Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Take on the Meaning of Avatar Appearance

There's been a bit of controversy recently in the SL Blogosphere about what, if anything, one's choice in avatar appearance means. It started with a post by Senban Babii focusing on the relationship between avatar appearance and social conformity:
If you go and take a look around the places like infohubs and clubs and the places where Mr and Mrs Average Resident are to be found, you'll actually find an amazing degree of social conformity and lack of individual expression . . . I'm not suggesting that people are turning into mindless clones. Yet, perhaps they already were?
Here's my take on the issue:
  1. There is deep multi-dimensional meaning behind the appearance of every avatar you see. 
  2. You have no freaking clue about what that meaning is for anyone except yourself.


Whiskey Monday said...

I think this topic seems to have a 10 month turnover on SL blogs. It always boils down to the same thing- to each his own, and judge only yours. See you in 10 months!

Raven Haalan said...

For my part, working with three AVs - all of which are more or less realistic in appearance, although granted it's a surreal, idealised "realistic" - I actually work from the facet of my personality I'm expressing in that AV - and then try to find a physical rendering that projects that visually.

Tish Seda said...

For me, my three Avies are an expression of my different sub personas I seem to have.
I don't think I have some sort of physiological problem. But maybe others might disagree .. LOL
'Tish' is most like my regular self except I'm a blonde, my pretty redhead has a sweet innocent and has a endearing cuteness, along with a child like way of speaking, and my last one is very pretty and acts more like a teenage girl.
So I guess you could say that I use Avatar Appearance as an expression of me and I'm in no way a clone of anyone I've ever seen in SL

Unknown said...

i think making assumptions about a person based on their avatar's appearance says more about the person making the assumptions/judgments than it does about the other person/avatar they are judging

Gwyneth Llewelyn said...

Well, the reason why this keeps popping up is that it's such an interesting question. Last week or so I was in a meeting discussing why SL, if at allows for surrealist or at least post-modernist expression, just has people sticking to contemporary looks (in their buildings, in their appearance...) with perhaps a slight touch of fantasy?

My own take on the issue is that only a very tiny part of the world's population actually enjoys surrealism or even post-modernism; the rest of us are pretty average and are more than happy with our surroundings as they are, perhaps just with that little extra spice :)

Dirk said...

I believe that there is, still, some reality in the thought. Having been in some places where conformity was high, there were comments on my non-conforming appearance (as an alt). People can, even in SL, get uncomfortable with the unfamiliar.

Catherine Meyers said...

I agree there with Carrie,though I don't think it's a bad thing to make assumptions through the avatar. Remember the first thing you are able to "see", just like IRL is "the look", when you get to know the person, you usually forget those "judgements and assumptions".

By the way Botgirl, love your blog an the debates you bring up, if you are interested ina ilnk exchange, let me know through this email.


Anonymous said...

I must confess that I do make assumptions on the driver's personality based on the look of the avatar, taking into account the age of course. I'm probably wrong 90% of the time, but I can't help but go on what I see. Profiles can be a lie. Your avatar shows the metaverse more about your true self than perhaps even you are aware of...At the risk of shameless self promotion, my latest machinima deals with some of these issues as I see them. http://bit.ly/ifNwzG

Joey1058 said...

I tried using a furry avatar in SL a couple of years back, when they were first introduced. But I stuck out like a sore thumb, so I switched it back to a regular human. So, yeah, I fell into the conformity thing.

Botgirl Questi said...

Whiskey: It would be interesting to track the lifecycle and rebirth of perennial SL controversial issues.

Raven and hotti: It's really cool that you're taking such a conscious approach to avatar form. Have you ever tried doing something outside your current personality range and seeing if you'd grow into it?

Carrie: Could be, but I think making judgements about making judgements says more about the person making judgements about the person making judgements . . . oh shit, never mind. :)

Gwyneth: I agree with you about why VW forms tend to be in the ballpark of representational atomic world appearance. Unless you're intentionally trying to explore some artistic, psychological or philosophical concept, there's a lot of value in sticking to the metaphors we're used to.

Dirk: For sure. Conformity is certainly at play in the way many of us choose to represent ourselves in virtual worlds. I don't have a problem with conformity, only the tendency to believe that the knee-jerk judgements we make about people are the objective truth.

Catherine and Taamon: We can't help but make judgements. I think that's a part of human intelligence. But what we can do is notice when it happens and not buy-in to our assumptions until we see if they're confirmed by the other person's actions.

Botgirl Questi said...

Joey: Outside of feeling like you stuck out, did anyone overtly comment negatively on your appearance?