Monday, February 1, 2010

Ambiguity of identity - Varieties of Avatars

Note Bene: These posts are my ramblings on the topic and will not always be well thought through nor concisely worded - think of it as vaguely arranged stream of consciouslness... and feel free to comment :)

2. Varieties of avatars

Nekos, faeries, elves, tinies, furries, ponies, Doms/slaves, Steampunk, Star Trekkies, urban grunge, samurai, geisha, artists;)

One subculture not mentioned above is the one to which I suppose my own avatar belongs... that of Polymorph meaning many shapes in the one account - I'm not counting folks who have separate accounts for different types of avatar - they are a different story. Polymorphs will wear more than one avatar shape/sex/spiecies on the one account. Some do it on a whim - as I do - others will wear specific avatars when engaged in specific activities.

I have worn and played both male and female versions of neko, furry, tiny, mechanical or abstract avatars, am currently a dom to my partner Corto (also a polymorph), worn steampunk, engaged in RP, visited urban grunge wearing the same, and am an artist in whatever form I wear. But overarching all these is the fact that my shape may, and does, change regularly and without notice.

To me the concept of not ever changing my av shape and skin (my RL partner's SL partner has not changed hers since sometime in 2006 soon after she joined SL) is completely alien - not even changing the shape to accommodate the vagaries of the sl prim attachment or system skirt limitations.

Staying the same sex or vaguely same style of avatar I can understand, but to refuse to move with the advancements in skin or clothing design as SL grows and progresses seems to me akin to not using a mobile phone because you were born before they were invented.

Political: Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Libertarians, Fascists, right wing hate groups. Is Al Qaeda in SL?

not sure how a particular digital representaion (avatar) can be representative of a particular political party or leaning.... is akin to being racist in RL and saying if someone looks middle eastern they must be a Muslim. It is the humans behind the avatar who are political.

Now that said there are avatars who are presented in specific ways for political reasons... skin heads wearing avs that look like rl skin heads for instance, but not every AV that looks that way is a skin head... as in rl no one group has control of any one appearance and in SL where you can literally be anything this is even more true.

There are groups in SL that push the boundaries of Terms of Service (some of teh things mentioned above are specifically forbidden in SL and are Abuse Reportable when encountered). Certainly there are groups that enable people with specific political and religious beliefs to keep in contact and arrange events.

How does an avatar's groups list (which can be hidden and thus not public) shape that AV's identity? I know I use the group list of people who land on my parcel to help shape my decision of whether to ban or make them a friend, guilt by association I know, but in SL no one can force you to join a group so any group an Avatar chooses to make public in their profile must have some meaning to that avatar's human.

Religious: Buddhist groups, monasteries, virtual churches, rl churches with SL ministries...

Again these are social groupings and for me are peripheral to the avatar's identity... an avatar may be a member of one of these groups but is not of itself that group (you cant have an SL Group with only one member - you need at least 2 for it to remain an active group).

OK an avatar may identify with one or more of these groups in the same way that in RL someone may define themselves by their religion even before their gender or marital status or other aspect of their identity, but they cannot BE that religion.

So a semantic distinction....

Now there may be some ambiguity involved because in RL the person behind the avatar does not identity publically in RL with their religion of choice within SL (I can think of situations in which this could be the case) but this is likely to be a rare occurrence.

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