Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Beeble's Identity Crisis

Oh where to start? First, and perhaps most relevant, is my identity as an academic who is exploring SL for research and pedagogical purposes. Since this is the primary motivation for my interaction here, at least i have one stable point of reference (i think).

In my doctoral studies, i've been fascinated by the hype of the cybervangelists who endlessly extol the virtues of digital existence and disparage physicality, referring to our biological lives as "the meat world." My own preference and perspective is that, while digitality is fun & can teach us, BIOLOGY is our unrecognized power and ultimate reality. None of this fantastic technology would even exist (much less persist) if it weren't for the biology that created and maintains it.

Since i feel such a strong connection to the cycles of my body and Nature, when creating my avatar i chose the closest thing to a dog that I could find. Dogs seem to me a good representation of earthiness (they give birth anywhere, lick themselves, smell each other) not so much a prescription for behavior i recommend. i look a bit more cartoon-like than i was hoping, but then everybody does here.

I suppose the word "avatar" is an oddly apt term since it derives from Hindu mythology and refers to the descent of a god into the material world. But the term is also completely inappropriate since, in terms of technology, WE are the gods and when we make an avatar we DE-materialize ourselves in a way. Or perhaps an avatar is simply a technologically enhanced version of the childhood friend....or spirit guide.

My friend Ignatius Onomatopoea has been teasing me that i'm a 'furry' or a 'fuzzy' but my purpose in maintaining this particular look is purposeful both for the expression of our connection to the Earth and an invitation to reflect upon and discuss the nexus of image and identity. For example, when Iggy was creating himself, he wished to represent himself as close to his biology as possible but the program didn't have options for gray hair or baldness!

What might this imply? Remember the rejection of biology and the horror of aging present in Brave New World? Does some of the cyber-hype and particularly the disparagement of the body reveal a similarly neurotic fear of aging and death?

Is it possible to arrive at a place in the mind where THE BODY IS NOT THE ENEMY or the traitor to OUR EGOS but rather the wise teacher born from millions of years of field testing and development? i think so. This is my personal goal.

My SL identity crisis is dawning not because of my loss of faith in my body, but because of the connotations of the image i have chosen! From Iggy's teasing, to a chance interview with an SL Designer, to conversations with a veteran gamer, i have learned that the 'fuzzy' or 'furry' is a category of avatar that existed before SL and which is associated with sensuality, particularly 'kinky' sex - whatever that means! How can you have sex without a body?

So, what do i do? Surrender my avatar because of digital prejudice? But is it prejudice or a self-designation by the players? By choosing it i tapped correctly into the embodied sensual that i want to emphasize without understanding its previous and wider connotations.

In some way, this confusion is perfect. Beeble is here to explore & learn, but also to remind and to celebrate the world of the flesh, of embodied experience so he would definitely NOT identify with avatars who find satisfaction in any kind cyber-sex which is not and can never be true sex at all. It's just like my take on cyber-rape: there has to be physical proximity and contact for the term to have any useful meaning - for me at least. Y'all can go play with your keyboards if you like.

These associations, biases or readings' of my avatar, or of the basic ICON behind it will prove to be an interesting filter in my attempts to interview people in SL.

more to come....

1 comment:

Ignatius Onomatopoeia said...

I really do understand why you choose a "furry" (the known term, not my locution).

I am with you 100% that the "meat world" (Gibson's term) is where we must keep our points of reference. SL, for all its fun, is merely interactive TV...and a place to do business for some folk