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American Studies
Film Studies
Television Studies
Media Studies
Game Studies

14 Jan

Chapter on Virtual Cities in Sci-Fi Movies in the Making

Written by Michael Fuchs
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We navigate our ways through cities by using Google Maps, our every step in urban environments is recorded by video cameras and subsequently stored on digital storage devices, and we experience urban spaces through the proxy of video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series (since 1997) and Watch_Dogs (2014). It seems apparent that our urban experience has become virtual. While, indeed, urban studies scholars such as James Donald and Kevin Lynch have stressed the interrelations between the lived and material spaces of the city and the virtual spaces of the imagination, our historical moment witnesses an increasing awareness of the extent to which the seemingly separate domains of the 'real' and the 'virtual' are, in fact, intertwined.

In our contribution to this volume, we will survey the depiction of virtual urban spaces in film and television. From the virtual reality of 1940s' Los Angeles in The Thirteenth Floor (1999) to the Second Life-like alternate reality of Society in Gamer (2009), these representations and simulations of cities are enmeshed in the network of dualisms; they not only make viewers ponder the real-vs.-virtual binary, but also allow viewers to understand how openness and closure prove key to the conceptualization of the city and its employment in the American imagination. As symbols of both progress and stagnation, virtual cities embody progress and the apparently unlimited potentials of new media, but they also reflect anxieties connected to new technologies and often confront their users and the movies' viewers with the limits of coded environments.