Monday, 26 January 2009

The grounding of seeing yourself in Second Life



I have to admit this is going to be a fairly dense post today. I am interested in how we see or mirror ourselves in Second Life. As I have posted before I think Lacan's Mirror Phase is an excellent model for thinking of inserting ourselves into identity in Second Life. For Lacan fy forming an identity we try to gain mastery over a situation of complexity and confusion. Living in the new cyberspace of the Internet we are facing a hybrid space of identity. We are attracted to sexual healthy or fluffy beings because they are comforting avatars in a confusing world of globalisation, terrorism, George W. Bush and Bin Laden.

This weekend I saw the movie the "Wrestler" and I was struck at how I kept seeing Micky Rourke from the back of his head. Now this might be in part because Mr. Rourke is not looking very good these days from the front. But there was also a sense of singular identity in the movie, everything that happens in the movie happens to him, even when he hurts others. The movie is very strictly focused on getting us inside of his head.

Seeing the long hair of Rourke's character I kept thinking about how you follow yourself around Second Life, looking at the back of your avatar's head. This device is a bit older and even more sinister form of mirroring than just modern Hollywood. If you ever watch Leni Riefenstalhl's "Triumph of the Will" it opens with a strange set of sequences. You are close to Hitler, but very rarely do you look Hitler in the face. More commonly you see through of the airplane he flies in over the clouds eyes, or then you follow behind his head and his goes through the streets. Views of him are more often distant shots at first, like scrolling the camera around in Second Life.

In the Godfather you have a classic case of identification with evil. Michael is both the villain and the character you are intended to identify with, and the movie is full of scenes shot from behind Michael's head. I would also point to "Pulp Fiction"'s reference to the crime bosses behind of his head.

It is in cinema that the behind of the head has been established as a platform of shared subjectivity, and this shared subjectivity can either be propaganda or an effort to insert us in to the mind of evil despite ourselves, or just a marker that we are suppose to be that person. That is in modern film seeing a scene from behind the head of a certain individuals tries to force us to insert ourselves in to their subjective world. Certainly this was not a device available in plays of Shakespeare's time and in that you are made to identify with others by hearing what they are thinking, or being taken in to their confidence. But being taken in to their confidence means they must show something about themselves, with cinema the behind the head shot allows identity without sharing. A forced identification.

Now don't take this too far. Its only to say Second Life employees the "behind the head" shared subjectivity that is long established in film. Its a kind of mirroring not possible before film. I mean how often do you ever see the back of your own head? Every time a barber shows me the back of my head I find it alien and disturbing. And yet when I enter Second Life I follow behind Rober1236 Jua looking town on the top of his head.

Good thing you can elect not to go bald.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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