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An Avatar Manifesto

published in "INTERTEXTS", Special Issue: Webs of Discourse: The Intertextuality of Science Studies, volume 3, number 2, Fall 1999, Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock.

A Manifesto for AvatarsA Manifesto for Avatars


Gregory Little Kent State University Stark Campus

Figure 1, "Bacchus"

1. Introducing Avatars
AVATARA-Sanskrit.; ava-'down', tarati-'he goes, passes beyond' literally, 'a descent', a conception described in the Bhagavad gita, 4th Teaching, 1-8 where Krishna confides: "when goodness grows weak, when evil increases, I make myself a body." (OED) Originally referring to the incarnation of Hindu deities, avatars in the computing realms have come to mean any of the various "strap-on" visual agents that represent the user in increasing numbers of 2 and 3D worlds. (Lonehead, par. 3) This essay studies the covert, market driven forces at work in our choices of images for the avatars inhabiting cyberspace, in order to understand the dangers of the exchange of self-images for advertisements. To forge a set of alternative resistant and forceful conditions for imaging what Sherry Turkle has termed "the second self," tactics based in imaging, language, and psychology can be opposed to the insidious and covert co-optation of the self by commodities. This essay is an attempt to
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examine the construction of alternative figures as models of resistance. The Manifesto for Avatars offers a formal set of oppositional strategies for constructing unconsumable self-images. The apparent freedom of identity and gender enjoyed by the participants in multi-user domains and the Internet in general (Langley, Stone) is a dangerous illusion, masking the corporate agendas dominating the nature and spirit of the construction of cyberspace and avatars. Imagine an internet chat room where we are all represented by the commodity of our choice. Much like the large, recognizable logos that corporeal jackets, sneakers, tee-shirts, and hats model, in this virtual environment our very representation, our self image, becomes an emblem of the production and accumulation of goods. The irony in the physical world is that we choose to wear these commodities and we willingly pay multinational corporations for the privilege of advertising their products. Through this transaction we express personal fantasies, achieve a fleeting sense of democracy and individual expression, and fulfill various levels of desire.

