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
fluid intake and output. Much like the large. masking the corporate agendas dominating the nature and spirit of the construction of cyberspace and avatars. perceptual problems. biological. and hats model. 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. physical form. not of myth. sneakers. muscular maintenance. Psychophysiological problems like "oxygenization and carbon dioxide removal. gravitation. the offspring of hard science and space research. The Human Enhanced The term cyborg was coined in 1960 with the appearance of "Cyborgs in Space" by Manfred E. Discussions of the nature of the avatar are often mixed with current cyborg theory. will not only mark a significant step forward in man's scientific progress. 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. psychoses. transparently controlled. The Avatar in Theory In the interest of defining the avatar I have considered the cyborg in its real world. the avatar is a mythic figure with its origin in one world and projected or passing through a
www. magnetic fields. optical. 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). and limbo" (32-33) must be overcome.1. in this virtual environment our very representation. metaphor. the cyborg. This early cyborg is the human enhanced. 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. or fiction.gregorylittle. genetic. Imagine an internet chat room where we are all represented by the commodity of our choice. and biological agents. Although the avatar and the cyborg share numerous social constructions and identity politics. and fulfill various levels of desire. hosted by an original human consciousness to form a unified but hybrid lived body. it is necessary to distinguish it from its cousin. The cyborg incorporates body and prostheses in the forms of mechanical. in the interest of developing an understanding of the avatar. our self image. electronic. In contrast. The term came to popular consciousness with the success of the novel SnowCrash (Stephenson). The apparent freedom of identity and gender enjoyed by the participants in multi-user domains and the Internet in general (Langley. achieve a fleeting sense of democracy and individual expression. and cybernetic laws of the physical world 2. Clynes and Nathan S. cardiovascular control. It was thoroughly grounded in the corporeal. a hybrid physical construction of wetware. and unconsciously. but may well provide a new and larger dimension for man's spirit as well" (Clynes and Kline 33). Stone) is a dangerous illusion.2. representation.html 2/18
.org/avatars/text. vestibular function. 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. hardware. recognizable logos that corporeal jackets. coded. temperature and pressure variations. The Manifesto for Avatars offers a formal set of oppositional strategies for constructing unconsumable self-images. Kline.
2. pharmacological. becomes an emblem of the production and accumulation of goods. 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. 2. telematic. tee-shirts. Through this transaction we express personal fantasies.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
examine the construction of alternative figures as models of resistance. sensory invariance.
or the reverse. the irrelevance of grounding identity in communal agreement. "perfect bodies. and." whereas the avatar is born of a telematic split. 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. In that it never detaches from its referent. The avatar is essentially a visual representation. not Krishna. The cyborg has been described as a unified but hybrid "other.html 3/18
. and so fundamentally related to linguistic signs and representational icons. between self and commodity. a tool or instrument allowing an agency to transmit signification to a parallel world. the informatic avatarwhether 2D. but in our current cultural condition it is Kapital. the original remains in its originary environment while sending a tool of signification. the human user. Its conditions are those of a coded environment. homogenous representations rooted in prevailing constructions of successful commodification and accumulation: pop icons.org/avatars/text. 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. then. dumbed-down cartoon characters. that makes itself a body. fashion. The most significant use of the avatar is the freeing of personal identity from outmoded relationships to consistency and social consensus. juvenile fantasies. a virtual instrument or imaged prosthesis of its referent-the user. and racially pure. language and thing. The "strap-on" (Lonehead . and to what end? A survey of the avatars and virtual bodies inhabiting the web reveals a colony of extremely generic. metaphor. and mimesis. or VRML-signifies through virtual visibility and affords to its referent a high level of choice for identity. C++. par. and dimensional level between the corporeal and the immanent. Lex Lonehood refers to "regular members who had constructed their own avatars-mostly supermodel cutouts and cutesy cartoons" (Lonehead . like a Hindu deity. white. photography. The avatar is a delegate. and entertainment. Java. share the purpose of facilitating operation in another environment. Whereas the astronautic cyborg is grounded in the corporeal and must adhere to physical laws. Disney-derived characters. the user. smiley faces. The Avatar in Practice Who use an avatar. The avatars inhabiting the World Wide Web have been co-opted by forces beyond the user at the keyboard.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
