The Observatory

Sep 2020

Virtual Places – Needs must or destinations in their own right?

Whether its a needs must, forced innovation or lockdown boredom, there can be no doubt that the last months have seen an unprecedented rise in both the acceptance and adoption of ‘Virtual.’

Almost all of us are are now familiar with its daily use, from our home offices and schools, to our escape times via a burgeoning raft of virtual stories, events and exhibits, available from both familiar and new purveyors of experience and content.

In placemaking digital tools have been used for some years as formats which can transcend the limitations of geography, that can be used to help boost social, cultural, environmental and economic values and foster deeper relationships between people and the places they inhabit.      To date however, these tools have yet to fully draw on and support local community resources.

The internet enables us to all find information on almost any subject matter, interest group or virtual experience, but it is still difficult to learn about and participate in the shaping of the public places and spaces around us.

But things are changing, no longer is the Virtual Place merely a gamers avatar, a precursor or ongoing marketing enhancement to something in the ‘real’ world.

What we are seeing now is something new, the advent of Virtual Places which in themselves are destinations, without the parallel ‘real world’ experience.

Which brings us on to one of our favourite Virtual Places –  The Museum of Crisps

Maybe its personal, or dipping a toe in the interest water, before a brick and mortar version emerges or just perhaps we are witnessing a new form of niched storytelling.

What is does say clearly is that Virtual Places can inform and engage any community, no matter how local, if a story is told with wit, enthusiasm and an accompanying bag of crisps!