I’ve organised a workshop for my company, Media Catalyst, which will address the theme of avatar societies. From 50 year olds to 10-year olds, it’s quite common these days to have one or even several digital identities. It varies by complexity depending on how active you are in the virtual worlds, or how much access you have to online systems. But in general, many of us are members of avatar societies, whether we are conscious of it or not. It’s not just gamers who are actively using avatars. If you’re a member of social networks like Flickr, Friendster, My Space, Facebook, last-fm, forums or even by using MSN or Yahoo Messenger, you’re participating in the formation and development of avatar societies.
Because of our upcoming workshop, I started to think just what kind of ‘avatars’ do I really use. Maybe not all would be considered avatars in the strictest sense of the word, but these are all definitely aspects of my identity:
- As a kid, I always signed my name along with a drawing of a cat. Up to this day, I draw this cat picture on frozen or misty windows in cars, bus stops, bathrooms and on the inside cover of my new books.
- As a student journalist in the university, I adopted the pseudonym, ‘delunna’. Originally, it was spelled ‘deluna’, then it became ‘delluna’ and because I couldn’t remember my password for one of my email accounts, I had to change my user name to ‘delunna ’and that’s how I use it up to this day.
- I used to sign political writings with a drawing of a quarter moon and a spear. The spear was inspired by freedom-fighters in the Philippines belonging to the indigenous peoples. The moon was a graphical representation of ‘luna’.
- In chat rooms in the late 90’s, I was ‘Boss Miawok’ (a male character), a direct reference to a popular Filipino comic strip figure of a mafia-type Mayor of Cats. I acted like the boss and other users would actually pay their respects to me by typing actions such as ‘bows’, ‘tips his hat off’, and the like. Before I knew it, I had my own minions and even my own trademark dessert became legendary: ‘Boss Miawok gives you choco-sardine mousse with crunchy cockroach bits sprinkles.’
- These days, I also use interchangeably photos of my cat, ‘winoli’, and the cartoon character ‘Pukka’ and sometimes also a photo of the real me.
- My character in the Two Towers MUD (multi-user dungeon) was named delunna. Her description was a couple of text long plus an inventory of what she carried. Guess it worked to my advantage because other players were always offering to help me and give me free stuff
- My most advanced avatar would be my characters in role-playing games like ‘Oblivion’. Funny though, coz she (name is delunna, too) kinda looks androgynous. But anyway, my game characters almost always represent the ‘Libra’ in me. I can’t just belong to one race or just one profession. In Oblivion, I’m a mage who’s a warrior who’s a master thief that goes around in heavy armour.
- I have other characters I call the ‘QBs’ and ‘Sangga’. Sannga’s a tiger and the QBs are Pukka-like characters each one with a dominant aspect, i.e. Wonder QB, CSI QB, BB-QB, Evil QB, etc.). I haven’t done anything myself to give them a visual representation, but my husband has rendered some of them in Second Life. But they’re not me in there. They’re more like non-playing characters. As for Sannga, no images at all. Sangga and the QBs relate to each other in my mind, like when I’m cracking jokes to myself ;-p . But hmm, this is sounding more like going beyond avatars and into the realm of multiple personalities ;-p . Anyway, the only online environment where a trace of the QB’s and Sannga would be my blog, aptly named after them.
So, what about you? What kinds of avatars have you used or are using?