Liberate your Avatar: The Revolution Will Be Socially Networked

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


This opening chapter provides a creative-practical perspective on Second Life through a survey of our work as visual artists, set against a theoretical and philosophical backdrop that combines poststructuralism and semiotics. Our practical examples of merged and created Second Lives draw on our mixed-reality installations in the form of encounters between Second Life and First Life. Starting from created communities in Second Life™ (cf. Sherman’s social encounters, and Fizek and Wasilewska’s creation of second bodies, both this volume), our aim is to provide a visual backdrop and practical examples to this underlying theoretical and philosophical discourse, where the disembodied participant and (re)-embodied avatar in our installations find themselves in an increasingly social and political second life context. Whilst the underlying theoretical framework of this chapter clearly identifies a number of critical and philosophical standpoints ranging from a post-structuralist position that follows the linguistic and semiotic guiding principles of de Saussure (1916) to the formation of the ego in relation to the body-image in Lacan’s mirror stage (1966), it is the artistic outcomes of our own practiced-based research that identifies and pronounces these theoretical stances within our art installations. Through the development of these artistic works since the early 1990s a philosophical discourse has emerged through experience and practice rather than initiated by theory alone, but one that is now completely entwined where we as artists feel both the theory and practice are at the forefront of our work. In what follows, we shall outline our respective practice-based creative research, culminating in a collaborative interactive installation that investigates new forms of social and political narrative in multi-user virtual environments. Our artistic projects deal with the ironies and stereotypes that are found within Second Life in particular. Paul Sermon’s current creative practice looks specifically at the concepts of presence and performance within Second Life and First Life, and attempts to bridge these two spaces through mixed reality techniques and interfaces. Charlotte Gould’s Ludic Second Life Narrative radically questions the way that users embody themselves in on-line virtual environments and identifies a counter-aesthetic that challenges the conventions of digital realism and consumerism. BOOK DESCRIPTION: This book aims to provide insights into how ‘second lives’ in the sense of virtual identities and communities are constructed textually, semiotically and discursively, specifically in the online environment Second Life and Massively Multiplayer Online Games such as World of Warcraft. The book’s philosophy is multi-disciplinary and its goal is to explore the question of how we as gamers and residents of virtual worlds construct alternative online realities in a variety of ways. Of particular significance to this endeavour are conceptions of the body in cyberspace and of spatiality, which manifests itself in ‘natural’ and built environments as well as the triad of space, place and landscape. The contributors’ disciplinary backgrounds include media, communication, cultural and literary studies, and they examine issues of reception and production, identity, community, gender, spatiality, natural and built environments using a plethora of methodological approaches ranging from theoretical and philosophical contemplation through social semiotics to corpus-based discourse analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreating Second Lives Community, Identity and Spatiality as Constructions of the Virtual
EditorsA. Ensslin, E. Muse
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780415884204
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2011

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in New Media and Cyberculture


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