28 Jun 2009

Avatars and Identities

Posted by jofr

Where are you, when you are playing an online game or move around from chat-room to chat-room? You are where you live, in your living room, and yet at the same time together with the other participants or players at some virtual location. You and your team are all over the world at the same time. One team-mate is perhaps located in Australia, one in Chile, one in Mexico. While immersed in a virtual world, you can meet together in one virtual place while being dispersed among many places in the real world. Or you can collect many PCs in one real place which are dispersed on many places in the virtual world. One place in one world can correspond to many places in the other world, and vice versa. If you are located at one place only in one world, for example if you look immobile, fixed or stoned, then you are probably very alive and active in the other world. Each world is a place of its own. While I am sitting at my desktop in Berlin, I can be located near the center of the galaxy in some virtual world.

In the real world you are identified by your normal name, in the virtual world by your screen-, login-, user- or nick-name. In the real life you are judged by your appearance and look, in the virtual world by your virtual look (your avatar, graphical representation, character, or whatever). An individual’s look, rank and status in one world (at home, workplace, or society) is of no importance in the other world. In each world we live in we have a certain wealth, status or rank, look or profile, username or identity and location or position.

  • rank: location in the space of ranking lists
  • profile: location in the space of attributes
  • identity: “lexical” location in the space of usernames
  • position: “physical” location in the world

All of these locations together identify a user in the world. In principle, each virtual worlds needs its own Facebook. What remains the same in both worlds are parts of your knowledge, character and personality: if you don’t know Spanish in the real world, you won’t know it in a virtual world, either. And if you are very curious or aggressive in the real world, you will be curious and aggressive in the virtual world, too.

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