Conformity? I think not…

My friend Ahuva recently ranted about something she read in another blog on the subject of “conformity” in Second Life avatar appearance. The OP (forumspeak for “original poster”) opined that the majority of people in SL lack sufficient imagination. She apparently based this conclusion on the premise “You can look like anything at all, so why remain so recognizably human — unless you’re too thick to think of anything more.”

When I read that blog, I wrote it off with a single “Pfft!” Granted, there are thousands of avvies logged in at any time of day whose choice of appearance tend toward “sides of beef on legs” for the males and “hyperinflated balloons on legs” for the females…


The Defense offers in evidence the following, taken in one place (Marx Dudek’s The Listening Room) during a single 3-hour session of Marxie herself spinning tunes from her vast (and vastly enviable) collection:

Further evidence can be found here… and that doesn’t include the photos of furry avatars I collected when I, too, was one. (Maybe I should put some of those back up…)

Careless use of a broad brush is more likely to splash back on the user.



18 responses to “Conformity? I think not…

  1. And I wasn't my usual bunneh self last night, either. *ashamed*

    Terrific photos and an excellent point. I suppose it depends where you hang out in SL as well.

  2. @Marx: Oh, it absolutely depends on where in SL you are.

    … which is kind-of my point: Any broad conclusion (in SL, or otherwise) drawn from a narrow sample is of questionable veracity, just begging for counter-example.

    Glad you like the photos :)

  3. As a human avatar, I tend to get not so much upset but sad about posts that decide being humans is lacking of imagination.

    It was my imagination to create a human avatar that could look sweet and adorable one day and deadly with knives and bloody skin the next day.

    It's a virtual world where there is no right or wrong way to look.

  4. I think your original “pffft!' response was the correct one :)

    The OP even said it herself … “You can look like anything at all ..” There endeth the debate!

    We can all look like whatever we want to look like, which is the whole point and the whole joy of virtual worlds. If someone wants to look completely human, it's there choice. If someone once to look completely alien, it's there choice. etcetera, etcetera!

    Someday, humanity will grow out of trying to tell others what they should or shouldn't look like. Telling people they should be 'different' and are 'too thick' if they don't is as bad (if not worse than!) blind conformity!

  5. Hi Lalo,

    I think there is visual conformity within SL sub-cultures but diversity between sub-cultures. So the Furry community looks different than the Goreans to outsiders. But within the boundaries of each culture, there is an accepted level of diversity that allows for the expression of unique personal identity. There's a balance between the way we express ourselves visually to demonstrate personal uniqueness within our group, and our conformance to visual expression that identifies us a part of the group.

  6. The AVs in the pictures are wonderful. I can be anything I want in SL, and that's exactly what i'm doing, I love my AV if anyone has a problem they can bog right off :)

  7. @ misty & Suella: Preeeeeeeecisely!

    @Botgirl: 'Twas ever thus — an aspect of organic human society we cannot but bring with us (and which therefore bears a relation to the science-fiction writer's dilemma of creating convincing aliens from what only ever can be human experience). A similar thing can be said about language groups (in and out of Virtuality): most people converse in only one, and tend to stay with others who use the same, but within each, find their own individual expression.

    As Marx implied: To put the lie to the broad conclusion, go to a place where the sub-cultures mingle.

  8. One day, early on in my days in SL, I had a conversation with a dragon and a pixie before having a Danish horse beg money off me (in Danish)…. the same week I met Glyph dressed as a jelly fish and Madcow as…well,…Madcow.

    Early on I blogged, I remember, going to club where I danced with a pizza, a can of coke and a burger…. however, my most enjoyable dance was doing the Conga with a group of budgies…. long live the tinies.

    Maybe this person doesn't get out much… It might be nice to make a survey of my friends list… could be interesting.

  9. Changing your appearance is work. And there's only so many hours in the day you have. For some people, avatar appearance is their creative outlet, and they express their creativity there. Other folks express their creativity in other ways — art, fashion, music, writing, gardening, programming, raising kids, running a business. Just because a person doesn't express their creativity the same way that someone else does, doesn't make them less creative.

  10. @soror: … and then I think about all the shapeshifters I know — including, not that long ago, myself (two domestic cats, a leopard, a serval, and an older human in my inventory, as well as the neko I appear in these days… and I'm a “lightweight” among shifters. I know some who collect av's the way others collect shoes or hair.

