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The Avatar as Communication



Slides to go with my podcast: http://anya.blogsome.com/go.php?http://media.nmc.org/sl/audio/symposium-anya-avatar.mp3

Slides to go with my podcast: http://anya.blogsome.com/go.php?http://media.nmc.org/sl/audio/symposium-anya-avatar.mp3



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The Avatar as Communication The Avatar as Communication Presentation Transcript

  • The Avatar as Communication Dr Angela Thomas | Anya Ixchel
  • What Counts as Communication? Living Texts of the Body and Image
    • “ there is no outside the text” (Derrida)
    • Corporeal semantics: the body as a text
    • How do we interpret and construct the body as a text?
    • We communicate through a textual and corporeal dialogism
    • An expansive definition of communication incorporating visual texts :
      • photographs
      • moving images
      • maps
      • digital game worlds
      • representations of the body (raced, gendered, lifestlyed)
      • body art
      • avatars
    • How might avatars be ‘read’ institutionally in ways that grant or deny access to particular forms of communication over others.
  • Communicating the Self: identities / bodies / texts
    • … performance grounded in its theatrical senses…may need to be brought together with performativity in trying to deal with the complex ways in which bodies and texts fold into one another , crafting and shaping the materiality of texts and of bodies.
    • (Threadgold, 2003: 30)
    • … the body is “a point of overlapping between the physical, the symbolic, and the sociological”. Braidotti (1994: 4)
  • The Avatar: Desire, pleasure and the conventions of cultural production and reception
    • Second Life avatar practices has its own set of conventions, norms and values which are part of the predictable pleasures its citizens have come to expect.
    • Enhancement of Self
    • Fantasy
    • Glamour
    • Playfulness
    • ‘ I  think  I’m  in  love  with  him,  and  I’m terrified  in  case  he thinks  I’m  not perfect … you should see what I’m like round him — its like — I wear little outfits. I’m  not  like  me.  Sexy  Carrie.  Casual Carrie.  Sometimes  I  catch  myself  actually posing — its  exhausting!’
    - The gaze of the other - The spectacle of the taut Caucasian body – shiny hair and flawless make-up
  • The Avatar as a Form of Fun and Empowerment
    • Attitude of many female SL residents about the fashioning of their avatars neatly exemplifies post-modernist feminist thinking within contemporary academic discussions of fashion
    • ‘ dressing up equals fun, and fun equals empowerment’ (König, 2004: 140)
  • Semiotic and Psychoanalytic Analyses of Avatars
    • “ The avatar is a direct telephone line to the soul”
    • (Aimee Weber, in an interview with Dell Wilberg for Slatenight 1.3)
    • Describe the semiotic resources you deliberately inscribed into your avatar and how you think they construct a sense of “self” you want to project to others
    • Explain why you made these choices from a psychoanalytic perspective
    • “ I made Julia tall, thin and reasonably well proportioned… enhancements which deviate from my own likeness, creating a more hybrid visual appearance as I wrestle with emotions about body image as a post-pregnant mother”
    • Symbolic representations of my personality: ethereal, romantic, whimsical: Botticelli’s Venus-like braids and a goddess gown in shades of cream and peach
    • Yet the “bling” in my necklace is reflective of a more contemporary edge to my personality as a confident modern women
    • I have faced sadness and grief in my life recently so in my animations I deliberately avert my gaze from others – I spend a lot of time on my own in spaces which reflect nature as I deal with this grief – my offline emotions translated into my avatar and in how I relate (or not) to others in SL
    • My avatar predominantly reflects my inner self and therefore has high modality to me
    • The outer layer of my real body does not represent myself as much as my avatar does – my avatar has a personality, and is real, and it is me, the real me
    • The most salient aspect of my avatar for me is my black glasses, a symbolic attribute of intellect, and combined with her smart clothes, gives me a sophisticated look
    • Yet underneath, my shoes bling and give off particle effects, reflecting an inner sense of fun which I think best defines me
    • My close friend and colleague thinks that since starting this course and spending time as Denver (my avatar), I have “blossomed” offline. My entire identity has changed – my perceptions about who I am, the way I think and interact, and the way I see the world now - has changed as a consequence of the journey Angela has encouraged us to take
  • Progressive Stages of the Avatar?
    • Ego: free: me me me
    • Original choice: realistic or fantasy?
    • Refining: aestheticisation and enhancement of the self
    • Accountability: Developing friendships, doing business, teaching your students
  • Self-censoring, justifications, guilty pleasures, alts “ I am a real life male”
    • I suddenly found myself hanging out and socialising with people that were becoming friends, but did not really know much about me. Most disturbingly, I now had friends that had only ever seen me as a female and I am worried about them finding out I am a 34yo father of 2.
    • Above my worries about disappointing a friend, was a curiosity about how I managed to get into this situation and what it reflected about me, and about online identity in general
    • Is there a point in the development of the online relationship then, where it is necessary to be honest about the real you?
    • This suggested to me that there was a time when I should have told them the truth, and that I had missed it. Are my concerns naiveté? Is this the new reality that is secondlife? Or have I been Machiavellian, and must now deal with an awkward situation?
    • Captain Goodfellow (Slatenight 1.3)
  • Reader Responses to the Avatar
    • “ When I first saw Seven I was scared. Her hair was purple, and she stood with her hands on her hips, staring at me. She had a studded collar around her neck and a tattoo on her left arm. My heart started beating fast and all I could see was the giant red word SLUT emblazoned on her t-shirt. I was shocked. These were markers of identity that were not to my liking. Why anybody would choose to advertise such a thing is beneath me”
    • “ When Angela turned into her “granny” av and started moving around and speaking in her granny voice, I suddenly felt embarrassed at my skimpy attire. I also felt an urge to run over to her and try to help her move better”
  • A “new gender regime”
    • Relations of power are indeed made and re-made within texts of enjoyment and rituals of relaxation and abandonment.
    • A new ‘ethics of freedom’: freedom of choice
  • Interrogating the Avatar: Issues of Equality and Social Justice
    • For whom are literacies of the body and image “alive” or accessible?
    • Whom do such literacies serve?
    • How do literacies of the body and image interrupt or reproduced social inequities?