Friday, 8 January 2010

Elvis, Jung, Hercules and soror Nishi.

I have been interested lately in the Persona ... which could be defined as “the mask of the actor”, the face we show to the world, covering our more intimate, confused self with a deflective surface.... like most peoples Facebook profiles.

To meet Dr. Jones in his consulting rooms is appropriate, being introduced at a party to Dr. Jones, is not. The professional mask here out of place, and sanity is very much about wearing the right mask at the right time.

So..... it is this issue of “real” names that I mentioned previously that has got my brain stirring. There are suggestions in the comments on Massively’s post that “real” names could be displayed above avatars like group tags, like Dr. Jones at the party. Now, while I would be considered mad to wear a soror Nishi 'tag' when I am not inworld, the above suggestion is not considered as the stark-raving madness that it actually is.

[..and here, to be perfectly clear, I am not talking of the thousands of people who link their avatar names to their RL names in some normal manner, but those who use their RL photo on the first page of their profile and/or make their avatar look like their RL persona, make their houses in SL like their "real" homes.....that sort of thing.]

“Possession can be formulated as identity of the ego-personality with a complex.
A common instance of this is identity with the persona, which is the individual’s system of adaptation to, or the manner he assumes in dealing with, the world.” (Jung, The Archetypes..etc. all subsequent quotes, also.)

He goes on to outline those “celebs” who believe and live their own “press”. He links this to greek mythology and the poison-soaked shirt of Nessus which Deianeira gives to Hercules which he cannot remove except by throwing himself on a fire.

“One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.”

Not, being such a greek myth geek, I had to think of the King, Elvis. Being “the King” 24/7 rather than a real person would be enough to kill anyone, being a possession by the persona, (and probably his power-complex).

“In any case, the temptation to to be what one seems to be is great, because the persona is usually rewarded with cash.”

Now the problem that frustrates me in my previous post is the belief, which is wide-spread, that a Facebook Profile (or personna) is “more real” than a SL Profile.

The persona, is a pure work of fiction too.

The main difference is that there are more people on the RL grid than the SL grid. Democracy is a dictatorship by the mass and therefore, what the mass wants/believes is what the minority have to endure, no matter how insane it is.

There is an obvious discomfort (fear) for many in this particular form of role/mask that sends them runnning for their persona to clothe their nakedness.

If it is so difficult to let go of the “real” “self” and enjoy the mask that an avatar provides, like the ‘mother’ mask, ‘daughter’, ‘lover’, ‘entrepreneur’ etc. then the question for me is ... why?

I have, increasingly, the idea that my original (two years ago) assumption may be correct... namely that, like the early colonialists, shaken to find themselves in a totally new culture/world, they superimposed and suppressed the ‘native’ culture and created their own cultural ghetto. This allowed their personas to roam free with no need for the type of change (throwing themselves like Hercules into the rejuvinating fire) necessary to step beyond their small fictional, manufactured “real” world.

RL is for most of us a limiting construct, the rules written by others, and our history.

VWs are a wonderful opportunity to expand our concept of identity.... another mask, or masks, to play with, to enjoy and experiment. Immersion is dependent on a degree of 'suspension of disbelief'.

The secret is surely to enjoy each world for what it has to offer (e.g. Botgirl), rather than trying to make them as similar as possible.



  1. Interesting stuff! Your post adds another dimension to questions I've been muddling over about the relationship between facts, sensory impressions and meaning construction.

    I think most of the time in human identity, the persona(s) we wear are not chosen consciously and so feel like intrinsic parts of our being rather than costumes we can take off and put on (or archetypes we can channel). It seems to me that one of the greatest potential benefits of consciously creating a virtual persona is to make one's human persona a bit more flexible and open to positive change.

  2. Well, I think that is absolutely correct, yes. That may, in fact, be the definition of 'reality'.... the accepted state of things as we have come to know them.

    ...and, surely, yes, one of the great gifts of VWs.... consciously exploring parts of our psyche we didn't know we had.

  3. oh my god, sor. you're so *deep*. that sounds snarky but it's not; i'm being serious here. you know, we're out here on the cutting edge of these issues and we take that for granted, but in RL they still think we're loony when talking about our avatars "as if they're real people. Facebook is going through another round of killing off Second Life avatars (e.g. Ener Hax) and Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) talks about how there's no such thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy anymore. there's a man to fear. these are scary times. will we get through it in one piece? these are times that try avatar's souls.