  11. Oooh, I love the budgie mini-avatars; I love my budgie, though I'm not her often.

    One reason for some conformity might be animations; I know tinies have to have tiny-specific animations (though mesh might change that) and there are ways in which a two-armed, two-legged avatar is more useful (though I'm considering decorating my 1 prim box avatar for serious hunting and moving around at Faires) since you can interact. I also roleplay, and usually the races roleplayed has humanoid ones because the majority of our mythology involves humanoid creatures (I'm usually a faerie!).

    I worry about… judging people's creativity, though. It seems like there's a creativity shibboleth bouncing around the SL blog discourse recently, whereby people dismiss other people based on some aspect of their appearance and behavior as lacking creativity – and there also seems to be an implication that people who aren't creative are somehow less valuable.

    Maybe I'm identifying with the non-creatives too much and so taking it a bit personally, but it seems to me that all created things NEED an audience. In my experience with the creators on Second Life, of which I'm not one, the majority of their time is spent creating with a small amount of time spent marketing with little to no time available to them to enjoy the creations of others.

    I'm a consumer/tourist of other people's creativity, but I wonder if people are valuing that less than they should. It seems to me like creativity needs people to appreciate that creativity, too, and if we're all waving our arms and yelling “look at me, appreciate my creations” no one is around to do the appreciating.

    This is part of what I was commenting on the OP's post – I think we need to increase appreciation of how different people contribute even when those contributions are vastly different – even seemingly oppositional or challenging each other. It's harder to spot how people conform at this level, since it's less about appearance and more about expectations, but I also thing it's more important than a quota on non-humanoid avatars as evidence of creativity.

  12. @Deoridhe: You're absolutely right, of course… and I join you in not understanding the “creator vs consumer” thing as if there were a battle of some sort.

    First of all, what do people who make stuff do with their spare time (if, as you say, they're not too busy)? They consume other people's stuff, whether “consume” means purchasing it (clothes, accessories, etc.), admiring it (art), or listening and dancing to it (performers and DJs).

    Second, everybody individualizes their avatar. Form and/or species doesn't matter… and it is eminently possible to be unique and imaginative in how they do it, even if they've never rezzed a prim in their virtual lives.

  13. Exactly! I have a deisgner friend I'm trying to lure to a particularly well-done sim I explored and photographed because she expressed interest in it on Flicker! I don't think her immense creativity goes away whens he sets foot on grid-ground with a meer peon like myself. ;)

  14. For my part, I guess I am “human” if you ignore my eyes and hair. I experimented a lot early on and I had some problem with the “av-crushers” where I'd get stuck or warped, not to mention the problems of wardrobe and gestures as Deoridhe said above (I make lots of gestures)and problems with tiny/strange AOs so I guess I just settled on a shape (that took me several months to tweak to my liking). I have been experimenting with skins over in IW though (because I can do so without the upload fees to get it right).

    It's like being forced into some kind of “art school” for labeling and sorting. We should all be transhuman orbitals (a new fashion rage I see a lot)? Is that like “oil paint good, water paint bad”? Photography vs painting? Sculpture vs “flat art” art? Republicrat vs Democan? I thought it was a universe in there, encompassing everything and anything; that is the beauty of VWs for me.

  15. I can't help but think back to some of the anti-furry sentiment I've experienced first-hand in SL, as recently as this past winter even. For every twenty people who are all for creativity in avatars, whether human or otherwise, there's probably one who despises anyone who's different from their limited visual perspective. Sadly, it's probably reflective of their RL views. I have difficulty believing otherwise.

  16. If someone is complaining that some people in SL lack sufficient imagination to mod their appearance, why would anyone believe that everyone should be grouped into that? As you can see from my av Darkness, I'm far from the norm. Why? Because that's me.

    What I find interesting is all the truly unique avatars that do exist by people in real life who look unimaginably boring only because they falsely believe society demands it. As a person who is battling stage IV cancer, I know life is very short. Live life to the fullest. Don't just let you avatar reflect who you are, your real life body should too. Don't be ashamed to walk out in public looking like you av, show everyone that you are different. Be proud of yourself.

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