2. Defining Avatars
The use of the term avatar to represent the self or user in the context of shared on-line Internet environments first occurs in the early 1980's with the development of LucasFilms's Habitat project (Morningstar and Farmer 275). The term came to popular consciousness with the success of the novel SnowCrash (Stephenson). Discussions of the nature of the avatar are often mixed with current cyborg theory. Although the avatar and the cyborg share numerous social constructions and identity politics, in the interest of developing an understanding of the avatar, it is necessary to distinguish it from its cousin, the cyborg. 2.1. The Human Enhanced The term cyborg was coined in 1960 with the appearance of "Cyborgs in Space" by Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline. Clynes and Kline argued that altering man's bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments was more logical than providing a controlled environment for him in space. Their "self-regulating artifact-organism" (Clynes and Kline 31) would be free to explore space without remaining anchored to a cumbersome artificial environment: "Solving the many technical problems involved in manned space flight by adapting man to his environment rather than vice versa, will not only mark a significant step forward in man's scientific progress, but may well provide a new and larger dimension for man's spirit as well" (Clynes and Kline 33). This early cyborg is the human enhanced, a hybrid physical construction of wetware, hardware, and software who is without conscious effort able to adjust its homeostatic mechanisms to provide stable if not superior operation in a variety of friendly and unfriendly environments. The cyborg incorporates body and prostheses in the forms of mechanical, optical, coded, pharmacological, electronic, telematic, genetic, and biological agents, hosted by an original human consciousness to form a unified but hybrid lived body. Psychophysiological problems like "oxygenization and carbon dioxide removal, fluid intake and output, vestibular function, cardiovascular control, muscular maintenance, perceptual problems, temperature and pressure variations, gravitation, magnetic fields, sensory invariance, psychoses, and limbo" (32-33) must be overcome, and unconsciously, transparently controlled. Clynes and Kline's original cyborg was constructed at Rockland State Hospital in the late 1950's-a white rat with a tiny osmotic pump implanted in its body to alter its physiology by allowing chemicals to flow into its system at a controlled rate. It was thoroughly grounded in the corporeal, biological, and cybernetic laws of the physical world 2.2. The Avatar in Theory In the interest of defining the avatar I have considered the cyborg in its real world, physical form, the offspring of hard science and space research, not of myth, metaphor, representation, or fiction. In contrast, the avatar is a mythic figure with its origin in one world and projected or passing through a
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form of representation appropriate to a parallel world. The avatar is a delegate, a tool or instrument allowing an agency to transmit signification to a parallel world. The cyborg and the avatar, then, share the purpose of facilitating operation in another environment. The cyborg has been described as a unified but hybrid "other," whereas the avatar is born of a telematic split; the original remains in its originary environment while sending a tool of signification, the avatar, into a second. In that it never detaches from its referent, the user, the avatar differs as well from virtual software agents produced by artificial intelligence and neural networks. It is not independent and does not in itself learn. The avatar is inseparable in nature from its host, the human user. The virtual avatar is software. Its conditions are those of a coded environment. The avatar is essentially a visual representation, a virtual instrument or imaged prosthesis of its referent-the user, and so fundamentally related to linguistic signs and representational icons. In this sense, the population of avatars could come to include the history of portraiture in painting, photography, and sculpture, as a projection or passing through of once living individuals into the virtual, timeless space of representation, metaphor, and mimesis. Whereas the astronautic cyborg is grounded in the corporeal and must adhere to physical laws, the informatic avatarwhether 2D, 3D, C++, Java, or VRML-signifies through virtual visibility and affords to its referent a high level of choice for identity. It is in the very space of choice, from highly personal to nonconsensual, that the unique power of the avatar is problematized. The most significant use of the avatar is the freeing of personal identity from outmoded relationships to consistency and social consensus. The "strap-on" (Lonehead , par.3) persona, the irrelevance of grounding identity in communal agreement, and the "wholesale appropriation of the other" (Stone 83) open the self to new territories of signification, connection, desire, and empowerment. 2.3. The Avatar in Practice Who use an avatar, and to what end? A survey of the avatars and virtual bodies inhabiting the web reveals a colony of extremely generic, homogenous representations rooted in prevailing constructions of successful commodification and accumulation: pop icons, juvenile fantasies, dumbed-down cartoon characters, and racially pure, white, young, "perfect bodies." A tool with the potential for the playful generation of territories of signification and empowerment, the avatar is being used instead as a weapon against its own referents to seize this terrain of potential as part of a rabid process of accumulation. Whether the avatar is a physical, earthly body inhabited by the immanence of the metaphysical (Krishna), or the reverse, a virtual representation of a corporeal body (a " strap-on" visual agent) the creation and use of an avatar involves a pairing or doubling at a metaphysical, semantic, and dimensional level between the corporeal and the immanent, language and thing, image and imaged, mind and body, and, as we shall see, between self and commodity. The avatars inhabiting the World Wide Web have been co-opted by forces beyond the user at the keyboard. As I have noted, the original avatar marks a top-down descent of a force beyond the human, like a Hindu deity, but in our current cultural condition it is Kapital, not Krishna, that makes itself a body.

