Friday, February 25, 2011

Metaphors for Virtual Identity

One idea I've been flirting with is that it's more useful to view virtual identity from the perspectives of multiple metaphors rather than trying to cram everything into some unified model. This is the first of two posts outlining two triads that expand a bit on earlier posts.
The first set of metaphors focuses on the experience of avatar identity as a unique character, as depicted somewhat fancifully in the Botgirl vs. Human Trailer:

Although the scene in the video is clearly an exaggeration, it gives a sense of the kind of internal creative process that some of us have been playing around with through the creation of comics, art, video and blogging. A couple Second Lifers who also explore this area are
Chrome Underwood and Gracie Kendal.

I've connected this approach to three metaphors that resonate for me:

  • Author/Character: Some writers feel as if certain characters write themselves. Author Elizabeth Moon described it like this: 
"The character finally came into my head and said, 'I'm Lou, tell my story'  . . . Sometimes they arise without my wanting them to . . . and they bang on the inside of my skull basically, until I write their stories." 
  • Ventriloquist and Dummy: I think that ventriloquism is one of the best comparisons for those like me who have unique avatar identities, but are not pseudonymous. Jeff Dunham’s description of his characters is right in line with my personal experience of Botgirl. He said,
"I know the dummies aren't alive, but they certainly live in my consciousness".
  •  Channeler/Channeled Being. Although channeling has gone out of fashion, I think it’s another comparable phenomenon. Although some channelers may very well be putting on an act, I believe others genuinely experience the sense that the words they speak while channeling are not coming from their own volitional consciousness.
Mick Brady jokingly described the phenomenon as a Multiple Personality Disorder. But I view it more as a Multiple Personality Capability.


    Anonymous said...

    Thank you for a great post!!!! I didn't realize Mick was joking :P hehe Love the Mickey Mouse reference too... I think it totally fits!!!

    R. said...

    I am the devil on my avatar's shoulder, whispering evil ideas into its ear.


    Anonymous said...

    Another way of viewing the avatar is as an adaptable 3D interface where man/machine interactivity is specified along a continuum of virtual world touch points ranging from undifferentiated, generalized commodity form and function on one end of the spectrum to unique, specialized and highly customized form/function on the other. In this spectrum, the decorative or non-functional aspects of the avatar typically serve as a contextual narrative for some base class of interactivity or application (i.e. sexual surrogate).

    sororNishi said...

    Multiple Personality Capability I like a lot.
    This describes a formerly little known natural talent we all share, but previously had, unless we are actresses, little occasion to use.

    Raven Haalan said...

    Great post - I can relate to "all of the above" depending on the mood of the day, lol.

    In operating multiple AVs, I don't go as far as multiple personality - but I do have a "facet" model. I present as aspect of myself, undiluted by the other aspects that fight for attention.

    It enables me to express and explore, discover and understand that bit of myself more clearly because it is isolated into the AV.

    Love your work and musings.

    Botgirl Questi said...

    I think we naturally tend to project our own perception of virtual identity onto everyone else. My hope is that developing a rich and varied library of metaphors might help remind us that there are many ways to experience this stuff.