Introduction to Virtual Dark Tourism: Disaster in the Space of the Imagination
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A major draw of what scholars call “dark tourism” is being in the physical presence of objects or spaces connected to atrocities; however, the desire to journey to dark places of the past also extends to the realm of the imagination. Writers, filmmakers, and designers of Internet sites and video games have created virtual dark tourism experiences for armchair travelers by devising imaginary voyages to lands and times where terrible acts have occurred. Shaping popular memories of historical disasters, these simulated journeys—like the physical ones—bring the past into the present, encourage empathy for past peoples, provide opportunities for public grieving and spiritual questioning, produce vicarious thrills and chills, offer solace for tragic losses, and invite reflection on the possibility of catastrophe in the here-and-now.