form of representation appropriate to a parallel world. the population of avatars could come to include the history of portraiture in painting. earthly body inhabited by the immanence of the metaphysical (Krishna). into a second. In this sense. desire. and the "wholesale appropriation of the other" (Stone 83) open the self to new territories of signification. young. hard-bodied war machines-are not just the tool of the user behind the screen. 3D.3). coffee cups. It is not independent and does not in itself learn. connection. image and imaged. 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. idealized perfect-skinned trim and tan hunks. but covert instruments of multinational capitalism. timeless space of representation. The cyborg and the avatar. Whether the avatar is a physical. Concerning the use of avatars in virtual chat rooms like The Palace. and steroid-driven snarling. Bodies of Capital
The vast majority of avatars inhabiting cyberspace today are drawn from the image database of advertising. (2) provide a source identity for the
3. from highly personal to nonconsensual. 2. It is in the very space of choice. The virtual avatar is software.gregorylittle. that the unique power of the avatar is problematized. As I have noted. These countless generic representations-big breasted smallwaisted babes. as a projection or passing through of once living individuals into the virtual. par.3. as we shall see. the avatar differs as well from virtual software agents produced by artificial intelligence and neural networks. and sculpture. The avatar is inseparable in nature from its host. and empowerment. mind and body.3) persona. the original avatar marks a top-down descent of a force beyond the human. exotic animals. bowling pins. the avatar. semantic." A tool with the potential for the playful generation of territories of signification and empowerment.
3. . one vote to one dollar. self-gratifying desire. and cannot attain through the actual is valorized and can be attained only through the commodified.
www. under the semblance of a representation of one. .5).2. is actually returned to its original function as a top-down tool. come to desire. Disembodied is valorized. An examination of the dynamics between the construction of desire. and psychological doubling that occur. just for this moment. 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. and shape-shifting become anxious compulsions on continuous-loop. to conform to the "bottom line". becomes a covert instrument of Fujitsu. making all of desire teeter and fall victim to the great fear of not having one's needs satisfied" (Deleuze and Guattari 28). one vote. Self and Commodity The mind/body dichotomy is a red herring. Humanity is sacrificed at the altar of production's bottom line. we are confronted with intentionally unattainable cultural ideals in the guise of an attainable personalized commodity. For on-line users of chat rooms. and the profits go to Nike. Rather than free-floating. In the real world it costs me to wear (advertise) Nike. consistent. and the capitalist commodity will reveal the structure of this process. wish fulfillment. then the Enlightenment agenda of Cartesian bifurcation is complete. . and organized in and through social production. Our sense of democracy has been distorted from one person. planned. Similarly. The most dangerous and incarcerating binary is the fabricated pairing of self and commodity. for example. regardless of the embedded levels of transgendered activities. We live in DeBord's society of the spectacle. which established priority and sovereignty. fetishized virtual.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
bubbles of text that emerge from them. stackable. your self-image. The avatar. then my signifier also signifies an advertisement for a corporation or process of commerce. We desire all of our lived processes to be toward accumulation/production. What we lack. The deliberate creation of lack as a function of market economy is the art of the dominant class. Desire and Lack Desire moves outward toward acquisition of an object to fill its apparent void. The currently low cost of the Web might make such virtual co-optation seem more innocuous than its occurrence in the physical domain. Movement out of the body is movement toward resolution of lack through acquisition.gregorylittle. on line activities form a closed system of self perpetuating personal pathologies serving a thriving system of commodity exchange: "lack is created. If your avatar. However.html 4/18
.org/avatars/text. This involves deliberately organizing wants and needs amid an abundance of production. We desire to become commodities. my avatar is a Nike sneaker. democratic individual free to construct his or her "own" mythic fantasy or satiation of personal desire. and (3) involve others in a guessing game with respect to the metaphorical or actual relationship between representer and represented. par. When bombarded with countless representations of the latest model/celebrity/product. However. Desire is the need to acquire and represents a secondary force. 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. between lived processes and production/accumulation. have lost. a celebrity's constructed image as a product of a hegemonic discourse: most entertainers are fetishized representations seeking popular consensus. consider the following corporate accomplishment. or avatar. 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. this emptiness.1. we long to be made whole. and always at a cost. useful. the embodiment of post-modern multinational commerce. generative. the object in the world. Fujitsu has been running an on-line 3D community called WorldsAway. cited during the Avatars 97 conference in San Francisco: "For the past two years. pure. over the subject" (Linker and Kruger 78). human will. role playing. where accumulation/production occurs to such an extent that capital is transformed into an image. transgendered activities. 3. Being in the body is to be aware of this fear. toward a primary element. If . of itself (DeBord 34).
