right to speak and be heard, the right to name and have the name “stick”- is empowerment,” “ …..Much the same is true of places created by language, oral and written”. On, Ben Zimmer discusses more on social networking and its language.
Reference List:
Petray, T. (2013). BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narratives and the Making Of Place, Lecture 2: Power: Big Brother and Self-Surveillance [PowerPoint Slide Notes]. Retrieved From:      
Tuan, Y. (1991). Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative-Descriptive Approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 81 (4), 684-696 Taylor and Francis,  LTD
Van Luyn, A (2013) BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narratives and the Making Of Place, Lecture 5: Stories and Places [PowerPoint Slide Notes]. Retrieved From:
Image Credits:
Giannicatalfamo. (21.05.2012) Son of Geek Talk DA Blog, So Me and Donuts (Rel 4). Retrieved From:

The Language of Place on Facebook

 “Words are our most powerful weapon” is a saying that is often told and retold and that is because it is absolutely true. As Tuan (1991) states, “Words have the general power to bring to light experiences… and the specific power to call places into being” (p.686). Our choices of words have the power to “make or break” things, people and places and Facebook and its functions are a prime example of this.

When writing statuses, individuals have the options to include in the status a location or in Facebook terminology to “check-in”. This in turn informs readers of the individual’s whereabouts or where a certain event, activity has taken place. What the status is about, the tone and the language used, has the ability to make this location, this ‘place’ into a place of significance or not.  For example, when people on my friends list are “checking in” at an airport, the tone of the status is often an excited one, accompanied by happy emoticons, which show the significance of the place and its role in what is to come. As Van Luyn discussed, “Space become place through humans imposing meaning on it.” (2013).
Power comes into play significantly in these situations. Facebook has wide range of locations available to use however it does not cover everything. You may be able to “check-in” at James Cook University but not a specific building or café. Bigger, more popular businesses and places are included however smaller places are often overlooked.

Facebook also has the function of being able to rate places according to your experiences there.  Darwell (2013) on InsideFacebook discusses how this function works with regards to being able to rate the place out of five stars and also include a comment for others to read.  What people rate these places and what comments they choose to write will have a significant impact as it will influence others and their choices.

Creating legends in cyberspace.

Summer Mountains

Few people are able to have a symbol, which defines their individual and public identity in both physical and cyber worlds and which continues to define the narrative of the individual even after their death. The proposition in this weeks lecture that a “symbol occurs when one thing stands for another” Van Luyn (2013).  This is vividly demonstrated with the logo for Apple brand of electronic products as this logo is both a contemporary work of art and in the eyes of the public stands for the life and works of one of the co founders of the Apple products Steve Jobs.

This symbol alone seems evokes a sense of both the products created by and the philosophy of the human machine interaction as seen by Steve Jobs. The virtual network of MacRumors supplies the additional elements especially in the tributes that were posted after his death.  In a similar fashion the additional writing surrounding the traditional Chinese pictures allows for the scene to be completed by the addition of words and poetry Tuan (1991). The picture above of Summer Mountains demonstrates how an image creates an idea however the calligraphy near the picture gives the additional depth of understanding to the image. The calligraphy is itself both symbols and words that create the full meaning of the thoughts of the original artist of the work.

MacRumors continues to allow users of Apple products to interact with each other however the presence of Steve Jobs is felt within the space in which the human interaction between users is created. Often as users will remark on the design of a product and reflect on the idea that Steve had a passion for calligraphy that was a motivating force behind the idea to maintain a sense of beauty and imagination when using the products. 


Tuan, Yi – Fu, Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative – Descriptive Approach.

Article Credit: Retrieved from

Facebook: Perception vs. Reality

Facebook: Perception vs. Reality


“Humans know the world through sensation, perception, and conception… A sense of place is created through humans perceiving and constructing that location.” (Van Luyn, A. 2013).  Perception seemed to be a reoccurring concept in the last two weeks. In last week’s reading ‘The Songlines’, Chatwin stated that “to exist is to be perceived” (Chatwin, B. 1987). I began to wonder, that if perception determined place, and existence, then how am I perceived on Facebook? Do people perceive me as my true self, or do I cease to exist? How do I know what I perceive is real?