3. Bodies of Capital
The vast majority of avatars inhabiting cyberspace today are drawn from the image database of advertising, fashion, and entertainment. These countless generic representations-big breasted smallwaisted babes, idealized perfect-skinned trim and tan hunks, Disney-derived characters, bowling pins, smiley faces, coffee cups, exotic animals, and steroid-driven snarling, hard-bodied war machines-are not just the tool of the user behind the screen, but covert instruments of multinational capitalism. Concerning the use of avatars in virtual chat rooms like The Palace, Lex Lonehood refers to "regular members who had constructed their own avatars-mostly supermodel cutouts and cutesy cartoons" (Lonehead , par.3). Clearly these representations fulfill defining conditions of the avatar: they (1) are strap-ons for their users representing a corporeal individual's presence in this or that space, (2) provide a source identity for the
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bubbles of text that emerge from them, and (3) involve others in a guessing game with respect to the metaphorical or actual relationship between representer and represented. However, regardless of the embedded levels of transgendered activities, wish fulfillment, and psychological doubling that occur, it is highly questionable to what extent these generic representations are personal: when in these spaces it is difficult to avoid the sense that one is wandering among the commodities and celebrities on the pages of People magazine. If , for example, my avatar is a Nike sneaker, then my signifier also signifies an advertisement for a corporation or process of commerce. Similarly, a celebrity's constructed image as a product of a hegemonic discourse: most entertainers are fetishized representations seeking popular consensus. In the real world it costs me to wear (advertise) Nike, and the profits go to Nike. The currently low cost of the Web might make such virtual co-optation seem more innocuous than its occurrence in the physical domain. However, consider the following corporate accomplishment, cited during the Avatars 97 conference in San Francisco: "For the past two years, Fujitsu has been running an on-line 3D community called WorldsAway. WorldsAway has developed to the point where it is about to start making a profit off per-minute usage charges-an accomplishment quite rare in the field" (Maclarchian, par.5). If your avatar, your self-image, becomes a covert instrument of Fujitsu, then the Enlightenment agenda of Cartesian bifurcation is complete, although warped from "I think therefore I am" to "I shop therefore I am" (Kruger): "The individual is displaced from its central location by the (commodity) object, which established priority and sovereignty, over the subject" (Linker and Kruger 78). 3.1. Self and Commodity The mind/body dichotomy is a red herring. The most dangerous and incarcerating binary is the fabricated pairing of self and commodity, between lived processes and production/accumulation. We desire to become commodities. We desire all of our lived processes to be toward accumulation/production, we long to be made whole, consistent, useful, stackable, to conform to the "bottom line". We live in DeBord's society of the spectacle, where accumulation/production occurs to such an extent that capital is transformed into an image, or avatar, of itself (DeBord 34). Humanity is sacrificed at the altar of production's bottom line. Our sense of democracy has been distorted from one person, one vote to one dollar, one vote. The avatar, under the semblance of a representation of one, democratic individual free to construct his or her "own" mythic fantasy or satiation of personal desire, is actually returned to its original function as a top-down tool, the embodiment of post-modern multinational commerce. An examination of the dynamics between the construction of desire, human will, and the capitalist commodity will reveal the structure of this process. 3.2. Desire and Lack Desire moves outward toward acquisition of an object to fill its apparent void. Desire is the need to acquire and represents a secondary force, toward a primary element, the object in the world. For on-line users of chat rooms, role playing, transgendered activities, and shape-shifting become anxious compulsions on continuous-loop. Rather than free-floating, pure, generative, self-gratifying desire, on line activities form a closed system of self perpetuating personal pathologies serving a thriving system of commodity exchange: "lack is created, planned, and organized in and through social production. . . . The deliberate creation of lack as a function of market economy is the art of the dominant class. This involves deliberately organizing wants and needs amid an abundance of production; making all of desire teeter and fall victim to the great fear of not having one's needs satisfied" (Deleuze and Guattari 28). Being in the body is to be aware of this fear, this emptiness. Movement out of the body is movement toward resolution of lack through acquisition. Disembodied is valorized. When bombarded with countless representations of the latest model/celebrity/product, we are confronted with intentionally unattainable cultural ideals in the guise of an attainable personalized commodity. What we lack, have lost, come to desire, and cannot attain through the actual is valorized and can be attained only through the commodified, fetishized virtual; just for this moment, and always at a cost.
