“First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces. There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society— which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are
outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there. ” ( Foucault Michel, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité October, 1984; (“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967 Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec)
I would argue that a heterotopian place in Irish culture, that mirrors ourselves as we could be in a utopian place, yet remains a “real” place is a pub session. Here, in locals where the same people gather at the same time either weekly or more often is a society formed among friends, who leave the outside world, their stresses and commitments for a limited time. There is a requirement of age to enter, as well as membership to whatever small group/table the participants have made. Generally, there is equally a requirement of conversation and socio-political familiarity. Without these familiarities, one is usually not permitted either by refusal of a seat or just by non-verbal shunning.
Alcohol, or other mind altering substances, have been a fundamental part of all cultures in all times of history. Music, an integral part of a local pub session, is equally important to create the mirror of what we would be like in a Utopian setting.
It is with all three of these attributes, community, (limited) alcohol, music and conversation, that bring us to our best, our happiest, our most generous and our most comfortable selves.
In Second Life, there is a popular Irish Pub as well as many other dance venues. But it is the Irish pub in real life that reflects what we most want…connection to one another.