Digital Places in Virtual Reality Environments:
Interferences with Evolutionary Agents
Department of New Media, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
This paper approaches aspects related to the concept of place in virtual architecture. The main focus is on the problem of space perception in digital environments and in particular in immersive environments. The specific notion of place developed in the context offered by Virtual Reality architecture is analyze
Starting from Norberg-Schultz’s  idea that real architectural spaces are concretizations of existential space, the present research attempts to identify new forms of existential space developed through human interaction with Virtual Reality environments and then analyze if digital immersive environments could be interpreted as concretizations of these new forms of existential spaces. Peter Anders’ idea of a new type of hybrid spaces named cybrids  and formed through interferences between the real and the digital immersive spaces is studied in relation to the notion of hybrid places.
Changes generated through means that are specific to the digital worlds with a main emphasis on evolutionary agents are an important focus in the present paper as these are considered to underlie changes in new forms of existential space. The development of new forms of thinking and learning as proposed by Fogel , and of new forms of creativity and design as proposed by Soddu  based on evolutionary computing are analyzed from the perspective of social evolutionary agents influencing the perception of place in virtual architectural spaces.
A 3D reconstruction of Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotonda is used as an experimental virtual environment offering the necessary support for the analysis of diverse theoretical aspects related to digital space (Figure 1).
The Virtual Reality experimentation platform used for this research is based on a Barco Gemini VR system, Ascension “Flock of Birds” motion tracking system, and Virtools VR software package.
The research presented in this paper is based on funding from the Alberta WestGrid Collaborative Visualization Program and on research grants from the University of Lethbridge Research Fund and the University of Lethbridge Teaching Development Fund.
Figure 1. Experimental artificial environment developed for the Palladio’s villa “La Rotonda.” – multiple views.
 The approach taken in this research is based on the interpretation of the concept of space as a system of multiple spaces presented in Norberg-Shultz, Christian. Existence, Space &Architecture. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971,
 The notion of cybrid spaces is introduced and developed in Anders, Peter (1999). Envisioning Cyberspace: Designing 3D Electronic Spaces. New York: McGraw-Hills Companies Inc. and in Anders, Peter (2003) Towards Comprehensive Space: A context for the programming/design of Cybrids. In Kevin R. Klinger, Editor. Connecting: Crossroads of Digital Discourse, ACADIA 2003 Conference Proceedings, Indianapolis, CA USA, October 2003, 161-171 2.
 The idea of machines capable to adapt to changeable situations through evolutionary development and without relying on pre-built databases of human-based knowledge is presented in Fogel, David. B. Blondie 24: Playing at the Edge of AI. New York: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2001.
 The present research takes into consideration the development of a new form of architectural design and with it of a new form of creativity based on producing ideas rather than finalized designs through evolutionary computing. This concept is developed by Soddu in a number of published books and research articles among which one of the latest is: Soddu, Celestino. Visionary Architecture and Architecture Variations. In Celestino Soddu, Editor. GA2003 Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Generative Art, December 10-13, 2003, Politecnico di Milano University, Milan, Italy, p. 5-18.