Avatars
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ArtiPhycial Language

An installation of 5 laptop computers

Artist Statement

Maria Coletsis

By continuing my investigation with identity issues, I have chosen to explore the virtual environment of chat rooms. As a new technology, network systems have provided a new method of communicating with each other. This new language represented by symbols and text, including abbreviations for new words, has created an interactive world for people to have contact with others that previously was not possible. In cyberspace, the term "avatar" is used to describe one’s personal manifestation in a virtual world. I am curious with the ways that people choose to represent themselves and the dolls they make to express this. The new identities created are free to move through a network of people regardless of the body or physical world. Gender becomes elusive while communication becomes the link to each identity. ArtiPhycial Language is my attempt to link the physical with the virtual at the same moment, while addressing contemporary aspects of communication and identity.

ArtiPhycial Language is a mini network of 5 laptop computers. The user is invited to choose an avatar from a provided library of images, shapes and signs. An avatar is the graphic icon that will represent the user and once selected, is then placed within the visual chat room environment. The term comes from the Hindu religion in which it refers to the various forms that gods chose to manifest themselves in the human realm. Avatars can express themselves using text, sounds and movement. Communication with others is via typed text that appears in balloons that pop out from your avatar.

 

World of Avatars

In cyberspace, the term "avatar" is used to describe one’s personal manifestation in a virtual world. An avatar is the graphic icon personalized by their users to represent themselves within a visual chat room environment. Users communicate with others via typed text that appears in balloons that pop out from your avatar. Avatars allow people to express their identity visually using text, sounds and movement rather than just through written words and can move freely within and between rooms of Palace sites.

Avatars are the reason so many doll creators are interested in Palace; you can see other creations, collect dolls to edit, share props and visit various sites "wearing" your dolls. Jim Bumgardner, the creator of Palace, believed that avatars enable people to maintain partial anonymity, which allows them to loosen up a bit. As a result, communities of doll sites developed and dedicated designers show and share their avatars freely. Doll building began in 1997 and styles have evolved from the original Sk8ter, to sexy Preps and rebellious Goths. Trading and sharing props is integral to changing doll trends, relying on the contribution of the Palace community. Josie’s Doll site (www. Josiedollz.com) is comprised of 4 original doll builders who showcase their dolls and provide free doll bases to users. They also have doll-building tutorials available for beginners. Their dolls have won many awards, as there is a huge forum of on-line contests within the doll community. Many doll sites have links to sister sites and share bulletin boards and messages. This is an excellent way to learn from others and a platform to ask questions. 850 users pass through Avatar Palace daily; this site has been up since 2000 and was conceived of a desire for users to congregate without the constraints of a conservative environment.

There are hundreds of Palace sites located across the internet, many with their own graphical theme rooms, i.e.: a haunted house, a futuristic Cybertown, mythical forests, Mansions, etc. Many users "wear" stylized avatars for the environment visited. Conversations range from doll building techniques and swapping, to making new friends. You can tell a lot about people by examining their collection of avatars and how they use them. Each avatar reflects a distinct aspect of the individual’s personality and lifestyle. Whether it is a mood, an interest pattern, a social role, one’s attitudes and values, or a wished for state of being. Many friendships have been made through avatars, so much so that Nikki’s Palace is having the first of its kind party this summer, inviting all avatars to actually meet in person for a weekend. Avatars are a way for people to experience cyberspace and meet others. The result is a whole new realm for self-expression and social interaction with subtleties not seen in text only chat rooms.

AVATAR PORTRAITS

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