Identity in the Networked World


An avatar is an electronic simulation which creates a 3d body in cyberspace. Advanced computer software draws them, and they can take forms limited only by the users imagination.

Avatars are commonly found in 3d computer games. As the player enters the network ready to play the game, they choose an image to represent themselves. Perhaps the player will enter a Quake III frag fest as a bulky Space Marine, or maybe they will choose a racy female model clad in leather dominatrix gear. They could even design an imaginary space alien, dragon, or robot. All of these forms and more permeate the online gaming world.

Take note that the models the users choose to represent themselves are completely arbitrary. A male can become a female, a diminutive nerd can become a bodybuilder, or one could eliminate their gender entirely in a non-humanoid form in the 3d networked world. With the lines of race, gender, age, etc. blurred, it is easy to escape the prejudices of an appearance. Liberation is at hand. Your avatar can be a simulation of your true form, a hyperreal enhanced form, or maybe even something from your imagination bearing no originals in the real world—a simulacra. The possibilities are truly endless.

Avatars are sure to become increasingly popular in the future. As technology develops, and avatars become more realistic and lifelike, they will certainly find more uses in our networked world. The avatars in the Metaverse of Snow Crash may not be so far away. See some other thoughts on identity and avatars in Snow Crash here.