Designing Virtual Worlds: Multimodality and Co-Creation of Meaningful Places in Multi-User Virtual Environments
The online social platforms known as virtual worlds present their users various affordances for avatar based co-presence, social interaction and provide tools for collaborative content creation, including objects, textures and animations. The users of these worlds navigate their avatars as personal mediators in 3D virtual space to collaborate and co-design the digital content. These co-designers are also the residents of these worlds, as they socialize by building inworld friendships. This article presents a social semiotic analysis of the three-dimensional virtual places and artifacts in the virtual world known as Second Life by the collaborative efforts of its so-called residents. The social semiotic perspective is used to develop a multimodal analytical framework and to analyze the co-creation of meaning potentials by various social actors who use the available semiotic resources as mediational means. The findings show that co-design and co-creation practices do not only depend on various actors and their mediated interactions, but also on a variety of tools, practices and resources that digital media platforms provide. Moreover, the multimodal analysis of these places demonstrates how the audio-visual characteristics of designing in multi-user virtual environments generate experiential, interpersonal and textual meaning potentials.