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3.3. Docile Bodies Far from "the freeing of personal identity from its outmoded relationship to consistency and social consensus," personal identity is insidiously seized on both levels, at the level of the flesh as we willingly sit for hours motionless at the keyboard, and the artifactual body or avatar, an insignia of capital in the guise of personal choice. Two recent studies of the relationship of Internet use and mental health have shown that use of the net has definite effects on users. Bill Scherlis, co-author of Internet Paradox, found that moderate internet usage among individuals without history of mental disorder led to feelings of depression and loneliness (Scherlis et all). A second study was of individuals exhibiting "abnormal" internet usage: "Being hooked on the internet is not a recognized disorder. But Shapira (Nathan Shapira, psychiatrist at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine) said that excessive on-line use by the study participants would qualify as a disorder of impulse control, in the same category as kleptomania or compulsive shopping. In fact, he suggested the Internet problem be called Internetomania or Netomania rather than addiction" (Associated Press par.8). In a disorder of impulse control such as kleptomania or compulsive shopping, impulse manifests as will or libido directed toward a fetishized object of desire-in the case of Netomania, toward a highly contingent sense of agency in the virtual world. Netomania is exacerbated by the cult of docile bodies (car culture, game culture, couch potatoes, PC culture, etc). For the highly susceptible, to "shut down" and walk away is too painful, as the virtual collapses back into the screen and one becomes painfully aware that everything is, to quote the Talking Heads, "the same as it ever was." But in the words of Waylon Jennings: "The doers and thinkers say movin' is the closest thing to bein' free." The body behind the keyboard, wiggling its fingers, sliding a mouse back and forth and staring into the screen, may be experiencing a sense of mobility in the virtual world, but at the physical level the body resembles Foucault's ideal subject of power, the analyzable, manipulatable, "docile body" (Foucault 136) available to be "subjected, used, transformed, and improved" (Dery 165). Unlike a victim of war, torture, institutionalization, or imprisonment, the computer user is free to "shut down" and move; but the increasing number of jobs in the "information sector" mean that current labor, educational, and entertainment activities demand extensive hours of computer interaction, hence millions of "docile bodies." Although in a virtual environment anything is possible, nothing has really changed. This disconnected connection, to touch but not really, can exacerbate feelings of lack while simultaneously luring us further into simulation through the momentary satiation offered by a sense of virtual agency. 3.4. Sous Rature In her research on extremes of power relations over the body through war and torture, Elaine Scarry points out that it is not just the separation of the subject from their own bodies that facilitates domination, but also, that same distancing coupled with its denial. In The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World,Scarry argues that successful torture and warfare regimes involves three separate stepsinflicting of pain damage, objectifying it through language, and disowning it by projection to another location: "it requires both the reciprocal infliction of massive injury and the eventual disowning of the injury so that its attributes can be transferred elsewhere, as they cannot be permitted to cling to the original site of the wound, the human body" (Scarry 64). Social power, the domination of the body (be it individual or social), regardless of purpose (war, control, or commodity exchange), is based on distancing the subject from her own body, her own pain, desire, and instincts of survival (46). Because our will and desire is traditionally based in what we lack, we allow the bifurcation to happen. The transaction is not complete until the reality of bifurcation has been erased or denied to the subject, victim, or consumer. It is not just the abuse that destroys the consciousness, but the denial. The inversion of surveillance (Halleck, 218-228) of popular video that occurred when civilian George Halliday turned his camcorder on the LAPD as they beat Rodney King represents the overturning of this denial. As King's writhing brown body was broadcast internationally via cable and satellite transmissions his image became an avatar for the countless incidents of racial oppression and violence worldwide. Avital Ronell argues that the televised images of the assault of Rodney King were actually the avatar or counterwww.gregorylittle.org/avatars/text.html 5/18