Unlike a victim of war. objectifying it through language. nothing has really changed. A second study was of individuals exhibiting "abnormal" internet usage: "Being hooked on the internet is not a recognized disorder. the computer user is free to "shut down" and move. The inversion of surveillance (Halleck. to "shut down" and walk away is too painful." Although in a virtual environment anything is possible. found that moderate internet usage among individuals without history of mental disorder led to feelings of depression and loneliness (Scherlis et all). or commodity exchange). couch potatoes. institutionalization." The body behind the keyboard.4. "docile body" (Foucault 136) available to be "subjected. PC culture.Scarry argues that successful torture and warfare regimes involves three separate stepsinflicting of pain damage. Avital Ronell argues that the televised images of the assault of Rodney King were actually the avatar or counterwww. the analyzable. toward a highly contingent sense of agency in the virtual world. can exacerbate feelings of lack while simultaneously luring us further into simulation through the momentary satiation offered by a sense of virtual agency. control. It is not just the abuse that destroys the consciousness. but also. 3. victim. Because our will and desire is traditionally based in what we lack. 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. used. The transaction is not complete until the reality of bifurcation has been erased or denied to the subject. Social power. regardless of purpose (war. or consumer.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
3. or imprisonment. Sous Rature In her research on extremes of power relations over the body through war and torture. as they cannot be permitted to cling to the original site of the wound. and improved" (Dery 165). and entertainment activities demand extensive hours of computer interaction. and instincts of survival (46). to quote the Talking Heads. But Shapira (Nathan Shapira." But in the words of Waylon Jennings: "The doers and thinkers say movin' is the closest thing to bein' free. desire. is based on distancing the subject from her own body. but the increasing number of jobs in the "information sector" mean that current labor. For the highly susceptible. In a disorder of impulse control such as kleptomania or compulsive shopping. etc). Two recent studies of the relationship of Internet use and mental health have shown that use of the net has definite effects on users. he suggested the Internet problem be called Internetomania or Netomania rather than addiction" (Associated Press par. her own pain. 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. wiggling its fingers. Netomania is exacerbated by the cult of docile bodies (car culture. at the level of the flesh as we willingly sit for hours motionless at the keyboard. Docile Bodies Far from "the freeing of personal identity from its outmoded relationship to consistency and social consensus. hence millions of "docile bodies. Bill Scherlis. 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.html 5/18
. to touch but not really. torture. sliding a mouse back and forth and staring into the screen. co-author of Internet Paradox." personal identity is insidiously seized on both levels. as the virtual collapses back into the screen and one becomes painfully aware that everything is. in the same category as kleptomania or compulsive shopping. but at the physical level the body resembles Foucault's ideal subject of power. game culture.8).3. This disconnected connection. the domination of the body (be it individual or social). and the artifactual body or avatar. we allow the bifurcation to happen. the human body" (Scarry 64). In fact. manipulatable. an insignia of capital in the guise of personal choice. Elaine Scarry points out that it is not just the separation of the subject from their own bodies that facilitates domination. educational.gregorylittle. may be experiencing a sense of mobility in the virtual world. transformed. that same distancing coupled with its denial. impulse manifests as will or libido directed toward a fetishized object of desire-in the case of Netomania. 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. "the same as it ever was.org/avatars/text. but the denial. In The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World.
