[-empyre-] Re:[-empyre-]:An Avatar Manifesto::final

gregory +,

i took the time to read your complete paper online, and forgive me, but
for the sake of expediency, i'm gonna be blunt. your basic assumption
and "call to arms," being: "take back the avatar" is largely flawed. it
assumes that the avatar has been taken from "us" in the first place and
this is simply not the case.  in every online multi-user community i've
ever participated in, from the palace, to ultima, everquest, and active
worlds, a major component of the experience has been the customization
(or creation from scratch), of an online visage -- one's avatar.  in the
case of the palace, the user gets a complete avatar editing "suite." in
online fantasy games one chooses a gender and basic body type
*appropriate to the fantasy genre,* and can then decorate it in a manner
they see fit. in active worlds, the avatar selection is limited, but
one's avatar here becomes the very unique spaces and architectures one
can build.  in all of these cases i have seen wildly imaginative
manifestations of the avatar, considering the basic limitations of each
platform or medium.

also, you make the dangerous assumption that all users of online
communities have the inclination, desire, time, and skills to create a
wholly personal, "un-commodified" representation of themselves, in a
sense you are saying that we all have to create our own, rather than use
an "off-the-shelf," avatar. this is not, and should not be, the case.
you draw a good parallel to the clothing industry where consumers buy
the label and not the garment, but not all people in the real world wear
tommy hilfiger sportswear, just as not all people in virtual worlds don
a barbi or ken avatar. what you are suggesting is the equivalent to
requiring people to design and sew their own clothes.  

suggesting that those who dont have the inclination to sew are somehow
being brainwashed and manipulated is really unfair, which brings up the
final point i take umbrage with -- the cliched and worn out argument
that it's a global capital conspiracy at the root of all this evil.
somehow, the egalitarian/utopian online world is insidiously under
attack from right-wing sneaker manufacturers who force us all to become
nike avat-isements as part of their ubiquitous brainwashing campaign.
come now, there must be better targets for activism and manifestos than
online chat rooms and fantasy games, and it has not been since junior
high school that i cared if i was wearing the correct shoe.

granted, for every creative and unique avatar i have seen, there are a
dozen or more barbi and kens, but art and creativity are rare and
beautiful things, just as they should be.

no offense meant, just my opinion.