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transference of the denial of the violence inflicted upon the bodies of Iraq's citizens during Desert Storm (Ronell, 277). As an instrument of denial, language diverts us from the sense that interacting with computer simulations "is like having your body amputated" (Barlow 42). Today's technological discourse draws heavily from salvation myths, promising leisure, happiness, improved lifestyle, increased intelligence, personal fulfillment, even transcendence. Icons, avatars, and slogans all help to form a myth that technology guarantees comfort, satiation, even transcendence. Convinced that to be embodied is lack, we desire escape from the particulars of the body and move out via myths of wholeness toward technologized commodification. Religion and technology are both predicated on this desire, and we keep coming back for more. At the Avatars 97 conference Amy Jo Kim, creative director with the virtual world creation consultant company Naima, explained that on-line designers could learn from religion, because "Religion really understands repeat business" (Maclarchian par.5).

4.0. Alternative Bodies


"Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right." (DiFranco , "My IQ") There are ways to take back the avatar, to regain the option of opening the self to new territories of signification, connection, desire, and empowerment. To do so requires nothing short of a complete redefinition of our relationships to our bodies, to desire, self-image, biology, and the hierarchies of hegemony. The avatar expands to embrace the history of self-imaging, and, as in the example of Rodney King, to include displaced and erased bodies forced to the surface of collective media consciousness through strategies like the inversion of surveillance. The use of the avatar in on-line shared environments has the potential to become the democratic self-portrait, the revolutionary polymorphic body-image unhampered by issues of class, race, gender, beauty, or age; capable of diverting capital's flooding force of colonization and offering each of us a safe haven in an unconsumable body of our own. The space of the internet must become a site of resistance and the avatar must become grounded in an alternative, post-biological discourse of the body. As Donna Haraway has argued, biology is an offspring of cultural domination, capitalism, religion, and medical technologies, not a universal truth or even a manual for the study and understanding of life processes ("The Past is the Contested Zone"). The discourse of biology must be circumvented to discover a fertile alternative discourse for the avatar. 4.1.Making Ourselves a "Body w/o Organs" Antonin Artaud stood before his dressing mirror. As he instructed his left hand to brush his hair, to his surprise the hand remained still as his tongue caressed his lips. An attempt to open his mouth caused his right ankle to turn. Artaud had become unmapped. The hierarchy of bodily organization, the "organic organization of the organs," and the territorialization of his cerebral cortex had become scrambled; he found "himself with no shape or form whatsoever" (Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus8). Artaud described this experience as "the body without organs" (BwO). He called for detachment of the things of consciousness from captivity in the brain, and a reclassification according to an emotional or affective order (Thacker par.10). as an addict and schizophrenic receiving intensive electroshock treatment and drug therapy, Artaud sought a definition of the body that could resist the methods used to control and alter his consciousness-he desired to become unconsumable. The BwO mirrors post-biological structures that undermine anatomical classification, capitalist consumption, and tedious mind/body/commodity separations in support of a more distributed, nomadic, and emergent model of embodied consciousness. Artaud's "Body without Organs", traversed repeatedly by the texts of Deleuze and Guattari, is never wholly defined. It resists any single definition and is therefore "unconsumable": "No mouth. No tongue.
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No teeth. No larynx. No esophagus. No belly. No anus. The automata stop dead and set free the unorganized mass they once served to articulate. The full body without organs is the unproductive, the sterile, the unengendered, the unconsumable" (Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus 8). It is not within the scope of this paper to fully develop the myriad of locations, meanings, and associations surrounding this extremely complex and fascinating territory. Rather I will attempt to distribute the "body without organs" across three other bodies of resistance: the cyborg, the vampire, and the zombie. These figures are primary tropes for forming a manifesto of the signifying avatar. 