No Fear!!!Posted: November 27, 2010
“What started out as a set of 100 portraits to help illustrate the idea of online anonymity, has turned into a sort of documentation of avatars in SL. There are so many questions I have been asking myself and ideas I’ve been pondering throughout this whole process, especially on the idea of online identity.”
“Like many of my other projects, I started out with one idea: to take portraits of avatars facing away from me. That was it, pure and simple. I had the idea that I wanted them to be unrecognizable, their faces hidden, just another level of anonymity in SL vs. RL. I plan on printing some if not all of these portraits out in RL for an eventual show in a gallery as well as publishing a book.”
“Our online identity has become a way of like for millions of people around the world. Not just in Second Life, but on many internet sights you go to. When you look on Facebook, or Twitter, how many post pictures of their children or pets? Pictures of places they have visited, cartoon characters they love, logos of their business, landscapes, art, and anything else they find from their lives that they want to represent their identity online.”
This is our avatar. I write about the avatar in my thesis…
I think it’s important to begin with an explanation of what avatars and Second Life are. Sean Egen explains that “‘Avatar’ derives from the Sanskrit word Avatara, which literally translates as ‘descent,’ specifically, a deliberate descent by a god into the land of mortals. In Hinduism, an avatar is the bodily manifestation of immortal beings… Many who use avatars today are literally approaching it from the point of view that their avatar represents their ‘incarnation’ into the internet.” In contemporary culture, an avatar is our virtual representation.
Most people are familiar with avatars through video games. In World of Warcraft, for example, players create avatars then customize their appearance. People also use avatars as icons in instant messaging applications, social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter and through their email programs. Avatars are also represented in film and other forms of media. Max Headroom (2006) is an early manifestation of an avatar. The British virtual band Gorillaz (2006) is made up of cartoon figures representing its real life band members. Movies such as Tron (1982), The Lawnmower Man (1992), The Matrix (1999) and Avatar (2009) give examples within the plots of alternate realities in which the person has an alter ego or other persona: an avatar.
Besides the practical reasons for having an avatar, there are many psychological reasons. Because avatars offer anonymity, people use them as a way to escape reality. In his book I, Avatar, Mark Stephen Meadows discusses how people use avatars as masks. “We are more inclined to reveal ourselves when we use our avatars. We’re more inclined to reveal what we want, dislike, and think. But in a world where information is more important than physical proximity, we are not as safe as we might assume… After all, the word persona originally meant, in ancient Greek, ‘mask.’ Not as in a thing that hides your face, but one that shows what is truly underneath.”
SL offers people the freedom to explore changing identity dynamics. Experimentation is welcome. It is a safe environment which allows unlimited freedom to express oneself and consider boundaries/barriers that aren’t readily accepted in the physical world. “Computer screens are becoming the new location for our fantasies… The immateriality of cyberspace dissolves not only space and time, but our identities as well. For some this is a frightening prospect, for others perhaps the beginnings of a new empowerment.”
“The portraits I am taking have become a documentation of the lives of hundreds of people who to me are fearless. These people (yes I say people, because no matter how we represent ourselves online, we are all people on the other side of the computer) put themselves out there into the brave new world of virtual environments as explorers, searching for anything and everything. They are amazing, creative, soulful people who I am so honored to have in my project.
Each portrait represents a different personality, a singular life. Each person has a story to tell, a life to live. Does it matter if we know what these stories are? Does it matter if we know who is on the other side of the computer?
Thank you to everyone for your amazing support!!!
If you would like to be part of this project, please IM me inworld- Gracie Kendal or leave a comment here. I’d love to shoot ya!!”