Our actions on Facebook are constantly watched by our peers, and, what they see from us is how they determine our online identity. Your online profile, or, the virtual you, becomes the real you in someone else’s perspective. For example, I never usually post any statues, or photos, or share any videos on Facebook; I just sit back and watch others, or interact through messaging. I may be perceived as quiet, or shy by those who I don’t publically interact with, however, the people I message will perceive me differently. Other people are like this; where they are perceive different ways on Facebook depending on how they choose to interact. When people post pictures of their conversations with others on Facebook, it could be assumed that they are exposing their ‘real’ self, but, what if it is just another shade of their virtual self? With the constant use of technology, it gets difficult to determine what is real and what is virtual.

Language use also plays a role in perceiving a person’s ‘real’ self. Tuan (1991) states that there are different ways by which language contributes toward the making of place. For example, warm conversation between friends can make the place itself seem warm; by contrast, malicious speech has the power to destroy a places reputation and thereby its visibility. In terms of Facebook, those who post interesting, funny, or nice statues, pictures and videos make Facebook an enjoyable place to be when you want to see what people are up to, however, people who constantly post negative or annoying things could make you perceive that person as whiney and you lose interest in what they have to post and eventually begin to avoid them online. However, different people react differently to the language people use, and how that language creates their online identity.

In terms of being ‘real’ on Facebook, I like to think that I am. As I mentioned before, I don’t usually post things of Facebook and in contrast to real life, I’m not loud, and I don’t draw attention to myself (often). I prefer to have a chat through messages on Facebook, because if I need to communicate with someone, I’d do it personally, just like I would away from the computer screen.

Steve Fox is editorial director of PC World and wrote a small article called “Facebook vs. Reality: Who Needs to Get a Life?” If you’d like to read the article, go to to see how Fox compares reality and Facebook.



Chatwin, B. (1987). The Songlines. Chapter 3, pp 11 – 15. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd

Tuan, Y. (1991). Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Taylor& Francis, LTD. Retrieved from:

Van Luyn, A. 2013. BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narratives, and the Making of Place, Week 5 Notes (PowerPoint). Retrieved from:

Article Link:


Thursday, 29 August 2013

YouTubes/'sChanging Opinions

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

This is Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Van Luyn quoted Pierre Bourdieu when she said, “Those who have the right to speak can be thought to have cultural capital” (2013). This quote is what led to the research in finding out what exactly our ‘rights’ are. You can click on this link HERE to read about the full history of the UDHR and find out what the other 29 articles or ‘rights’ are. Every human being has the ‘right’ to express their thoughts, and YouTube is a platform that is used as a communication device. YouTube allows for members to express their opinions, voices, thoughts and ideas, in any digital media sharing they choose; often through vlogs (video blogs), parodies, commenting, interviews, cartoons, ‘ranting,’ music, scenes or scenarios, and any other digital creative form that is thought of.

The reading this week was all about language and narrative. Tuan (1991) said “…that speech and the written word [is to be] considered integral….language is important – indeed central – because humans are language animals, and language is a force that all of us use everyday to build, sustain and destroy.” I believe this relates to YouTube because the various videos that are watched can ‘build, sustain and destroy’ the viewer’s opinions or thoughts on a certain topic. Our environment often unconsciously influences us and therefore, even if a viewer believes that their opinion have not been affected, the video may have just put a thought in the viewer’s mind that can eventually strengthen, weaken or change their whole perspective.

As a YouTube member, the option is available to directly comment on the video (if it has been enabled) to like or dislike the video, or to upload a ‘video response’ expressing your own voice on the same topic. As Tuan (1991) implied, we ‘discuss’ how something should be done, we ‘recommend’ ideas that worked or ‘suggest’ things to disregard, we have a ‘conversation’ with others, and sometimes we have ‘confrontations.’ These are a few of the ways we communicate our thoughts in society that may have a subtle influence.

The ideas and thoughts that are expressed through each YouTube video can be said to be apart of our language; it’s a form of communication that makes changes happen.


Tuan, Y. (1991). Annals of the Association of American Georgraphers. Taylor & Francis, LTD. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved from

Van Luyn, A. (2013). BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narrratives and The Making Of Place, Lecture 5: Stories and Places. [Notes] Retrieved from:

Image Credit

What's in a name? 