Artaud's "Body without Organs".2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
transference of the denial of the violence inflicted upon the bodies of Iraq's citizens during Desert Storm (Ronell. The discourse of biology must be circumvented to discover a fertile alternative discourse for the avatar. to desire. connection. he found "himself with no shape or form whatsoever" (Deleuze and Guattari. An attempt to open his mouth caused his right ankle to turn. The use of the avatar in on-line shared environments has the potential to become the democratic self-portrait. He called for detachment of the things of consciousness from captivity in the brain. not a universal truth or even a manual for the study and understanding of life processes ("The Past is the Contested Zone"). and a reclassification according to an emotional or affective order (Thacker par.html 6/18
. religion. As he instructed his left hand to brush his hair. language diverts us from the sense that interacting with computer simulations "is like having your body amputated" (Barlow 42). Alternative Bodies
"Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. and we keep coming back for more. the revolutionary polymorphic body-image unhampered by issues of class. even transcendence. we desire escape from the particulars of the body and move out via myths of wholeness toward technologized commodification. to include displaced and erased bodies forced to the surface of collective media consciousness through strategies like the inversion of surveillance. The space of the internet must become a site of resistance and the avatar must become grounded in an alternative. 4. Artaud had become unmapped. creative director with the virtual world creation consultant company Naima. and. biology. To do so requires nothing short of a complete redefinition of our relationships to our bodies. capitalist consumption. Icons. biology is an offspring of cultural domination. self-image. Anti-Oedipus8). As an instrument of denial. Today's technological discourse draws heavily from salvation myths. promising leisure.5). satiation. traversed repeatedly by the texts of Deleuze and Guattari. to regain the option of opening the self to new territories of signification. capable of diverting capital's flooding force of colonization and offering each of us a safe haven in an unconsumable body of our own." (DiFranco .Making Ourselves a "Body w/o Organs" Antonin Artaud stood before his dressing mirror. post-biological discourse of the body. is never wholly defined. because "Religion really understands repeat business" (Maclarchian par. and emergent model of embodied consciousness. to his surprise the hand remained still as his tongue caressed his lips. It resists any single definition and is therefore "unconsumable": "No mouth. increased intelligence.
4. "My IQ") There are ways to take back the avatar.gregorylittle. At the Avatars 97 conference Amy Jo Kim. and the hierarchies of hegemony. 277). and slogans all help to form a myth that technology guarantees comfort. even transcendence. beauty. improved lifestyle.org/avatars/text. Religion and technology are both predicated on this desire. as in the example of Rodney King. race. As Donna Haraway has argued. and medical technologies. the "organic organization of the organs." and the territorialization of his cerebral cortex had become scrambled. The BwO mirrors post-biological structures that undermine anatomical classification. explained that on-line designers could learn from religion. The hierarchy of bodily organization. capitalism. happiness. Artaud described this experience as "the body without organs" (BwO).10). gender. avatars.
www. or age. and empowerment. personal fulfillment. Artaud sought a definition of the body that could resist the methods used to control and alter his consciousness-he desired to become unconsumable. desire. No tongue. The avatar expands to embrace the history of self-imaging. and tedious mind/body/commodity separations in support of a more distributed. nomadic. Convinced that to be embodied is lack. as an addict and schizophrenic receiving intensive electroshock treatment and drug therapy.0.1.
