Panel: Virtual Doppelgangers: Embodiment, Morphogenesis, and Transversal Action
In 1989, after experiencing Jaron Lanier and VPL Research’s Reality Built for Two virtual reality simulator, I began to speculate upon how we might appear to one another in Multi-user Virtual Environments (MUVEs). The potential for choosing non-consensual, mutable, or hybrid self-representations was dangerous and fascinating on multiple levels. As I created a series of images called “identity constructions” and designed prototypes of potential interfaces, the World Wide Web appeared, Neil Stephenson published Snowcrash, and online spaces like AlphaWorld™, WorldChat™, and WorldsAway™ combined MUDs with virtual reality. As the Web increasingly became a space for the exchange of goods and services and these 3D chat spaces became environments for surveillance and mapping psychographic segments, it became clear to me that the most significant property of the avatar was the freeing of personal identity from mapable relationships to consistency and social consensus. The use of the avatar in on-line shared environments had the potential to become a revolutionary polymorphic trope unhampered by issues of class, race, gender, beauty, or age; capable of diverting capital’s flooding force of colonization; and offering each of us a safe haven in an unconsumable body of our own. The avatar became a potential site of resistance, a trickster figure in the belly of a monster. In 1999 I published “An Avatar Manifesto,” an essay that posited a historical and theoretical definition of the avatar, contextualized the avatar among other types of representation, and articulated a set of strategies for building avatars that would resist the growing vision of virtual space as a new utopian shopping mall. The essay referenced Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” of 1986 but used Artaud’s trope, “The Body w/o Organs” as a point of reference for the construction and articulation of representations of the self within digital, virtual space. “An Avatar Manifesto” was largely speculative in nature, as it was published at a time when there was little recorded history of our relationship to virtual realities and networks. In this presentation, “Avatar Manifesto Redux,” I will bring specific trajectories of the 1999 essay to bear on some examples of the current state of avatar research and construction.
- Gregory Little works with computational art, 3D interactive virtual environments, and the cultural and philosophical implications of intersections of art and science. His projects have been exhibited and published in a number of international venues and presented at numerous conferences and on line-forums in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. His theoretical essays have been published widely, including in Intertexts, Intelligent Agent, and Technoetic Arts. His current research focuses on poetic intersections of art and science through non-looping 3d animated visualizations, virtual environments, and large scale prints. He is currently teaching Digital Design at Lorain County Community College. His past teaching experiences include appointments as an Associate Professor of Art in the Digital Arts Division at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, as a visiting researcher at The Virtual Reality Center at the University of Teesside in the UK, at the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy; as well as at Oberlin College, Brown University, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He has an MFA in Painting from the Yale University School of Art and Architecture, USA. gregorylittle.org
Full text (PDF) p. 1568-1572