Once again a post of Hamlet Au's has launched me into a full blog response. New World Notes has been addressing issues of "realistic" avatar shape and size, covering a movement to create female avatars bigger and less fit than the SL standard.
While I understand the concerns of the people involved in this movement, to combat problems in the atomic world of unhealthy thinness and of prejudice against people who aren't thin, I think their embrace of an aesthetic of "realistic" avatar shape is misguided at the very best.
Bear with me here: I'm going to bring some serious transhumanist smackdown. I usually reject that label, mostly because I've met too many transhumanists who haven't worked their way up to human yet. But transhumanism is exactly what's behind this issue, and you all need some tough lovin' here. So hang on tight: this won't take long, it's for your own good, and it hurts me more than it does you, really...
Why does any technology exist? To do things that can't be done better with other tools. That's true of everything from the screwdriver to the internet. So, what about the technology of Second Life? Why use it? Why come to SL?
To create things, to do things, that can't be done better elsewhere.
The first thing we create in the digital world is our selves. If we're replicating the selves we bring from the atomic world, we're missing the reason to use the technology of SL. Unless you really feel your physical form is the best possible representation of your self, you should be using SL's tools to create an avatar that's better.
Now, "better" is going to vary depending on your sense of aesthetics and your overall values. Better for some means boobalicious or uber-buff. For some it means stronger, or leaner, or a different size, color, gender, species. I'm not going to fault your aesthetic here, or criticize your ideal, as long as your digital self does reflect that ideal image that you have. I'm not arguing against an aesthetic of shapeliness, far from it! (points to her short, shapely partner, for example)
No, the only bone I have to pick with you is if you're rejecting the ideal entirely for the sad comfort of the "real."
Look at you, there in your atomic world. No, I mean it. Stop and look.
Is that your ideal? Is that the best you can do?
Chances are good you eat too much and exercise too little. You poison yourself with pollutants in your air, water and food. Your skin has been damaged by the elements, aged by stress caused by your social systems - and more on that mess in a moment! If you smoke, well, you deserve the wrinkles, the raspy voice, the cough and wheeze.
That's just the stuff you're responsible for. Then there's all the stuff that isn't your fault: accident damage, aging (look me in the eye and tell me you really think that's a good idea, something worth keeping. No, I didn't think you could do it), gender dysphoria, genetic defects.
Your form, your atomic form, has been marked by all those things, some your responsibility and some that aren't. Each scar, each wrinkle, each unhealthful kilo on your ass marks a failure. Yours, your society's. They mark a failure to manifest what you really are, what you know yourself to be and to be capable of. That "realistic" form you're stuck with in the atomic is a map of your defeats, of your failures of will and of imagination.
That's what you want to exalt in a place where you can finally do better?
Sometimes I think there's a war on imagination, a real war being fought by those who hold power in the old, feudal, atomic order against those who'd return creative power to the people, who'd deliver us from artificial scarcity. This avatar shape thing could be a battle in that war, an ideological strike by the meme "the ideal is bad; the ideal punishes you for being inferior; don't strive for the ideal but glory in your shortcomings." It could be.
Or, it could be you just need Cousin Soph to swat you upside the head and go, "What, are you STOOPID? You can do better than that!"
Because, look. That's why Philip created the foundations of this world. That's why tens of thousands of people create new things here, why hundreds of thousands come to SL to work and play and love and live.
Because you atomic people know, in your calcium-deprived bones you know, that you can do better. You know that you've been stuck inside a system that might have been useful a century or three ago but right now just holds you back, dumbs you down, dwarfs you from a creator and a citizen into a consumer.You know you can do better!
So, do better. Do better. Create your digital selves as your ideal, whatever form that might take. And if you're still atomic people, if you don't come to call the digital your home and embrace digital citizenship (and we welcome you, all of you who do, in Extropia!), then you've got more work to do.
What do you need to do next? Look at that avatar you made. Look at that picture of health and strength and self-creation.
Then, start asking questions.
Ask: why can't I have this in the atomic world? Why can't I have health and youth and strength and beauty?
Why, with all the brains and talent and wealth in the atomic world - some four orders of magnitude more than in SL - aren't these things even easier in the atomic than the digital? Why are the systems that take your wealth spending it on things less valuable than health and longevity and beauty? Why do you listen to the memes and ideologies that try to convince you that you shouldn't have these things, that it's wrong to expect them, that you need to embrace and welcome and defend your personal and social failures to create health and youth and strength and beauty?
Ask those questions, and demand answers. Demand them of yourself: ask yourself where you've put your time and wealth and talent, and what you've gotten in return. Ask your rulers, your bosses, your politicians, that whole parasitic class that has gotten those things, paid for by your taxes and your entertainment dollars. Ask them why you don't have what they do, and demand answers.
Now, pick a world and change it. I'm here in the digital, trying to defend this space as a better way. Lots of good people are at work in the atomic, trying to give us heath and youth and strength and beauty. They're scientists, transhumanists, people fighting for the ideal against the surrender to the real. They're activists, idealists, trying to take back our creative power and our freedom, trying to build systems of equity, trying to make the atomic as good as the digital can be. Pick a place to stand and people to stand with, and get to work!
But, omfg, don't come asking for your failures to be exalted, for an aesthetic of poison and neglect and suffering to be enshrined as somehow noble! I know you; you can do better, in one world or another. So do better! Demand better!
OK, that's all for the tough love. You're all straightened out now, right?
Me, I'm going to take my skinny chalk-white winged tattooed ass back to work. There's a lot to be done...