The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies
Edited By Jaime Banks
Chapter One: Life & Death: The Meaning of (Digital) Existence (Teresa Lynch / Nicholas L. Matthews)
| 13 →
Life & Death
The Meaning of (Digital) Existence
TERESA LYNCH & NICHOLAS L. MATTHEWS
Life and death have been the focus of philosophical quandaries throughout human history. In contemporary culture, these matters extend into digital realms, inspiring questions about the boundaries and values of avatar life and death. Avatars do not live and die in corporeal senses, rather we draw on the life/death metaphor as we would for batteries or stars. Yet, functionality alone does not define avatar aliveness. An avatar’s life emerges through a player’s interaction with social and technical gameworld constructs. Developers simulate life and death using a variety of biological signals and social norms, thus encouraging a sense of the avatar’s aliveness and death. This sense gives significance to the avatar, the relationship with the avatar, and gameworld itself.
BOUNDARIES, FUNCTIONALITY, AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE AND DEATH
The term avatar derives from the Sanskrit avatara, referencing the Hindu notion of a transformative alighting of an immortal deity to an embodied state (Parrinder, 1997). Whereas Hindu deities descend by taking physical forms, players descend into a gameworld by taking on digital bodies. An avatar’s life does not begin with birth, but initiates upon player creation. Players descend into avatars, assuming control through technical components bounded by hardware (e.g., the game console) and software (e.g., programming). The player’s descent into the ← 13 | 14 → avatar is a necessary but insufficient...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.