The Vampire The vampire is a highly nomadic figure. For Haraway's signifying female cyborg. 'Kill the brain and you kill the ghoul. its alien biology. unconsumable avatars. No belly. ethnic purity. The vampire is simultaneously a monster and a multi-lingual cosmopolitan. Discussing George Romero's classic trilogy-Night of the Living Dead (1969). a bat. Anti-Oedipus 8). The full body without organs is the unproductive. These figures are primary tropes for forming a manifesto of the signifying avatar. and contingent immortality rooted in flesh and blood hosts make it immune to any bifurcating Cartesian agenda. It seeks alliances outside the geopolitical processes of capitalism ("Manifesto 149-151"). At the same time. life. a cloud of mist. It is not within the scope of this paper to fully develop the myriad of locations. a landowner. it has no stable personality. No larynx. age. envy. No esophagus. patriarchal allegiance. Yet the exact nature of this allegory of the zombie is delightfully slippery. 4. Society traditionally treats the signifying cyborgs among us as "other". the vampire. The automata stop dead and set free the unorganized mass they once served to articulate. Dyer builds an argument linking Romero's zombies to race relations in the US: "The liberal critique of whites as ruled by their heads. race. and salvation are irrelevant. and "originary lineage" (215). The cyborg does not reproduce. Dawn of the Dead (1978).org/avatars/text. as a radio announcer says. 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. the sterile. Its incorruptibility and unconsumablity is due to its transgressive powers of abjection and seemingly innocent clarity of purpose. health. For the purpose of creating visual tactics for imaging resistant. owl. is categorically adaptable to external conditions and therefore outside the scope of human classifications like gender. An examination of the signifying cyborg as "other" is necessary to construct an alternative field of action and signification for the avatar. the unengendered. roots. the radical dismemberment of both the zombies and the living deconstructs any over-investment one could have in the brain. The vampire does not fear death or contagion. It has the power to hypnotize its enemies and to corrupt the innocent.11. 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. the unconsumable" (Deleuze and Guattari. offers a model for an unconsumable avatar. meanings. Donna Haraway's female cyborg described in "A Manifesto for Cyborgs.gregorylittle. The vampire's "troubling mobility" and refusal to be categorized. clones. lack of "natural" organic organization. No anus. The Zombie Zombies have many of the same characteristics for transgression and avoidance of bifurcation as Haraway's female cyborg and vampire culture. As Haraway reveals in her explorations of vampire culture in Modest_Witness.'" as if "zombies/whites are nothing but their brains". nomadic abilities of transformation and transmutation. it replicates. fear. and associations surrounding this extremely complex and fascinating territory. Because it is already dead.html 7/18
. a Jew. I am most interested in figures that signify through the visual. 4. The cyborg is not concerned with sin and salvation because it does not die.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
No teeth. race. it is more alive and sensuous and of purer desire than the living. 4. only decomposition. cat. no sense of lack or anxiety. Its body is without any singular biological organization except its endless thirst for fresh blood. Rather I will attempt to distribute the "body without organs" across three other bodies of resistance: the cyborg. lack. the lived cyborg body that demonstrates." an otherly mixture of the real and the trope.12.13. death. its singular focus and driving energy directed outward toward acquisition and consumption make it a trope for the rabid processes of capitalism. or fly. not hides. or any other organ or appendage: "The
www. gets erased and reprogrammed. It is outside of the discourse of gender and human reproduction.1). The cyborg's hybrid biology. and a queer. as "brains spatter against the wall" (157). a combination of tissue and technology. and reproduction. The Cyborg The application of the term "cyborg" has expanded to the point where there is no longer any consensus about its meaning. 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. In "White". a rat. and the zombie. a romantic. nature and culture)" (100. capable of becoming a wolf. its hybridity.
technology officers. It is this argument that permits the inscribing of production across consciousness at the expense of tolerance. Zombies have turned on the system that produced them. specialists. body without organs. difference. Romero's zombies are radical speculations on the severed body. hardware. and the zombie have lost their original referents. working groups. dualisms. and the fear of not being able to control other bodies. zombies. salvations.0. teachers. religions. psychologies. netomanics. family. and free desire. Parables of the dead wasteland of capital (especially in Dawn of the Dead. philosophies. surgeons. and distant. left to their own devices they will remain undead. has become undead. detach from the referents that bind it to mind/body bifurcation. software. "universal" myths. the amputee with a phantom mind. ecstatic process. and cycles of commodity exchange. swarming. The already dead have no fear. they are delirious examples of innocent. The partial. boundaries. personal fantasies. and no moral imperatives. 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.html 8/18
. cyborgs. hackers. and clowns. Deterritorialized Referents Each of these figures-Haraway's female cyborg and vampire. We have come to believe that we are imperfect. The cyborg. economy. moral imperatives. sciences. scientists. rockers. slackers. cold. Let us make ourselves an unconsumable. those ruled by their minds. the avatar needs to become undead: to step outside of biological discourse. oneness. our bodies. It represents nothing less than the wholesale loss of the possibility of liberation and awareness of the processes of production and accumulation. Capitalism has no leverage with them. The dominant. the vampire. rappers. Romero's zombie-is an illegitimate child outside the cycles of lack and accumulation that produced them. of how one controls it and relates to it. and "the God trick" (Haraway. and from the hegemonic discourses of biology. unfeeling. universals.
