Your Avatar And You (Or My Metrosexual Avatar And Me)
A couple of weeks ago I received a nice email from a chap called Jon-Paul looking for some help to gain exposure for an online survey he’s carrying out. He’s studying clinical psychology at Deakin University in Melbourne and is conducting a study on body image in the virtual world to see how the physical properties of our avatars correlate to our own real life perceptions. Having a keen (amateur) interest in psychology, especially in online environments, it was right up my alley.
Personally I find the whole concept of online avatars fascinating. They are, after all, the ultimate embodiment of anything and everything we want to be and give us the opportunity to represent ourselves in any light we wish. There’s the obvious (and surprisingly common) ability to misrepresent our gender, the ability to make ourselves more handsome or beautiful, more muscular or fit, or heck, more evil and disgusting. We can become the cute little Elf that sings happy-clappy songs, the gigantic, drooling Ogre that smashes down anything in it’s path or the mature and noble Human who sweeps in to the save the day. Physically speaking, we can become anything we want.
This connection between our virtual desires and our real life feelings is an interesting one. As someone who is rather tall, I refuse, just plain refuse, to play short characters online. I don’t know what it is but I cannot and will not ever play something like a Dwarf or a Gnome as I truly detest being shorter than people. On the contrary though, I don’t have any problem creating ugly, bald or flabby characters and, in fact, quite enjoy bucking the trend and creating unconventional hook-nosed, balding, beautifully camp Warriors. I guess that says a lot about me.
No doubt a lot of how we represent ourselves online is to do with our physical insecurities in the real world. Just as I don’t like being short, I’m sure someone who is concerned over their weight wouldn’t create an obese avatar online, instead they would wish to reflect themselves as a digital manifestation of their ultimate physique. With that theory then, I guess I must be incredibly good looking and very comfortable with my sexuality if I get a kick out of roleplaying sleazy, unattractive, bi-sexual hunks. Either that or I’m a hugely disturbed individual.
Anyway, it’s a very interesting subject and if you fancy helping out Jon-Paul then you can find his online questionnaire here. I’m sure he would appreciate as many volunteers as possible so go head and make his day by giving it a whirl (although bear in mind that he does advise anyone with serious body dysmorphic disorders to stay clear). To sweeten the deal, if you complete it you can also enter yourself into a prize draw for a $100AUD Amazon gift voucher. Now I have no idea how much one hundred Australian dollars is in real (read British) money but heck it’s better than a kick in the face or a slap on the balls.
I’ll publish his findings (if he sends them through to me) once the study’s concluded.