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.