I’ve just been reading a series of linked discussions about the connections between real-world and virtual-world economies and marketing practices. The gist of the discussion is that virtual world inhabitants, in the form of avatars, are being framed as consumers and offered products that effectively exist only in the virtual world. we make money not art has a substantial post about the phenomenon and links to several other discussions including one at clickable culture

Business WeekI’m fascinated by these developments and wonder about how they will impact on the way we perceive these online worlds in relation to drama, education, and performance as well as a more general extension of our social framework and perceptions of identity.

I’m reminded of the Virtual sweatshop discussions of the past few years – see terra nova’s thread on the topic. The cross over between the world economies, and the subsequent development of new forms of interaction – especially those seen as transgression, criminal or anti-social – leads me to wonder about the ways we are moving towards a post-human future or trans-human identity.

kim in AWWhat does all this offer to us in the arts and education? How will we reflect these developments in curriculum and classroom practice? I hope my study taps into this arena a little more and challenges some of the more retrospective, historical approaches to Drama Education.

I’m wondering if similar thinking about avatars can be applied in virtual learning environments – can we act uopn the avatar? Can we teach to the avatars?  If the multinational corporations see benefit in marketing to avatars, is there something we need to reconsider in relation to teaching in these environments? 

Christy Dena at Cross Media Entertainment has an emerging discussion about online worlds.

2 thoughts on “Avatars – the new consumer?

  1. Hi Val,

    Not as yet… just lots of questions and a slow shift in thinking about the whole she-bang.

    There seems to be an interesting blurring between ‘role’ and ‘identity extension’ – or perhaps even a notion that the users know thye can only exist in these virtual domains as some form of representation – the fact is that people can send their avatars to a shop to buy accessories, fashion items, virtaul iPods, and other consumer goods… transactions take place in offline currency or in “inworld” currency but both are normally translatable back to some tangible asset…

    I’ve not been pondering on this so much in the drama vein just yet – although the ambiguities that surround these online representations are fascinating…. I’m just trying to come to terms with the idea of what happens when an avatar character “consumes” a virtual product… what goes on when an avatar goes to the movies…

    One of the articles about SecondLife proposes that:

    “When it comes down to it, avatars – online characters – project your ideals and fantasies before you’ve had time to think of them. “

    So, do these avatars are somehow demonstrate the more “raw, unrefined” version of our world view? I don’t really know. If they are a less guarded form of “self” then there may be some interesting aspects in terms of education. If we can bypass the defenses, the rationalised, the carefully constructed sense of goal, self and future… what type of learning opportunities do we work towards?

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