This Manifesto is a call to artists. become unanchored from meaning. There has been ample discourse on the dangers of detached minds. consuming machines of mass desire. incomplete creatures and that completion. "Actors are Cyborg" 22). Their lack has become pure. parts of a network of drifts. lack-based desire. The movement of capital into the avatar is an inevitable part of capitalism's infinite return. they will not die a natural death. those bodies whose exploitation is too fundamental to capitalist economy. doctors. the Cogito's docile other. Never has this horror been more deliriously evoked than in these films of the Dead" (Dyer 160). politicians. creative directors. CEOs. 4. which takes place almost entirely within the confines of a shopping mall).2. family values. We slip across a curved matrix whose beginning is
www. acceptablilities. from life. We are partial.org/avatars/text. Fragmentation. Like the vampire and cyborg. They are rabid embodiments of voracious baroque capitalism. the schizoid. these films exhibit the uncontrollable. Free from any drive toward commodification. the nomadic and local are threats to the primacy of capital. irregularity. and wandering stubbornly are lethal weapons against globalization. and wetware designers. no investment in salvation.gregorylittle. signifying.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
fear of one's own body. vampires. vengeful revolt of a disowned illegitimate sibling. Similarly. students. and wholeness is the Goal. They feel no allegiance to parents. and social value. these undead appear to have a contingent immortality. the body without a mind. anesthetized by reterritorialization. The zombies are hyper-physical and mindless. dissolution. In a Cartesian nightmare. a call to cast off the dumbing-down manacles of wholistics. hybridity. The displacement of the self by the commodity insures the survival of the commodity and the perpetuation of the processes of accumulation. they are carcinogenic monsters metastasizing through the orderly strip malls of capital. are both at the heart of whiteness.
the alien. we participate and form tendencies. We can connect and disconnect from desire's conduit without risk or loss. long for its return. we can experience "a joy that is immanent to desire as though desire were filled by itself and its contemplations. like the spiritual. and the other. images. and high or low culture. gender. We are unable to perceive a whole or pattern. we hallucinate its presence. and guilt" (Deleuze and Guattari .
www. Like an amputee dreaming about a phantom limb we re-remember our irrevocable body. the celebration of locality and partiality. The postmodern artist is less a producer of rarified objects than a manipulator of visual codes.1.gregorylittle. signifying signs. and on all that it is to be grounded in the body at the expense of social. 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 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. and the impulse disorders of lack-based desire. and the unbinding of our consciousness from dilemmas of bifurcation. A Thousand Plateaus. biological. and media images (Foster. 100). Imaging Wildcards
Figure 2. 2) an emphasis on radical embodiment. 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. Particular kinds of marks. this can offer us visual and procedural models for constructing unconsumable images. Through the dismantling of the neurosis of the individual. the avatar signifies through the visual as an image. social signs. the personal. Identity Construction Menu As a part of the discourse of bodily representation. age. Photoshop] 2. 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 whose diameter is infinite. 155). and religious discourse. shame. rarify. wait to wake up from the nightmare. or machine. The postmodern. and forms have come to signify modes of expression or feeling. Seek. Resist unified identity relative to race. To combine visual codes.html
. styles. At present our collective social body is paralyzed by loss. tropes. millennial avatar signifies in a public sphere (the Web). and 3) drawing from various alternative narratives of abjection. the lust for uniformity.org/avatars/text. psychoanalytic. and social images into avatars that take a combative stance toward the forces of capital: 1. this frees the avatar from any singular representation and opens the individual to a plurality of possibilities. and valorize disintegration and instability [Figure 3. alienated self. there is nothing to measure or acquire. the exotic. the expressive. human.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
everywhere. These elements form a system of signs. 5. or codes for the artist to manipulate and combine. whose center is nowhere. animal. on all that is the literal body. is a social representation that can be both target and weapon. 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. reactive position relative to its institutional context. cultural. The signifying avatar will take a resistant. economic. We must move on from the bifurcating past and build a new body. the commodified Web.
