Project 13: The ‘digital self’

Exercise 4.1

The first exercise for part four of the course was to consider the “creation of false or alternative identities online”.  To address this issue, I decided to look at the work of one photographer, Robbie Copper, or more specifically, his 2007 photobook Alter Ego; Avatars and their Creators.

In his photobook, Cooper presents a series of paired portraits, the first image showing a real life picture of a computer gamer, and the second, showing their online avatar (as used in a MMORPG, massively multiplayer online role-playing game, such as World of Warcraft or Second Life).  Each pair of portraits is accompanied by a short profile giving specifics about the person and their avatar.

For me, one of the most interesting things about this project, is that not everyone went about creating their avatar in the same way.  It seemed that there were three main strategies that the players adopted, either they created an avatar that closely resembled themselves, they created an avatar that they aspired/desired to be like, or they created an avatar that they wanted to look at.

To give some examples, one woman created an avatar that wore the same clothes as her.  Another man, a truck driver, adopted the persona of a spaceship pilot; so a character fulfilling a similar role but in a more glamorous fashion.  Another man, with a number of physical disabilities chose to become a powerful robot.  Then there are examples of those who switch not just their age, weight or height, but their ethnicity or gender.  Whether this is from a desire to be/look at something different, or from an attempt at privacy/subterfuge is probably variable, but what is clear, is that there are as many different approaches to the creation of an online persona as there are people playing these games.