Wednesday, 24 January 2007

More observations on Avatars

I have already noted (People Communicate More in SL) that in SL avatars are generally either all quite youthful and good looking or totally bizarre in their appearance. I'd like to develop the idea a bit further, and take a closer look at the sorts of avatars people use.

After my sweeping statement above, about the apparent age of avatars, I've taken a look at myself in the mirror (well, taken a look at my avatar on screen, which could be considered as amounting to the same thing) and see that I elected for the "elder geek" look; with white shoulder-length hair and a beard, dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt. OK, so I managed to lose the beer-belly, added a slightly more muscular frame than I have in RL, and I don't have long white hair, but apart from that, I went for a "conservative realistic" look. Similarly, my pal Aleister Kronos's avatar is decidedly not young. In RL, we're both just over the half-century mark.... so has this had an influence in our choice of appearance?

(Here is Aleister chatting to what apears to be a wolf in man's clothing and a slender young woman in bling bling stilettos)

It's not just us blokes who have taken a more conservative approach to avatars. Both Aleister and I know a couple of ladies in SL who have resisted the urge to go for the "happy hooker" look of short skirts and stilettos, electing instead for more a more conservative appearance.

Then again, there's quite a lot of work involved in creating an exotic avatar. The standard "out of the box" characters are all OK as they go, but they don't really posess any great style. I discovered this to my cost (in terms of time) last night, when I decided go "camping" in a nightclub to earn some Linden Dollars. (more on Camping in a later blog entry), It didn't seem right to retain the "elder geek" look for this exercise, so a change in appareance was called for. Just for fun, I went for a gender change whilst I was at it. This was a mistake. Just as in RL, it takes an age for women to get dressed, I discovered that in SL it can take just as long! Admittedly I was trying to look presentable on a low budget (limiting myself to free clothing, hair and skin) but after an hour of preening, I still had a pretty ordinary looking avatar. I think it will be a while before I take her out of the box again..... it was just IMPOSSIBLE to find the right thing to wear.... & then to get suitable shoes to match!!!

On the bright side, I'd been able to package up Team's appearance and store it in my inventory before making the gender change. So after my night on the tiles,it was a quick and easy task to drag the"Team's Normal Appearance" box out of my inventory and bring him back to normal. (well, almost.... somewhere along the line I hadn't saved his skin properly, so he ended up still sporting a fine sun-tan, lip-gloss and eye makeup!)

This ability to swap avatar within seconds is actually rather handy. I have already noted that the choice of avatar is important in business situations (can YOU take someone seriously if they look like a giant chicken??) But with a packaged appearance, you can pull on your business suit within seconds. Apparently IBM Chief Executive Samuel S. Palmisano has two persona - one for formal presentations, the other for more casual situations. (see )
I just wish I could switch appearance so quickly in Real Life! Pehaps this is another of the attractions of SL - the ability change yourself at will and take on a completely different identity in seconds.


Joanna said...

Hey Team,
Some great thoughts here... I personally find avatars constructed by participants to be one of the most interesting aspects SL research...
Never before have we had such freedom to create and recreate who our "main characters" are in a media text. It's fascinating to see the socially constructed ideal of Western beauty replicated, as well as other forms of representation that challenge or totally reinvent these ideals.
It's a can of worms I hope to draw some fat ones out of during my PhD research into gender representations and identity in SL!

Team Mascot said...

Just found another blog with some sound advice - Always remember your underwear ! (bearing in mind Lag, you never know how fast your clothes are going to be rendered in SL... so you may decide to change your appearance and be stood there nude for a while!)

link is from