Refuse participation in wholeness and actively dismantle myths of transcendentalism.html
.gregorylittle. "Satyr'] 3.org/avatars/text.
An Avatar Manifesto
org/avatars/text. "Garth'] 4.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
. Create tensions and conflicts through the simultaneous presentation of the desiring subject and the fetishized object of desire.gregorylittle.
.gregorylittle. "The Enforcer'] 5.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
[Figure 6. the alien. Draw from narratives of abjection.org/avatars/text. and the other
"The Terrorist"] 6. destroy the internal/external binary. do the taboo.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
[Figure 7.org/avatars/text. Pierce the skin. show the insides.gregorylittle.html
"Prom Night"] 8. step out of bounds.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
[Figure 8. lose your boundaries altogether
www. Avoid personal or social fantasy.org/avatars/text. seamless special effects of emergent technology [Figure 9.html
. "The Clown"] 7.gregorylittle. Refuse the temptation to succumb to the slick.
www. make analysis of the unconscious impossible.. 'Dolly'] 9. like the visceral. be hyper literal [Figure 11] 10. pained and maimed representations of the self as subject could act. Email attachment to author. unstable nomadic. Use images that speak of hyperembodiment. partiality.com. This is a call to joy. 23 Mar. and terrorize the monster from the inside out.org/avatars/text. in Donna Haraway's terms. unpublished book review." "potent wild cards" to undermine.html 15/18
. The avatar is thus born of the dialectic of the body simultaneously as the idealized. discourses. and the horrific [Figure 12] The avatar offers a new territory for understanding ourselves.gregorylittle. "www. and as the abject. Works Cited Anders. computers. a call to the lived body of desire. This is a call to build avatars.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
[Figure 10. the joy of mortality. bi-gendered. Associated Press. infect. Peter.". transgressive. and relationships that refuse and subvert the "self exterminating impulses of the discourses of disembodiment" (Sobchack 314). Polymorphic. Let us construct the avatar as a revolutionary site of resistance inside the belly of an armed-to-the-teeth multinational monster of exchange. commodified body of capital." CNN Interactive (May 31. the defiled.theother. "Study: Internet 'addicts' often show other disorders. 1999. hypervisceral embodied body. of extremes of physicality. Avoid mystery. as "trickster figures. the abject. images. and finality.
Penley and Ross. New York Routledge. J. New York: Prometheus Books. New York: Routledge. 1996. 1994. Penley and A. Manfred." In The Cyborg Handbook. Trans. Waylon. Trans R." In Technoculture. Jennings. 1998 www. DiFranco and Scott Fisher. Trans Brian Massumi. A.. New York: Routledge. "My IQ. Mark. Ed Chris Hables Gray. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Donna. 1991. Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Trans.html 16/18
. Oct. 1641. 29-35]. Kline. "Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me.html. Online. Hurley. and H. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. S.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
1998). New York: Routledge. "Sentic Space Travel. ---. 1997. ---. Veitch. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. in Cyborg Handbook. Don Brooks. "Cyborgs and Space. Gilles and Felix Guattari. New York: Vintage.com/HEALTH/9805/31/internet. Michel. Jerry Gropp. and the Geography is Elsewhere: Postscript to Cyborgs at Large. "Meditation II. E. Spectacle. Descartes. Rene. 1983.org/avatars/text. C. Recodings: Art. R. 32-33 Clynes.Female Man© Meets OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience. Rpt. and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.cnn. DeBord. 1989. Ralph Mooney. DiFranco. Haraway. and Richie Albright." Perf. Detroit: Black and Red. Seem. "Look out Dick Tracy. Clynes. Society of the Spectacle. Ani. Ed. Technology. Modest Witness@Second Millenium." Discourse on Method and the Meditations. M. Deleuze. Honkie Tonk Heroes. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1973. In Technoculture.addiction/index. Dee Dee. Ed. Jennings. Hallick. 25-26.
www. 1997. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. ed." In Simians. Guy. Lane. Gray." Mondo 2000 2 (1990). 1985. Righteous Babe Music. 1986. Hal. 147-151 ---. 1983.. "Being in Nothingness: Virtual Reality and the Pioneers of Cyberspace. Manfred. Dyer Richard.gregorylittle. and Cultural Politics. "The Actors are Cyborg. Barlow John Perry. We've got you covered". New York: Grove Press." Perf. Puddle Dive. Larry Whitmore." Astronautics (September 1960). Sheridan. Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1979. Nature is Coyote. Ross. Seattle: Bay Press. 1987. 1991. 1995. Foster. and Nathan. RCA Records. Dery. E. "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science. Foucault. White.
