The time has come to resolve my avatar identity crisis. Creating an avatar can feel like creating an “other,” an entity disconnected from the self. It’s easy to somehow believe that avatars are somehow different because they have wings or crazy hair. But no matter what look an avatar brings to the table, an avatar is essentially a communication vehicle. An avatar really only departs from one’s essential sense of self if a person chooses to play a role within a virtual world that is substantially different from who they are in real life. This can sometimes be accompanied by a much different physical presentation too. This is a part of the allure of places like Second Life for many people, and it can be a fun identity experiment. For the purposes of my research, however, I’ll be leaving my “ideals and fantasies” at the door to play the role (a la Mortensen) of myself and only myself. If I have to identify pieces of me that will be more prominent, I’d say that student, scholar, thinker and learner would top the list. Wife, home owner, friend, etc. may be less prominent.
In other words, my avatar will probably look more like me on a day I have class or when I’m at work — not like me at home in my PJs relaxing on the sofa.
What I’ve come to realize is that my avatar needs to be as much me as I can create her. A me-avatar will mirror the fact that I am striving to bring 100% of Margaret Ostrander to the table in my communication, personality and self-presentation throughout this research project.
And I’ll be using two avatars for two research purposes. My methodology calls for full disclosure of my identity as a researcher via one avatar and withholding this information via the other avatar. Therefore, it’s methodologically imperative that the two avatars have some differences in look, which will be accomplished through different names, dress & perhaps other superficial physical features.