The Unbearable Likeness of Being
Do I Look Fat in These Virtual Jeans?
In a lot of academic research and commercial virtual worlds during the years when Second Life was hyped in the media, everyone seemed to be obsessed with replicating physical reality in virtual reality. It seemed important to create avatars that were as realistic as possible, with video-captured facial expressions and animations. People wanted virtual chairs for their avatars to sit in. People wanted virtual cars that their avatars could drive in. And in Second Life, there was virtual food and virtual Abercrombie and Fitch knock-offs.
I think that if we could go back in time and ask John Barlow what world he would make if he could be anything, do anything, and make anything he wanted in a virtual world, it would look a lot like the world on LSD. In other words, it would look nothing like the physical world. What's so odd about Second Life to me is that in a world where people can be anyone and do anything they want, that Second Life looks so much like Suburban America, except maybe with even more materialism than in real life (which I didn't think was possible).
On hindsight though, it does make sense. In a world where beauty is a click of the button away and where that form-fitting pair of designer jeans costs almost nothing, it makes it easy to spend way more time and effort on our virtual appearance and jeans than the ones we have in real life. Thus, in a strange way, the virtual world somehow can make us more focused on the physical and material aspects of the world. Virtual worlds make it easier to play out and satisfy the material needs we have in the physical world.
Tags: embodiment (1)
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