The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies
Edited By Jaime Banks
Chapter Three: Race & Otherness: The Utopian Promise and Divided Reality (Kristine L. Nowak)
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Race & Otherness
The Utopian Promise and Divided Reality
KRISTINE L. NOWAK
Imagine walking into a room where you are surrounded by flying pigs, lobsters with three claws, talking unicorns, and a host of human bodies that are different from yours. Consider how you would move and feel if your body was suddenly a different gender, race, or species—the body of an “Other.” This ability to experience “Otherness”—states of being alien to one’s own social identities (Miller, 2008)—in digital spaces emerges from the customization and editability of avatars. Thus, digital avatars can allow people to embody (to be digitally represented by) a digital body that presents another race with different skin color and hair and eyes, or an other species such as an alien, or a fantasy creature. Will people alter gaits, postures, speech, or behaviors when their digital bodies present an Other? How will they shake hands or move if they embody a tree, or a person with only one arm, or a coral reef? The ability to engage in this experimentation with appearance, movement, and interaction can allow people to experience the bodies of others, frequently called identity tourism (Nakamura, 2002). In this way, avatars can give people unique embodiment experiences and perspectives that may allow them to experiment with different parts of own their identities and potentially—even problematically—see Others in a unique light. ← 33 | 34 →
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