Kim in a wheelchairIn response to a discussion with a colleague about representations of disability in Second Life I started wondering about “The Appropriation of Disability” what an interesting concept.  I have met a few people who are wheelchair bound in SL and I don’t think they are in RL… there are also people who appear to be blind in Second Life (white sticks) – the new AI dogs might introduce the possibility of seeing eye dogs. I begin to wonder about why people may introduce themselves as disabled figure in SL – I’m not content to dismiss it as a conceit – although that may be the case in some instances.

I wonder about the expressive nature of the undertaking in a world where physical beauty (by whatever norms/standards you address that) is currently a high priority for many users – there are people who choose to be/appear other than physically perfect I guess it could be a political reaction, it could also be an emotional expression – someone who feels constrained/disabled/disempowered using the metaphor of physical disability as a poetic statement visual poetry if you like.

I think about Sylvia Plath – how might she have shown herself in SL? Her poetry is generally regarded as very autobiographical and yet it was often very non-literal – perhaps some of these artistic expressions are finding new outlets in environments like Second Life.

A lot of interesting speculation – I’m not sure there are sufficient examples in SL, but I’m curious about other worlds now… how many WoW characters have physical disabilities represented? Bloody hell,  how does one only do one PhD at a time!

There seems to be quite about of discussion about accessibility issues in the emerging 3D worlds.

2 thoughts on “The Appropriation of Disability

  1. The idea of appropriating disability in an avatar as means of political play is an interesting device and place to posit an avatar.

    Bit of an aside rather than a comment on the post: As a slow typist I’ve come to think it would be great to have voice in SL. This article contains some contrary observations about how voice transmits your age, your gender and often your nationality. It doesn’t mention speech disabilities, but I am thinking SL must offer a welcome place for those who have felt comfortable communicating via text and visual identity rather than by voice.

  2. Thanks for that Paul,

    Yes, the Voice debate is raging in Second Life communities at the moment. Proponents for and against and quite a few who want to wait and see.

    The URL you provided didn’t work for me – see if this one works any better

    or go to Wired

    It does raise some interesting aspects – in many ways text is a levelling device. Voice offers a certain immediacy but unless you use effects it can inject a horrible realism that you may not want as the author describes in is experience of finding his WoW mentor is an 11 year old.

    Perhaps this also says more about the way we frame other people… why can’t an 11 year old be a great gamer and a good teacher – despite the squeaky prepubescent voice… who says a great and powerful mage must have a booming voice? We seem to be more comfortable with stereotypes.

    A few interesting pages looking at disability can be found at:

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