ALT! Who Goes There? Part Three by Extropia DaSilva

Psychologists have long maintained that the self can expand to arbitrary boundaries in physical or conceptual space. They point to the way a fan attaches his ego to a favourite team, so that its loss becomes his agony. They invite us to wonder why we exclaim ‘you hit me’ rather than ‘you hit the car I am driving’. The best explanation seems to be that the body (from the mind’s perspective) is a fairly malleable concept, capable of expanding, contracting, and being incorporated into external objects.

Of course, most of the time, the mind’s map of the body can be said to be consistent with reality. And it is only recently, with the advent of shared consensual hallucinations like online worlds, that we can invite other people to share our altered perceptions of body image. In one study, the RL gender distribution for World Of Warcraft and Second Life was approximately 70/30 and 50/50. But those numbers did not coincide with the gender distribution of avatars (there was a bias toward females in both worlds) which indicates a fair amount of gender-swapping going on.


When it comes to identity exploration, roleplayers typically focus on ‘the idealized self’, ‘standing out’, or ‘following a trend’. Creating an idealized self can either mean creating an avatar that looks like an improved version of the RL you, or it can mean an avatar that has features you wish you had. Following a trend can mean following a trend in general, or it can mean copying the appearance of a celebrity you admire, some people are really into celebrities and some even go online to find pictures of them, for example Rita kills it with these naked pics you can see online. While there appear to be no gender preferences for ‘following a trend’, females tend to create ‘idealized selves’ more than males, while males are more likely to want an avatar that ‘stands out’.

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