Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Dogs on horses
What if you aren't a person on the inside, but a dog instead? (Or okay, bipedal dog with thumbs.) Second Life lets you explore non-human parts of your identity too, modifying your avatar into any kind of beast that anyone's ever dreamed of being.
Some avatars are completely animal, some (like this one) a mix. Then there are the different fantasy races that have existed through time, like elves and dwarves. This isn't rare -- every MMORPG has the ability to choose species -- but only in SL can you lead a fairly normal online "life" dressed as a little Victorian Corgi.
What does this say about how appearance shapes our identity? Obviously people treat you differently if you're dressed as a small dog. You might get comments like, "Oh, how cute," or "Nice doggy." In the context of SL, you'd be treated just as seriously.
However, I still don't think of the dog-avatar as my "normal" self. I've definitely got an online "me", and putting on the dog is like wearing a dog-suit. Some people identify more closely with the dog than the human, and this is where interesting issues lie. If, in humanity's future, we could modify ourselves to be like beasts, apparently some people would spring for it.
Sometimes I think of SL as a prophetic land, showing what would happen if decadence and commerce weren't constrained by technology. People as dogs? Sure.
On a lighter note, bipedal Corgies can ride horses!