What is it about avatars that make them so addictive, and such a pleasure for us to shape, to consume products for, to create so that they are evocative and edgy and sexy and seductive and aesthetically appealing? As we mold our post-modern bodies with a guilty pleasure, embracing the contrasts of fantasy over reality and disrupt the normal with the imagined? In Baudrillard’s terms, if the avatar is a referrent, a digitally generated image which is pure representation – why do our avatars reference the hypersexualised, the hyperreal, the glossy magazine models with perfect flawless shiny white skin? The coded information in my avatar is read… how?
Perversely, I read my avatar as being subversive. I see it as subverting the reality of an aging sagging body and experimenting with how I am treated, and how people communicate with me across my social spheres. It’s a gender experiment for me that I find fun, playful, and liberating on the one hand, yet difficult to come to terms with on the other hand because the reality is sometimes the post-modern Barbie gets a whole lot more attention that the real and flawed flesh and bones woman. Other times “she” is discriminated against because she is “too” something or another – too beautiful, too sexy, too intimidating, too fashionable.
I’ve been writing about avatars for 10 years now!!!! But still these issues intrigue me every time I speak at a conference and experience a whole range of complex questions from the audience about identity, sexuality, feminism, commodification, representation and hyperreality.
Now, shall I go blonde, or stick with brunette?