Visual spaces, norm governed places: The influence of spatial context online

Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Rosa Mikeal Martey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Current theories of social interaction and normative influence in Computer-Mediated Communication were developed in the era of the internet predominated by text-based interaction. With the growth of visual-spatial worlds like Second Life, these theories need to be re-examined. The evolution of thinking about social norms online has moved from a mechanistic view to a systems view of humans and communication technology intertwined in a complex relationship that includes groups, identity, communication, and norms. Missing from that system is explicit attention to context and the important role of the environment that encases interaction. This article discusses theories of how architecture and embodiment shape offline life and how such theories increasingly apply in online interaction in visual social spaces. We argue that such spaces communicate normative information that influences behavior within a given context in both conscious and unconscious ways. This article then discusses implications of visual-spatial environments on existing theories of interaction online.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1041-1060
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Architecture
  • Avatars
  • Deindividuation
  • Norms
  • Second Life
  • Social contact
  • Social information processing
  • Social interaction
  • The Sims Online
  • Virtual worlds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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