4.11. The Cyborg The application of the term "cyborg" has expanded to the point where there is no longer any consensus about its meaning. For the purpose of creating visual tactics for imaging resistant, unconsumable avatars, I am most interested in figures that signify through the visual; the lived cyborg body that demonstrates, not hides, its hybridity. Society traditionally treats the signifying cyborgs among us as "other", especially in the case of the handicapped or disabled who are unable to blend entirely into the visual and functional fabric of socially-defined normalcy. An examination of the signifying cyborg as "other" is necessary to construct an alternative field of action and signification for the avatar. Donna Haraway's female cyborg described in "A Manifesto for Cyborgs," an otherly mixture of the real and the trope, offers a model for an unconsumable avatar. The cyborg's hybrid biology, a combination of tissue and technology, is categorically adaptable to external conditions and therefore outside the scope of human classifications like gender, health, race, age, and reproduction. The cyborg does not reproduce, it replicates, clones, gets erased and reprogrammed. It is outside of the discourse of gender and human reproduction. The cyborg is not concerned with sin and salvation because it does not die, it has no stable personality, no sense of lack or anxiety. For Haraway's signifying female cyborg, roots, patriarchal allegiance, fear, envy, lack, life, death, and salvation are irrelevant. It seeks alliances outside the geopolitical processes of capitalism ("Manifesto 149-151"). 4.12. The Vampire The vampire is a highly nomadic figure, capable of becoming a wolf, a bat, a cloud of mist, a rat, owl, cat, or fly. It has the power to hypnotize its enemies and to corrupt the innocent. The vampire is simultaneously a monster and a multi-lingual cosmopolitan, a Jew, a landowner, a romantic, and a queer. Because it is already dead, it is more alive and sensuous and of purer desire than the living. Its body is without any singular biological organization except its endless thirst for fresh blood. The vampire does not fear death or contagion, only decomposition. As Haraway reveals in her explorations of vampire culture in Modest_Witness, the vampire's lust for bodily fluids and its mixing and sharing of blood make it an avatar of our dominant global fear of viral epidemics, ethnic purity, race, and "originary lineage" (215). At the same time, its singular focus and driving energy directed outward toward acquisition and consumption make it a trope for the rabid processes of capitalism. The vampire's "troubling mobility" and refusal to be categorized, its alien biology, lack of "natural" organic organization, nomadic abilities of transformation and transmutation, and contingent immortality rooted in flesh and blood hosts make it immune to any bifurcating Cartesian agenda. Its incorruptibility and unconsumablity is due to its transgressive powers of abjection and seemingly innocent clarity of purpose. 4.13. The Zombie Zombies have many of the same characteristics for transgression and avoidance of bifurcation as Haraway's female cyborg and vampire culture. Discussing George Romero's classic trilogy-Night of the Living Dead (1969), Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Day of the Dead (1985)-Steven Shaviro remarks: "Zombies cannot be categorized within the diegesis (they cannot be placed in terms of our usual binary oppositions of life and death, nature and culture)" (100.1). Yet the exact nature of this allegory of the zombie is delightfully slippery. In "White", Dyer builds an argument linking Romero's zombies to race relations in the US: "The liberal critique of whites as ruled by their heads; as a radio announcer says, 'Kill the brain and you kill the ghoul,'" as if "zombies/whites are nothing but their brains"; as "brains spatter against the wall" (157), the radical dismemberment of both the zombies and the living deconstructs any over-investment one could have in the brain, or any other organ or appendage: "The
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fear of one's own body, of how one controls it and relates to it, and the fear of not being able to control other bodies, those bodies whose exploitation is too fundamental to capitalist economy, are both at the heart of whiteness. Never has this horror been more deliriously evoked than in these films of the Dead" (Dyer 160). The zombies are hyper-physical and mindless. There has been ample discourse on the dangers of detached minds, those ruled by their minds, unfeeling, cold, and distant. Romero's zombies are radical speculations on the severed body, the body without a mind, the amputee with a phantom mind. They are rabid embodiments of voracious baroque capitalism, consuming machines of mass desire. Parables of the dead wasteland of capital (especially in Dawn of the Dead, which takes place almost entirely within the confines of a shopping mall), these films exhibit the uncontrollable, vengeful revolt of a disowned illegitimate sibling, our bodies. In a Cartesian nightmare, the Cogito's docile other, anesthetized by reterritorialization, has become undead. Zombies have turned on the system that produced them; they are carcinogenic monsters metastasizing through the orderly strip malls of capital. Their lack has become pure. Free from any drive toward commodification, they are delirious examples of innocent, ecstatic process. Like the vampire and cyborg, these undead appear to have a contingent immortality, left to their own devices they will remain undead, they will not die a natural death. 4.2. Deterritorialized Referents Each of these figures-Haraway's female cyborg and vampire, Romero's zombie-is an illegitimate child outside the cycles of lack and accumulation that produced them. They feel no allegiance to parents. The cyborg, the vampire, and the zombie have lost their original referents, become unanchored from meaning, from life, and from the hegemonic discourses of biology, economy, family, and social value. The already dead have no fear, no investment in salvation, and no moral imperatives. Capitalism has no leverage with them. Similarly, the avatar needs to become undead: to step outside of biological discourse, detach from the referents that bind it to mind/body bifurcation, lack-based desire, and cycles of commodity exchange.

