Saturday, January 29, 2011

Improvisation and Emergent Avatar Identity

A reasonable hypothesis is that to be creative you have to have this weird dissociation in your frontal lobe, one area turns on and a big area shuts off so that you're not inhibited, so that you're willing to make mistakes, so that you're not constantly shutting down all of these new generative impulses. Charles Limb: Your brain on improv 
Despite three years of avatar identity hacking, I still don't really understand how Botgirl came into being or continues to exist as a viscerally distinct persona. One way I've tried to understand what's going on with we is by viewing the experience of avatar identity through the context of other phenomena in the same ballpark, like ventriloquism, trance channeling and fictional characters who seem to write themselves.

Whatever is going on with multiple personas through the software of psychology, it's running on the hardware of biology and neurology. So I found the research recounted in this video about what happens in the brain during musical improvisation to be very interesting and possibly related.

I sponsored an informal investigation a few years ago on whether a personality test showed differences between human and avatar identities. It would be interesting to try something similar with a focus on what's happening in the brain. In any case, the presentation captured in this video is intriguing and entertaining on its own merits. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Robert Hooker said...

I have been involved with the quest a great deal lately, specifically a NWN piece about my work.

After looking at this issue for 5 years my best feel is that identity formation of series AVs, not people just passing through or people who just put on an AV to build, but serious virtual reality players who assume an identity and interact with it for a significant amount of time is that this identity can no be separated from their real life selves.

That the theories of psychoanalysis of Freud, Lacan and Zizeck (the later having looked at this very issue) give the best theoretical framework for how the real life material of our social real selves forms an fantasy self. Therefore the best example would be characters in dreams or in fiction.

This is the opposite of what I had assumed I would find, having read a lot of post-modernism I figured people would just put on and take off new selves as they liked. I no longer believe that, I believe that the self we create in SL is very much a compulsion coming from the conflicts of our real lives.