While perusing my chosen social network site Soundcloud, and in between a hardcore electronic  headbash and a funky cumbia jam, I realised that a lot of power can be wielded by a name.  Tuan (1991) claims that the right to name is empowerment, and this is certainly the case when it comes to music on Soundcloud.  As I scroll down the page through what could be thousands of songs, my eyes pick out certain words, titles of songs, that may appeal to me.  I realise that a lot of the songs I've been listening to I chose because I liked the sound of the had a certain something I was drawn to.  

We know that 'space' becomes 'place' as we attach meaning to a landscape (Week 5 Lecture notes) and we also know that music has the power to evoke the strongest of emotions.  The way music can connect us to a certain time or place is like a kind of alchemy.  Indeed there need not be any words in the music for this magic to occur, but the music always has a name and the name is of incredible importance.  Without the name, the music may be lost to us, we may forget the sound or the memory of the song unknown may fade. 

Tuan (1991)speaks of the metaphorical power of language and such is music!  Through first internal dialog, then the spoken sharing of ideas, the physical processes of making music (as like most things) are made and, in true humanistic fashion, a name is then given to the finished product.  The name becomes a symbolic identity of the artwork and is just as important as the form it describes.  There is power and meaning in a name and much to be said about the choices that we make, either consciously or unconsciously, based on names. 

To see an excellent example of the power of words and music joined with political and social commentary and completely in relation to the BA1002 course, check out this episode of "Rap News". Enjoy! 

Over & Out!

Lunar (Vivian Davey) 


Week 5 lecture slides (2013). BA1002: Our Space: Networks, Narratives and the making of Place, week 5 lecture slides [Powerpoint slides].  Retrieved from  

Tuan, Y-F (1991). Language and the making of place: A narrative-descriptive approach. Annals of the Association of American Georgraphers, 81(4),pp 684-696.  

Photo credit: Big Sur – Aug06, originally uploaded by Waldo647.


Virtual Reality

Image Courtesy of:
 We live in an era of documentation. At the crux of it, an insatiable desire to be seen and heard underlies the operation of users within virtual networks. This correlates with Foucault’s Panopticon theory of internalized self-surveillance (Turkle, 1995). This link is drawn as this desire is commonplace and at its nucleus is about being seen as normal. 

Theoretically information presented to the public sphere is of the user’s ‘best self’. While users construct their identity through the ways in which they express themselves, other users perceive the information put out into the public consciousness and create their identity through perception. This is largely problematic as how we intend to be perceived may not be how those around us interpret our actions (Van Luyn, 2013). 

I’ve spoken extensively in past blogs about determining the scope of my virtual network, Snapchat, within the confines I am bound by. Moving forward with this idea, the ‘me’ presented to those I interact with in my virtual network is not the real me, and neither is the ‘you’ you present. The physical does not translate to virtual at all. Inherent to personal face-to-face communication are things out of reach to virtuality, such as intonation, mannerisms and gestures, facial expressions and context for conversations. Despite conflicting evidence, it has emerged that a minority of people feel comfortable revealing intimate details of themselves online as opposed to real life. Speaking for myself, I feel less comfortable sharing personal information online with those I interact with. I find that if the interaction itself does not emanate from a real life discussion, comments I make can be taken out of context and perceived in an incorrect manner as pure written text lacks the depth and clarity of intention afforded with real life conversation. The intricacies of conversation are lynchpins of human interaction and lost within cyberspace – “the small seemingly inconsequential happenings will…quickly fade from memory if [they] were not recreated” (Tuan, 1991).

I feel as though I am as ‘real’ with the version of myself I present in Snapchat, as I am presenting to an audience I’ve created myself – who by effect I feel comfortable with. Those I socialize with are consistent to the character they present. I do find as the gaps between virtual and reality are still (in my mind at least) extensive it is impossible for one to be their ‘true’ self.

Until Next Time,


1.       Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the Screen: Identity in the age of the internet. New York, USA: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.
2.       Van Luyn, A. (2013). BA1002: Our Space: Networks, narratives and the making of place, Lecture 5: Stories and Places. [Notes] Retrieved from
3.       Tuan, Y. (1991). Language and The Making of Place: A Narrative- Descriptive Approach, Annals of the Association of American Georgraphers. Taylor & Francis, LTD

Image Credit:
[Image] (2009) Retrieved from: