In case you didn’t know, I don’t really have magical powers

Well hello everybody.  Who’s ready for another stimulating blog post from yours truly?  I know I am

Avatars, avatars, avatars, avatars.  We all have them so I suppose we should talk about them.  First and foremost, I think that there is a tremendous amount that can be gleaned from someone’s avatar.  The artist Cao Fei, who has worked on a few interesting projects in and around Second Life discusses this aspect of avatars in a video that can be found here.  As was discussed in class, much can be hidden by an avatar, such as gender, race, age, socio-economic status, and depending on one’s personal filters on interaction, personal preferences or other personality traits can be masked as well.  The internet and the anonymity that it can provide acts in the same way that avatars can, which is as a platform to indulge relatively guiltlessly in experimentation or investigation into interests or lifestyles or experiences that cannot be experienced by an individual in real life for any number of reasons be it taboo, or something more basic such as the limits and stubborn nature of reality in RL.  I do however hold to the idea that in honest game play or interaction an avatar conceals little about the inner workings of the individual especially with regards to the true or ideal content of one’s character, are they honest, timid, bold or wish to be bold.

In this regard I think that the avatar’s greatest potential is to produce a peculiarly honest representation of the individual.  They can act to circumnavigate taboos or stigmas and level the playing field of interaction to forge relationships.  Certainly gives one a lot to think about, what with all the ins and outs of the subconscious finding an outlet through the filter of the avatar and honesty of pseudo-anonymous interaction and identity reconstruction, I think so at least

Before I move on, here’s a link to Cao Fei’s segment on Art 21 where she talks in greater depth about Second Life and cosplay.

I do think such inquiry hits a bit of a wall when one looks to casual players or perhaps more mischievous individuals, who might put very little thought into the creation of their avatars, which may result in peculiar or silly names, and bizarre or even ugly avatars.  Decisions for these individuals, in the creation of avatars, are likely more arbitrary or looking for a quick laugh.  I for example, always select the name Mike Honcho, or if the female option presents itself Michelle Honcha.  Why?  Because for one reason or another I find this childish reference humorous still or I’m too lazy to come up with something better.  Recently I have tended to choose the female option for playable characters, just about always have a Mohawk (generally purple), some sort of facial scarring or marking, and am of abnormal size.  Why?  Because I am not actually a giant, mohawked, badass giantess, aligned with chaotic-evil, wandering the wasteland that was Las Vegas.  That being said, I can’t actually talk to dragons either.  My point being that there is a certain desire for spectacle or the peculiar in my approach to game play.  I also generally don’t play the MMORPG’s or Worlds such Second Life, so I might be a bad example.


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2 Responses to In case you didn’t know, I don’t really have magical powers

  1. vhsieh11 says:

    I agree with Cao Fei when she expressess her belieft that a person’s personality is projected in to their avatar. But I cannot shake the feeling that it is a naive view. It could be that her actual words had been interpreted into English.
    Thanks for the videos, I enjoyed seeing the perspective of someone that is actively a part of Second Life. Especially since it was quite different than what was presented in class.
    Her perspective of cosplay is also quite interesting and I’m not sure what to make of it yet…

  2. cstabile says:

    A lot going on in the original post and some of it somewhat contradictory. On one hand, you suggest that avatars might allow us to present a more authentic version of our selves (stripped of the need to perform our insecurities or compensate for them). On the other hand, you observe your own very different self-representational practices, which embrace artifice, perhaps reveling in it. Maybe Coleman is right — maybe the problem lies in comparing the virtual and the non-virtual, rather than simply embracing the possibility that the virtual allows for interactions that don’t need to be reducible to more conventional understandings of identity. Why not just allow for the possibility (which Cao Fei does) that these are spaces for experimentation?

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