SL is a Mirror of my Soul

There is a lively conversation going on at my company concerning avatar appearance. Much of it started with a coworker posting the following:

having an AV can be a positive, educational experience: I’ve heard people talk about how it can be a chance to ‘start all over again’. And it can be that: our AVs may be tougher, or more sensitive, or more masculine, or feminine, than our real-world selves. And our RL selves can learn from the experience.

And one thing I’ve noticed is that people demand the use of their real names during real business events. Doubly so if they’re a ‘mover & shaker’ with a Big Name and a Big Reputation. They’d also like for their AVs to look exactly like their RL selves, too — but The Name is the important part.

At approximately the same time as this thread appeared, I was listening to a Metanomics show.  Robert Bloomfield offers a Connecting the Dots segment where he comments on feedback.  I regret that I can’t seem to find the appropriate link for the segment that I heard.  But if my memory serves me correctly, he spoke about avatar appearance and “Are you really going out looking like THAT?”.  His point was that for business conducted in a virtual world, you need to LOOK like a RL business person. That opinion is supported by another coworker who posted that, according to a survey of business people, the majority of those polled wanted their “work” AVs to have both their RL name but also look like themselves.

Interesting. I have no problem with my avatar bearing my RL name for business meetings in a virtual world. I even agree that it is NECESSARY for a work avatar to bear the RL name. I am also sure that the first person had it right – the bigger the name, the greater the demand to have it displayed. Hey – that’s life. That person worked hard (usually) for that reputation. If they are inworld doing business, then it’s important to maintain that identity that gives them status and credibility. But I am not so sure about appearance.

I am quite satisfied, even pleased, with my RL appearance. But I don’t want to look like the physical me when I am in a virtual world. Virtual worlds allow me to portray myself as I see me from the inside. I don’t have to be constrained anymore by physics and gravity and reality and the fortunes of fate. I’ve talked about this before. Your avatar appearance can change your RL experience ( The Stanford Study ). There is no question that my avatar has changed my RL persona and that I have learned a great deal about who I really am.  I am making a definite statement about myself when I customize my avatar. It’s not just vanity. Or maybe it is. So what?   If it’s vanity – I’m STILL conveying something essential about myself. Yet another coworker posted what I think is a fascinating insight:

“I’m almost wondering if this need for reality in identity is actually more of a generational manifestation? “

That coworker goes on to say that the current generation of youth (I’m going to say that for me – I think it’s people 30 and younger) already have developed avatars for themselves and that they carry those representations of themselves through all the social media that they utilize. I agree with this whole-heartedly.

I know that most of you reading this blog are not in SL for business purposes.  But take a moment and think about this.  If you COULD have your avatar look like your physical self, would you?  Now imagine that in your job, your current RL job, you had to hold meetings and do business virtually.  Imagine meeting all your coworkers inworld.   Now what is your answer?

SL is not the mirror of my body.  SL is the mirror of my soul.

they-are-all-me

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6 Responses to “SL is a Mirror of my Soul”


  1. 1 Gryphon Hartunian March 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I recently had the opportunity to help a bunch of new young-ish SL users get their bearings. Many of them were young women. I created a place for them to have some privacy while they got their appearance and clothes and hair just the way they wanted it.

    I was pretty amazed at how much time these new users spent tweaking their look. Many of them went to great pains to create something that matched their RL selves as closely as possible. I was surprised at that. I expected them to create fantasy images. The amazing thing was how each person established their own sense of style and spent a lot of time organizing their items to allow them to keep that image true to their vision.

    This gave me a whole new respect for how hard people work in SL to create their selves. Their representation is very specific and very important to them.

    The interesting thing about the people I worked with is that as they got their bearings and started exploring more, their avatars started to grow and change too. They started playing with Tiny avatars, and other SL subcultures. Their avatars started shifting away from their original selves to reflect the impact of the various SL cultures that they became exposed to.

    This transformation was very exciting to watch and I begin to wonder if the SL avatar is a reflection of their souls, or if they become a reflection of their society?

  2. 2 daleinnis March 12, 2009 at 11:02 am

    “SL is not the mirror of my body. SL is the mirror of my soul.”

    Nicely nicely said!

    @Gryphon : very interesting story! On your last point, to what extent are our souls reflections of society? (oooo, deep! 🙂 )

  3. 3 Gryphon Hartunian March 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Hmm… I think what I meant was that our Avatars become reflections of ourselves and then develop into reflections of our society as well.

    However the question “to what extent are our souls reflections of society” just begs some consideration.

    Are our souls fixed entities, set in place or do they develop and change as we live and learn? Eastern philosophy would suggest that our souls develop and evolve as we live out our lives–if we are doing anything right. So, I would suggest or hope that our souls become a reflection of our society. I define society in this case, as the places and people and situations that are part of our lives.

    So, this is a fascinating new development. Our souls can evolve in new ways now, because we have virtual worlds and the Internet that broaden our social circles to encompass potentially the whole world. This suggests the potential for an opportunity for an accellerated enlightenment. In the age of SL and the Internet, even our souls can potentially evolve faster than ever before.

    I would suggest that if you talked with people in SL that they have had more experiences that suggest that there are spiritual (non-phisical/traditional) connections between all of us that enhance their SL and RL life experiences, and that they were not really aware of this until they started interacting with others in SL.

    Perhaps we are witnessing the dawning of the age of acquarius? (ok, that’s a bit sappy–can’t help quoting Hair, but I think you know what I mean.)

    Gryph

  4. 4 Chaddington Boomhauer March 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I think some older employees would get confused by bizarre avs even with the right name tags – I think people I work with would need everyone to look like humans for work stuff in VWs. Maybe they’ll think they’re in WoW and start fighting my dragon av 😉

    As in RL I would assume you get taken more seriously if you are dressed/appear more businesslike. (Someone should test how people react when the other teams avs look like buddha,jesus etc 🙂

    As to looking exactly like them, I think the effort to do it would tend to lend itself to allowing people to look however they like as long as their name tag is okay.

    Personally I’d prefer if you could use any reasonable av for business purposes. (i.e. no facelights or bling, reasonable size, wearing clothes).

    I think avs are a tool to assist the impact of your words or work on other users and if businesses realize having an all-hot all-armani team increases profits, they won’t make me be a scruffy looking fatso because that’s how I look RL.

  5. 5 Gryphon Hartunian March 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    When I do business in SL, I usually don my Armidi suit and shiny shoes and best tie. I take off the swords and wings and what-not as well.

    Although in some work situations I will get all “SL’ed” up to show that I know what it means to be part of the world.

    I guess its just like RL. I dress to suit the audience and the goal.

    Gryph

  6. 6 Oura March 14, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Once again I am taken back by your ability to put in words what most of us cannot.

    I firmly believe that my avitar is a representation of me. Maybe a slightly thinner and more attractive me, but me none the less. I know that not everyone is true to themselves in the way they act in public, or even in sl. Maybe they are true to themselves, and I just don’t like them – that is a thought also. I feel strongly that there are many here though whose personality and character traits do shine thru thier avitar. They have morals and values and it is very apparent in conversations and business dealings. This avitar – is a cartoon character – but when I am online, it is me.

    Thank you Ahuva for a wonderful article


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