82-85. "."Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?: Boundary Stories About Virtual Cultures. Brian Eno. 1998.html 17/18
. From "Untitled (I shop therefore I am). 1998.. Ed. Druckrey.gregorylittle. Penley. Constance. Remain in Light.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
Kruger. or How to Get Out of this Century Alive. 1980. Stone. Treichler. National Public Radio. www. 1991. 101-103.sfgate. Cartwright. Eugene. Oct. New York: New York University Press. Allucquere Rosanne. and C. Ed.com/a60. Charles. www." In Cyberspace: First Steps. Gender.
www. An Essay on Human Feeling. Collection of Thomas Ammann. 120" x 120".html. 1993. Thacker. "Contagious Allegories: George Romero.org/avatars/text." TechWeb. 1997. "The Avatar with a Thousand Faces: The Social Functions of Dreamscape Mythology". "Video/Television/Rodney King: Twelve Steps Beyond the Pleasure Principle". Elaine. n pag.# in body of text] Langley. Sherry.html/digital anatomy and the hyper-texted body". Steven. Randal Farmer. Maclarchian. 1994 Scarry. Morningstar. Ed. Ronell. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. Chip. CTHEORY. Ed. The Dia Foundation for the Arts. Avital. Sobchack.com/eguide/flipside/arc97/1119avatar." In The Cinematic Body. and F. transcript from 'Science Friday'. http://www. 312-314 Stephenson. Penley. n./visible_human. and Andrew Ross. Bay Press. "Once in a Lifetime. # with p. New York: Oxford University Press. Tina Weymouth. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Chris Frantz. David Byrne. Benedikt. L. Talking Heads. CMP. 1997.techweb. "The Lessons of LucasFilm's Habitat." In The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies." In Cyberspace: First Steps. 1967)." Perf. Sire Records. [place vol. "The Merging of Bodies and Artifacts in the Social Contract. Eds Gretchen Bender and Timothy Druckrey.. Zurich. 1998. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Michael Benedikt. Jerry Harrison." In Culture on the Brink-Ideologies of Technology. Malcom. 1985. Barbara.html Turkle. 1998. 273-301.html. 18-23. "Beating the Meat/Surviving the Text. A.com/wire/news/1997/10/1024avatars. ed.net. Suzanne." Photographic silkscreen on vinyl. The Second Self-Computers and the Human Spirit.". Online. August 24. Seattle. New York: Simon and Schuster. "Avatar Conference Advocates Rules for Virtual Worlds. 1991. 80-86 Shaviro. Neal. Cambridge: MIT Press. [2 volumes]. "Cyborgs at Large: Interview with Donna Haraway. Langer. SnowCrash. In Culture on the Brink: Ideologies of Technology. New York. 2 June.ctheory. ---. pag Online. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. In Technoculture. 1984. P. and Science.. 1992. 1994. Bender and T. Mind. n. pag Online. Seattle: Bay Press. K. V. 1987. G. Penley and Ross. Bantam Books.
Lubbock." thesite: The Avatars 97 Conference. from a paper called "Agents. and a presentation made at Consciousness Re-Framed: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era. Aug. ZdNet Sept.html
www. Wales College. 1997 Online. 1998 www.zdnet. n pag. Univerisity of Newport.2/10/12
An Avatar Manifesto
Ziff-Davis TV.html.org/avatars/text.gregorylittle.com/zdtv/thesite/1197w2/play/play1033jump1_110697. Identity Constructs. Texas Tech University. "If You Build It. and Lightbodies--A Manifesto for Avatars presented at Webs of Discourse: The Intertextuality of Science Studies February 1998. They Will Come. Center for Advanced Inquiry into the Interactive Arts. Inc.