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" (Haraway, "Actors are Cyborg" 22). 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
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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. Identity Construction Menu As a part of the discourse of bodily representation, the avatar signifies through the visual as an image. The postmodern, millennial 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, 100). 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.

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[Figure 4. "Satyr'] 3. Refuse participation in wholeness and actively dismantle myths of transcendentalism.

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[Figure 5. "Garth'] 4. Create tensions and conflicts through the simultaneous presentation of the desiring subject and the fetishized object of desire.

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[Figure 6. "The Enforcer'] 5. Draw from narratives of abjection, the alien, and the other

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[Figure 7. "The Terrorist"] 6. Pierce the skin, do the taboo, show the insides, destroy the internal/external binary.

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[Figure 8. "The Clown"] 7. Refuse the temptation to succumb to the slick, seamless special effects of emergent technology [Figure 9. "Prom Night"] 8. Avoid personal or social fantasy, step out of bounds, lose your boundaries altogether

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[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, hypervisceral 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. Works Cited Anders, Peter. "www.theother.com.", unpublished book review. Email attachment to author, 23 Mar. 1999.. Associated Press. "Study: Internet 'addicts' often show other disorders." CNN Interactive (May 31,
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1998). Online. Oct. 1998 www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9805/31/internet.addiction/index.html. Barlow John Perry. "Being in Nothingness: Virtual Reality and the Pioneers of Cyberspace." Mondo 2000 2 (1990), 32-33 Clynes, Manfred. E. "Sentic Space Travel." In The Cyborg Handbook. Ed Chris Hables Gray. New York: Routledge, 1995. Clynes, Manfred. E., and Nathan. S. Kline. "Cyborgs and Space." Astronautics (September 1960). Rpt. in Cyborg Handbook, ed. Gray. 29-35]. DeBord, Guy., Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red, 1983. Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. ---. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans R. Hurley, M. Seem, and H. R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983. Dery, Mark. Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. New York: Grove Press, 1996. Descartes, Rene. "Meditation II." Discourse on Method and the Meditations. Trans. J. Veitch. 1641; New York: Prometheus Books, 1989. DiFranco, Ani. "My IQ." Perf. DiFranco and Scott Fisher. Puddle Dive. Righteous Babe Music, 1994. Dyer Richard. White. New York Routledge, 1997. Foster, Hal. Recodings: Art, Spectacle, and Cultural Politics. Seattle: Bay Press, 1985. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1979. Haraway, Donna. "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s." In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1986, 147-151 ---. "The Actors are Cyborg, Nature is Coyote, and the Geography is Elsewhere: Postscript to Cyborgs at Large." In Technoculture. Ed. C. Penley and A. Ross. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, 25-26. ---. Modest Witness@Second Millenium.Female Man Meets OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge, 1997. Hallick, Dee Dee. "Look out Dick Tracy, We've got you covered", In Technoculture. Ed. Penley and Ross, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991. Jennings, Waylon. "Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me." Perf. Jennings, Jerry Gropp, Larry Whitmore, Ralph Mooney, Don Brooks, and Richie Albright. Honkie Tonk Heroes. RCA Records, 1973.
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Kruger, Barbara. From "Untitled (I shop therefore I am)." Photographic silkscreen on vinyl, 120" x 120", 1987. Collection of Thomas Ammann, Zurich. Langer, Suzanne. K. Mind, An Essay on Human Feeling. [2 volumes]. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1967). [place vol. # with p.# in body of text] Langley, Charles. "The Avatar with a Thousand Faces: The Social Functions of Dreamscape Mythology". 1997. n. pag Online. www.sfgate.com/eguide/flipside/arc97/1119avatar.html. Maclarchian, Malcom. "Avatar Conference Advocates Rules for Virtual Worlds." TechWeb, n. pag Online. CMP.net, 1997. www.techweb.com/wire/news/1997/10/1024avatars.html. Morningstar, Chip. and F. Randal Farmer. "The Lessons of LucasFilm's Habitat." In Cyberspace: First Steps. Ed. Michael Benedikt. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991, 273-301. National Public Radio, transcript from 'Science Friday', August 24, 1998. Penley, Constance., and Andrew Ross. "Cyborgs at Large: Interview with Donna Haraway.", In Technoculture. Ed. Penley and Ross, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991. 18-23. Ronell, Avital. "Video/Television/Rodney King: Twelve Steps Beyond the Pleasure Principle". In Culture on the Brink: Ideologies of Technology. Eds Gretchen Bender and Timothy Druckrey. The Dia Foundation for the Arts. Seattle. Bay Press, 1994 Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. ---. "The Merging of Bodies and Artifacts in the Social Contract." In Culture on the Brink-Ideologies of Technology. Ed. G. Bender and T. Druckrey. Seattle: Bay Press, 1994, 80-86 Shaviro, Steven. "Contagious Allegories: George Romero." In The Cinematic Body. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, 101-103. Sobchack, V. "Beating the Meat/Surviving the Text, or How to Get Out of this Century Alive." In The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Gender, and Science. Ed. P. A. Treichler, L. Cartwright, and C. Penley. New York: New York University Press, 1998, 312-314 Stephenson, Neal. SnowCrash, New York, Bantam Books, 1992. Stone, Allucquere Rosanne."Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?: Boundary Stories About Virtual Cultures." In Cyberspace: First Steps, ed. Benedikt, 82-85. Talking Heads. "Once in a Lifetime." Perf. David Byrne, Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth. Remain in Light. Sire Records, 1980. Thacker, Eugene. ".../visible_human.html/digital anatomy and the hyper-texted body", CTHEORY, 2 June, 1998. Online, n pag. Oct. 1998. http://www.ctheory.com/a60.html Turkle, Sherry. The Second Self-Computers and the Human Spirit. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.
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Ziff-Davis TV, Inc. "If You Build It, They Will Come." thesite: The Avatars 97 Conference. Aug. 1997 Online, n pag. ZdNet Sept. 1998 www.zdnet.com/zdtv/thesite/1197w2/play/play1033jump1_110697.html. from a paper called "Agents, Identity Constructs, and Lightbodies--A Manifesto for Avatars presented at Webs of Discourse: The Intertextuality of Science Studies February 1998, Texas Tech University, Lubbock; and a presentation made at Consciousness Re-Framed: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era, Center for Advanced Inquiry into the Interactive Arts, Wales College, Univerisity of Newport.

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