A virtual environment is a setting that is not real but includes real traits with which people can identify. The contents may reflect pure imagination or may model the real world. The environment becomes immersive when users are no longer observers but participants in the setting that is depicted, in some cases becoming actors in a larger drama. This entry describes the nature of some of the most popular virtual environments, such as Second Life, and explores their significance for geography.

Virtual settings or environments have long been a part of the human experience, as exemplified by prehistoric cave paintings, the utopic “Garden of Eden” and “New Jerusalem,” Homer's Odyssey, and the Greek and Roman “Golden Age” myths. Today, people lose themselves in the elaborate landscapes ...

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