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Joana Rafael is an architect, researcher and lecturer. Her work focuses on (issues of) ecology, human geography and natural sciences, encompassing contemporary culture, media studies, art and technology. She combines architecture as a discipline of thought and design practice, reflecting on the boundaries of buildings, infrastructures and (radiological-)contaminated territories. Engages in speculative thinking and writing to develop a critical distance from anthropocentric understandings and attend to reciprocal relationships between humans and nature. Joana teaches Contextual Studies and Contemporary Culture-related courses. She is a member of CEGOT (Center for Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning) and CEAA (Centro de Estudos Arnaldo Araújo). Joana is a cofounder of REFINERY BOARD.

PUB About

Lost Zone: Hiking the Dawn of the Metaverse

+ PUB - Publication

with Andrea Belosi
Published by ViaIndustriae
With Funds provided by Creative Industries NL

ActiveWorlds is one of the longest-running multi-user virtual environments that is currently available online. It was for a decade the most popular user-created virtual environment using avatar figures as a means for users to interact with each other, graphically immersed in the same simulation. It has been publicly accessible since the spring of 1995, the year The National Science Foundation Network (SFNET) was decommissioned, and restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic were lifted. From its start, AW allows users to open worlds, claim land and carve out customised spaces in-worlds, and socialize through chat in an alternative virtual reality universe. It was advertised as a platform to create anything a user can envision and a 3D global shopping mall: i.e. the El Dorado county of cyberspace. The early AW pioneers faced with an unstable system, dialling in over slow modem connections to access the Internet, were rewarded with the promise of a new World.
Lost Zone documents a journey across the 655 digital kilometres that separate Alphaworld’s northern and southern limits, the first built and also the - seemingly endless - flagship world of the Active Worlds (AW) universe, and of which vast amounts are in reality virtual ghost urban clusters. The world's shared earthly built environment is still fully downloaded to our computer machines, open for exploration. In terms of its cultural significance, we hope this publication helps draw attention to nearly abandoned and thus almost lost virtual worlds. The publication aims to contribute to the debate around and to the work of preserving geographies of social networking systems and engage with the ruins of its social fabric, to gain insights into our hybrid present and point towards futures yet to come.