So, I’m circling back to my avatar identity crisis where I proclaimed “I can only be me”. I stand by my words about striving for an authentic sense of my online self. I believe this to be a methodological imperative for my research. Yet, I have discovered a discomfort with the avatar I’ve created just to conduct research. I’ve even quit SL so I can log back in as my previously created avatar, Testy Outlander. Frankly, the new me is just plain dull, and I don’t like to be in-world as her.
In a place where there is so much creativity in self-expression, my self-reflective avatar feels decidedly beige. I long for my alt, with her punkiness and swaggered walk. So what if she doesn’t look like me….she feels like me when I’m interacting in the context of SL. What I’ve come to realize is the true mark of authenticity in a virtual environment is full disclosure, not how my avatar looks.
So, I’m proposing that I ditch the new researcher avatars and just use Testy for this project. My initial hesitation about “coming out” while in-world as Testy is completely overblown. I’m talking about telling people my first and last name and some other details about my life, all necessary disclosures during research. I’d had a lot of fear around using Testy because I had not shared this kind of personal info in SL while in-world as her. I feared “contaminating” Testy, making her an unusable online identity after the research was concluded. But hey, when I recently started practicing full disclosure as my researcher avatar, I realized my privacy paranoia was just that — paranoia.
The benefits of using Testy far outweigh any potential risks. Benefits include:
- Identity issues. I just feel better, more me, as Testy Outlander in SL.
- SL infrastructure. Testy’s account has all my landmarks, friends, etc. already stored. No starting from scratch needed.
- Network sustainability. Connections made during this project can be kept as I continue to spend my time in-world as Testy.