Thursday, July 24, 2008

March of the Plush Avatars

Rivka, our suspiciously emaciated Mistress of Ceremonies; Jubilant; and a bit of ruthiness on the side that shows I'm still working with the old viewer.

I've been over this before about appearances in SL. Apparently, there's a research group dedicated to just this topic: the Avatar Identity Research Center. It's an interesting thought, "What does your avatar's appearance say about you?" So, I slapped on my fatvatar and tp'd over to have a listen. This was in the middle of the BlogHer Conference and I had to made a very hard decision! So much going on in SL (the same day) and so little time!
Rivka, in her introduction to Jubilant's presentation, said that SL is a sandbox for exploration of self and embodiment. I must have a multiple personality disorder then.

The Evil Speaker's Ball that no amount of Papyrus font can save from my waxing medievally wroth all over.

I had thought that the Speaker's Ball sounded like a good idea when we started. So much more polite than, "Please shut up until Jubilant has finished her presentation." There were problems with the ball when we started, which were probably due to lag (nice turn-out for the presentation coupled with a prim-fest of attachments) and some people elected to resort to just typing "click" to get in the comment cue. But when it came to the actual comment portion of the presentation, I don't think it worked at all. I was called on, but people kept talking over me. I finally gave up. Later I happened to look at my speaker's ball (that was floating over my head ... a place I was not looking because I was intent on looking at other people, the photos, reading chat ...) and saw that it was green and that I was next to speak. In space, no one can hear you scream; in SL, no one can see your brow furrow with annoyance. I was cross now, and I clicked on it to turn it off. Shortly afterwards, I was called on again and instead of saying, "Well, people talked over me when I was called on earlier and my mind has now moved on from the comment I had formulated with care to being pissed off at the speaker's ball and I don't feel like participating anymore!" I said something less fraught with the same gist of "nevermind." I wasn't sure that I hadn't turned my speaker's ball back on. It might not be showing the same for others as for me.
Conversation/chat in SL takes about four times as long as in RL (tm). The speaker's ball, when it's being used properly, doubles that again. I am used to chaotic chat (hell, I go to the Humanism meetings!) and will wade in with the best of them. I don't think the speaker's ball worked technically nor in concept.
But, on to the presentation!

Visual Aids provided by Jubilant in lieu of Death by PowerPoint.

Ya gotta love someone who thinks that women should be round and curvy, and that's Jubilant for you! She made herself her ideal in feminine beauty, the way she cannot be in RL (tm). But she found that SL did not take the larger (or, for that matter, shorter) sizes into account when the mesh and animations were originally designed. Textures stretch the designs beyond recognition; animations embed the arms into the chest and abdomen; and the larger the bits of you get, the pointier they become. The resident designers continued in that vein, making prim additions that just plain don't fit (See top right picture in above photo). Multi-prim objects can be resized, but the seller has to make them modifiable and copiable to do this, and that activity is not for the faint-hearted. I do it all the time with prim hair now.

More Visual Aids ... why do these figures look normal to me?

The stigma associated with fat seems to have carried over from RL into SL. Although not subject to outright harassment (such as being denied entrance to a club), Jubilant has been asked why she is the size she is and it has been suggested she diet (which in SL I would take as a joke - I occasionally tell overly-thin avs they "should eat cookies"). She has found herself attracted to other avs who look different than the ideal she created for herself. What's going on here? So why is she this voluptuous? What keeps her curvy despite the annoyances of comments, clothes that don't look right or just plain don't fit, and an apparent subconscious attraction to something outside her ideal?
Well, someone needs to look normal, don't they? You need some large people, short people, minority people, and bald people (although I think most men go bald because men's hair sucks in SL ... except a couple of heads of hair at this presentation - I almost clicked on my speaker's ball just to ask two of the guys where they got their hair!) walking around amongst the overly muscled chests or gravity-defying breasts that make up most of SL so that the real people behind them can feel their RL bodies validated. Someone's got to do it, and Jubilant has stepped up to the plate. My fatvatar smiles.
Would staying in my Kathy av, with her slender waist and big hair-that-everyone-is-mad-about, increase my self-loathing? Hard to see how I could loathe my RL body (tm) any more than I do now. At the BlogHer conference we met an avatar that was based on a body that the typist wanted, and seeing it regularly helped motivate her to lose, so far, over 100 pounds. How she manages to do that, while sitting in front of the time-sucker that SL is, escapes me. I mean, I haven't gotten any shorter walking around as Lludmila. But I find Kathy lovely - I fell in love with her. I did my best coming up with something that looked different from the SL norm with Lludmila, and I worked hard to make whatsername the cutest fat girl imaginable, but Kathy's is the face on my desktop. I think you look for someone different from you when you fall in love. And you can't get much more different than me than Kathy. You just can't help who you fall in love with.

My Three Avatars (dada dadaaaaa, dada dadaaaaaa ...) demonstrating scale: Kandice/Mandy/Tammy (the fatvatar), Kathy (the bombshell), and Lludmila (short, 4'8", and middle-aged).


Mokona said...

I wish SL would run properly on my laptop!

I am so fascinated by this, and that there are people fighting for the right for realistic avatars. And why on earth wasn't this thought of when the creators originally made the program?

The closest thing I've "played" (for the lack of a better word) is the Sims, and even in there there is the option for larger builds (but it still just gives the look of a spare tire) it isn't as curvy and realistic as some of these SLers have done.

I don't think I would ever be inspired to become as thin as whomever I chose to portray me, but I could see it annoying me when I chose clothing on a body that will never be realistic, or ever look that good on me for that matter. But then again, once you get people complementing you, I imagine the line between the two (SL/RL) becoming blurred. Not that all people are entirely truthful anyway, but it is curious.

It's very interesting too, that people would dare slam a person for choosing to have a fatvatar. Is that not some people's ideal? Isn't it ok to choose your reality, regardless if it is what others see as beautiful. Is the point to live entirely in fantasy? I suppose opinions in general can be treated the same way, but when it becomes visual, you're pretty much wearing your heart on your sleeve in some ways.

I could imagine SL becoming a psychology course in itself, if that hasn't been done yet... I love that there are conferences and presentations!

Your fatvatar is the one that I'm always drawn to. Perhaps because I see her as "normal", the one I can most identify with? But mostly because your photos of her always turn out so cute! :)

agnes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Udge said...

Found you via Jubi's photo set on Flickr. I was one of the male avs with "realistic" hair, a really obvious comb-over, which I got from Mystikal.