I’m reading the blogpost Is your SL avatar a projection of yourself? by Shirley Williams and reflecting on my relation with Anna Begonia. I’m one of those who talk about their avatar in 3rd person. Anna Begonia does not resemble my cellular self at all: she is a brunette, wears pigtails, has red eyes and looks much younger (and thinner) than me. On the other hand, I usually say: I met Carol, I talked with Misy, I was interviewed by Cvetcka students, I’m working on a new activity for Italianiamo. So it’s a case of mixed identities :).
This week I’ve actually been thinking a lot about avatars and the importance they have in our lives (both SL and RL): a friend of mine and former colleague woke up one day to discover that he did not have anymore access to his avatar. The company he was working with and who owned the avatar decided out of the blue, without even bothering to tell him, to deny him the access to his avatar. Normal, I would say, if this happened when he stopped working with them, less normal if it happens 8 months afterwards.
When he warned me that he wasn’t anymore himself I was shocked. For how things happened, and because I realised that he was loosing not only his inventory but, more important, his contact and his “name”.
Name in SL is very important, it’s how people know you, is what people know about you, it represents you much more than in RL: in SL you can change aspects but people will recognise you by the name. Your SL name is your reputation and in some cases of very well known people is a sort of brand. I will buy a scripted object from Eloise Pasteur, go to an event organised by Dudeney Ge, read with attention a blogspot by Tateru Nino because I know their “brand” means quality. I trust them even though I do not know them personally and in many cases I don’t know who they are in RL.
To think that now another person can go around with the name of my friend (although I hope with another aspect, since the avatar face resembled very closely my friend’s) gives me creeps, and I understand how students once felt when they discovered that an avatar they were very found of was actually another person (I think the original one left because she was sick of delayed payments). It makes me simply dizzy to think that I cannot be sure of the person beyond the avatar, but yes, this with avatars owned by companies and school can happen.
When I was working for Languagelab I was told that I was to use a company avatar. I understand the reasons, and I even found the idea very practical but I was very annoyed to leave Anna Begonia at home. She was the one that got me that job, wasn’t she? And she had been around Languagelab for quite a while, developed a relationship with students and co-workers, she had a character and I’m very fond and proud of her.
To prepare me mentally and to make the change less abrupt to students I made another avatar. I did her rather ugly, with a big nose and a pronounced jaw. While I was making her I did not love her at all… it was something forced on me, it was an idea I did not like but understand and that it was my duty to accept.
The funny thing is that when I was going to choose a skin for her I did not stop until I found something that made her look rather pretty. It was as if in the process of making her I developed a sort of affection towards this new and unwanted representation of myself, as if she came to live and I couldn’t be cruel to her and make her ugly and nasty.
And yes, she wore sort of pigtails and had red eyes.
Luckily Languagelab never managed to make us all a company avatar and I did not have to contact all my friends and coleagues in November 2008, when my collaboration finished, to warn them that I was not anymore myself.
In memory of old times I add here a Languagelab video documenting classes and citypeople activities from October/November 2008.