Gregory Little wrote:
> Here is the final post of the Avatar Manifesto:
> Also welcome are any comments on the current condition of the avatar, online
> identity, viractualism, etc. are welcome!
> I will be on the road until Tuesday night, but at that point will catch up
> loose ends and respond to any new posts.
> Images of my early avatars (1991-1995) are available at:
> http://art.bgsu.edu/~glittle/avamenu.html
> The VRML avatar generator (1996-7) at:
> http://art.bgsu.edu/~glittle/idgene.wrl
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> 5.0. Manifesto
> This Manifesto is a call to artists, netomanics, software, hardware, and
> wetware designers, creative directors, teachers, scientists, slackers,
> hackers, CEOs, students, cyborgs, zombies, vampires, working groups,
> technology officers, specialists, politicians, surgeons, doctors, rappers,
> rockers, and clowns, a call to cast off the dumbing-down manacles of
> wholistics, universals, boundaries, acceptablilities, salvations, moral
> imperatives, family values, personal fantasies, dualisms, and "the God
> trick" (Penley and Ross, 1991, 16). Let us make ourselves an unconsumable,
> signifying, body without organs. The partial, the schizoid, the nomadic and
> local are threats to the primacy of capital. Fragmentation, irregularity,
> dissolution, hybridity, swarming, and wandering stubbornly are lethal
> weapons against globalization. The displacement of the self by the commodity
> insures the survival of the commodity and the perpetuation of the processes
> of accumulation. The movement of capital into the avatar is an inevitable
> part of capitalism's infinite return. It represents nothing less than the
> wholesale loss of the possibility of liberation and awareness of the
> processes of production and accumulation. The dominant, "universal" myths,
> psychologies, sciences, philosophies, religions, and economies that form the
> New World Order perpetuate impulse disorder through the abhorrence of
> partiality and the resultant movement outward toward the object of capital
> in the guise of the illusion of wholeness. We have come to believe that we
> are imperfect, incomplete creatures and that completion, oneness, and
> wholeness is the Goal. It is this argument that permits the inscribing of
> production across consciousness at the expense of tolerance, difference, and
> free desire. We are partial, parts of a network of drifts. We slip across a
> curved matrix whose beginning is everywhere, whose center is nowhere, and
> whose diameter is infinite. We are unable to perceive a whole or pattern, we
> participate and form tendencies. We can connect and disconnect from desire's
> conduit without risk or loss, there is nothing to measure or acquire.
> Through the dismantling of the neurosis of the individual, alienated self,
> the celebration of locality and partiality, and the unbinding of our
> consciousness from dilemmas of bifurcation, the lust for uniformity, and the
> impulse disorders of lack-based desire; we can experience "a joy that is
> immanent to desire as though desire were filled by itself and its
> contemplations, a joy that implies no lack or impossibility and is not
> measured by pleasure since it distributes intensities of pleasure and
> prevents us from being suffused by anxiety, shame, and guilt" (Deleuze and
> Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, 155). At present our collective social body
> is paralyzed by loss. Like an amputee dreaming about a phantom limb we
> re-remember our irrevocable body, we hallucinate its presence, long for its
> return, wait to wake up from the nightmare. We must move on from the
> bifurcating past and build a new body.
> 5.1. Imaging Wildcards
> [Figure 2. Composite]
> The avatar signifies through the visual as an image. As postmodern artwork,
> the avatar signifies in a public sphere (the Web), is a social
> representation that can be both target and weapon. The postmodern artist is
> less a producer of rarified objects than a manipulator of visual codes,
> social signs, and media images (Foster, 1985). Particular kinds of marks,
> styles, images, and forms have come to signify modes of expression or
> feeling, like the spiritual, the personal, the expressive, the exotic, and
> high or low culture. These elements form a system of signs, tropes, or codes
> for the artist to manipulate and combine. The social and virtual context of
> the Web distances the artist entirely from the production of the corporeal
> art object and frees her for the activity of coding/recoding. This activity
> often gives attention to the particular institutional framework or site in
> order to reveal how an exhibition context participates in the construction
> of the meaning and audience of the art object. The signifying avatar will
> take a resistant, reactive position relative to its institutional context,
> the commodified Web. The strategies available to the avatar include: 1) the
> freedom of choice of self-image and the lack of need for consensus relative
> to self imaging; this frees the avatar from any singular representation and
> opens the individual to a plurality of possibilities; 2) an emphasis on
> radical embodiment, on all that is the literal body, and on all that it is
> to be grounded in the body at the expense of social, biological, cultural,
> economic, psychoanalytic, and religious discourse; this can free the
> individual from lack-based desire and myths of wholeness and transcendence
> that cause us to abandon the body to rehabitation by capital; and 3) drawing
> from various alternative narratives of abjection, the alien, and the other;
> this can offer us visual and procedural models for constructing unconsumable
> images.
> To combine visual codes, signifying signs, and social images into avatars
> that take a combative stance toward the forces of capital:
> 1. Seek, rarify, and valorize disintegration and instability
> [Figure 3. Photoshop]
> 2. Resist unified identity relative to race, gender, age, human, animal, or
> machine
> [Figure 4. Satyr]
> 3. Refuse participation in wholeness and actively dismantle myths of
> transcendentalism
> [Figure 5. Garth]
> 4. Create tensions and conflicts through the simultaneous presentation of
> the desiring subject and the fetishized object of desire [Figure 6. The
> Enforcer] 5. Draw from narratives of abjection, the alien, and the other
> [Figure 7]
> 6. Pierce the skin, do the taboo, show the insides, destroy the
> internal/external binary
> [Figure 8. The Clown]
> 7. Refuse the temptation to succumb to the slick, seamless special effects
> of emergent technology
> [Figure 9]
> 8. Avoid personal or social fantasy, step out of bounds, lose your
> boundaries altogether
> [Figure 10. Dolly]
> 9. Avoid mystery, make analysis of the unconscious impossible, be hyper
> literal
> [Figure 11]
> 10. Use images that speak of hyperembodiment, of extremes of physicality,
> like the visceral, the abject, the defiled, and the horrific
> [Figure 12]
> The avatar offers a new territory for understanding ourselves. Let us
> construct the avatar as a revolutionary site of resistance inside the belly
> of an armed-to-the-teeth multinational monster of exchange. Polymorphic,
> bi-gendered, unstable nomadic, pained and maimed representations of the self
> as subject could act, in Donna Haraway's terms, as "trickster figures,"
> "potent wild cards" to undermine, infect, and terrorize the monster from the
> inside out. The avatar is thus born of the dialectic of the body
> simultaneously as the idealized, commodified body of capital; and as the
> abject, transgressive, hyper-visceral embodied body. This is a call to build
> avatars, computers, images, discourses, and relationships that refuse and
> subvert the "self exterminating impulses of the discourses of disembodiment"
> (Sobchack 314). This is a call to joy, the joy of mortality, partiality, and
> finality; a call to the lived body of desire.
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