Authoring the Intimate Self: Identity, Expression and Role-playing within a Pioneering Virtual Community


  • Steve DiPaola Simon Fraser University
  • Jeremy Turner SFU


We examine Traveler, a social-based 3D online virtual community with over ten years of continuous community use, as a case study. Traveler is a client-server application allowing real-time synchronous communication between individuals over the Internet. The Traveler client interface presents the user with a shared, user created, virtual 3D world, in which participants are represented by avatars. The primary mode of communication is through multi-point, full duplex voice, managed by the server. This paper reflects on the initial design goals of the developers in the mid 1990s to emulate natural social paradigms and, more recently, reports on how the online community uses distance attended multi-point voice and open-ended 3D space construction to express themselves both on a personal level and collaborative level to facilitate a tight socially based community. This paper situates the historical importance of Traveler within the framework of contemporary virtual worlds and provides insights into the ways that this software platform might influence next-generation virtual communities.

Author Biography

Steve DiPaola, Simon Fraser University

Steve DiPaola, an artist and scientist, is a professor at SFU. He directs iVizLab which strives to make interactive and simulation systems bend more to the human experience by incorporating bio & cognitive models. He came to SFU from Stanford and NYIT CGL and has held leadership positions at Electronic Arts, Saatchi Innovation and Silicon Valley start-ups. His art has been exhibited international including the AIR and Tibor de Nagy galleries in NYC, the Whitney Museum and the Smithsonian. He has collaborated with Nam June Paik and Kraftwerk and is known for making new media tools used equally by artists and scientists. See