Monday, July 23, 2018

Conditions Of The Avatar Age, Pt Ib: Icons, Eye Candy, Iam?

by L DeSilva-Johnson (writer), Brooklyn, NY, June 12, 2008


Following up on iCons and iCandy, who is it that iAm now that we write ourselves daily? Here I go into greater depth on how the offline individual is (re)created via our virtual "selves".

The basic thesis lies in this: the more we define ourselves in words and pictures, that we then see, the more we are creating a "mirror" that is not reflective, but instead reflexive, ie, representing a momentary understanding and/or desire of who we "are". In particular given than this mirror self has a life of its own beyond our control -- ie, when we are offline -- the avatar/profile/etc begins to act as a stand-in or double for us, and operates in relationships with others, who respond to our avatar increasingly instead of our offline, mutable selves.

When we return to our online communities, etc, we come into contact with the relationship our avatar has to others and to their doubles, and we often slip behind the mantle we have created for ourselves to perform along pre-defined lines, using certain language, making certain references, and now doing allotted actions per facebook such as "poking," which now define certain mores and modes of interaction previously unknown.

How does this affect who we are when we return to the topic, ie, "real"/physical space? As many of us have long been familiar with Gamers, both those of the new online variety but also those who played Role Playing games, or engaged in character based convention activity (ie, trekkies) we see people who are itchy to return to the "stage" in which they can play their character, which becomes more real to them then the undefined lived self.

Through this move towards online social interaction via avatars/doubles, we are increasingly simulating a "game-state" in the way we see our "selves" -- we are become characters/caricatures that are more familar to us then the changeable, variably reactive humans we are forced to remain offline.

This condition is reinforced by other societal shifts towards isolation, where capitalist driven urban planning has created a landscape in which we are physically isolated from eachother, and various technological "developments" have brought this alienation into even the most crowded of cities, in which we have individuals iPodding themselves against the world. A trip to nearly any global city now displays a similar seen: in crowds, individuals and groups listening to, playing with, and or looking at devices that now more than ever draw our exchanges, once natural and based on environment, back into pre-defined territory, partially by the self and partially not.

Why should we wander? We have garmin. Why should we meet new people? There's twitter. The list goes on and on, and the game-of-our-lives is becoming more mobile than ever. Watch out... soon we won't bother with mirrors anymore.

About the Writer

L DeSilva-Johnson is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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8 comments on Conditions Of The Avatar Age, Pt Ib: Icons, Eye Candy, Iam?

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on June 12, 2008 at 11:51 am

wow, whoever you are, critic, why are those star ratings so low? and why are you remaining anonymous? that is upsetting for any writer, at least let us dialogue as to what your reasoning is?

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By Lady D on June 13, 2008 at 11:35 am

Very insightful. I am always amazed, how some react when I speak to them (I was born in New York City, I talk to everybody) even saying "hello" seems to be invading thier space.

But I just smile and hope I broke the trance for a moment. I remember Cyndi Lauper said, " Women need to talk to each other more, even if your in the bathroom at least say hello." Maybe not an exact quote, but you get the drift.

Good article, keep breaking the trance.

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on June 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm

"breaking the trance" I like that. does that mean I am (wait for it....) breaktrancing???

thank you for your thoughts, and I do think those little acts of humanity make a HUGE difference in the larger ripple pool of the public. yesterday I gave a packet of tissues to a teenage girl who was crying on the subway, her surprise and smile of gratitude clearly changed the direction of her emotions, and who knows what else, you know?

EVERYONE needs to talk to each other more.

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By Jen on June 13, 2008 at 11:52 pm

I was born in L.A. and I'll talk to ANYONE. general...are simply fascinating.  Even the nut jobs.  In fact...the nut jobs might be the most fascinating of all.  Say hello to me and I'll chat you up until you freak me out.

But really...I have had so many great once in a lifetime conversations with people whose names I dont remember (if I ever even got them in the first place) that I have never seen nor spoken to again.  I have also had many scary conversations with people that I hope to never see or speak to again...

Its a trade off...and well worth the experience.

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on June 14, 2008 at 06:10 pm

I guess the other aspect that I want to explore more in coming installments is how, if the center of the Youniverse is in fact each of us how we can use this to our benefit and capitalize (not capitally, necessarily) on the immense power this could grant to the populace (and how, equally, it can and is being abused).

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By Lila M. on June 15, 2008 at 06:49 pm

L - very insightful.  I'm not afraid to say HI or smile at a stranger if they are walking my way, etc.   Yes, we have become a society immersed in our electronics.  But I think it's also because we have become less trusting of others or the stranger next to us.  Some people just find it much easier to connect with their iPod then another person because it's safe for them, they don't have to divulge any info. 

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on June 17, 2008 at 10:23 am

I think too frequently we confuse "easy" with better -- making us individually less courageous, frightened beings instead of those who grow stronger through connections with a mass, a mass we cannot control through "networks".... sigh. I'm loving the conversation this is starting! I'm going to try to get part II out tonight. Thanks for thinkin, everyone ;)

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By L DeSilva-Johnson on June 23, 2008 at 09:43 am

GRR! I'm happy to have a lot of reads on this one, but I wish people would realize it's the SECOND PART, which is why it starts with "as a follow up to iCons and iCandy...." because apparently 90-something of you have begun with part B!!! sigh.

Important for the writer to remember: you can't control the reader, so make sure you say what you need and don' t write things that can't stand on their own... I suppose...

Thanks for reading though... been super busy, part II on its way!

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