Monday, October 12, 2009

Typist, Puppeteer and Ventriloquist as Metaphors for an Avatar's Human Counterpart

In the pseudonymous culture of Second Life an avatar's undisclosed human identity is often referred to as "Typist" or "Puppeteer". Since neither of those labels ever felt right to me, I was recently intrigued by the notion of using "Ventriloquist" as an alternative metaphor. Here's how I see the differences:
  • The Typist metaphor places agency within the virtual identity. The human is viewed as a third-party transcribing dictation with neither emotional involvement nor creative participation. 
  • The Puppeteer metaphor casts the avatar as a doll on a string, manipulated by a human sitting outside and above the stage of the virtual world.
  • The Ventriloquist metaphor places the avatar intimately upon the human's lap. Human and Dummy are both active participants who are perceived as unique and vital individuals.
I'm still in the midst of fleshing out this idea, but this is the basic concept I'm working with. Much more to come, including some imagery.


Yak Wise said...

But ventriloquist has the association of being 'funny', a 'gag'.
My puppeteer would be insulted if he was called that.

Typists work in offices. I hate offices, so does my rope puller..

Tateru Nino said...

And it's one step removed if we're talking SL. The visible avatar is that which observes and (incompletely and inexpertly) mimics your actions.

The SL avatar is additionally given some subtle actions that are not your own.

Botgirl Questi said...

Yak: I hear you! Different metaphors will resonate (or not) depending upon one's experience.

Tateru: I agree that the avatar body is a pretty crude tool at this time.

In the post, I was referring to the avatar persona (of which the virtual body is just a part). Although the variance between virtual and human identities is more pronounced in cases of pseudonymity, I think even the most fervent augmentationist has a viscerally unique experience of self when embodied as an avatar in a virtual world.

Lalo Telling said...

When I think "puppeteer" I think Muppets, not marionettes. None of the Muppeteers are ventriloquists (that I know of), yet the hundreds of live actors who have worked with them relate -- one might say instinctively -- to the characters, not the people controlling them from behind or beneath.

I usually speak of it as wearing my avatar. Maybe some of that's because, for furries, most of the distinguishing characteristics are "worn", in SL parlance, as sculpted attachments. Maybe part of it's because (like many of my fellows), I have more than one, and change at whim.

Thinking about it, perhaps one could look at possession as a metaphor, too: giving a "soul" to what otherwise is an inanimate string of ones and zeros stored in an LL server when not logged in.

It would be useful to to know about how ventriloquists themselves relate to their on-stage partners.

Camilla said...

What about "my human?" I have some friends whose avatars refer to their counterparts as that. It sounds better to me than "animator," "typist," etc., which come with other connotations. "My human" is quite literally the living person behind the avatar.

Botgirl Questi said...

Princess I: I like "My human". It's interesting that the phrase also splits human and avatar identities into two separate beings (as opposed to "in my human identity").