Avatar

Seminar 2018-2019

Abstract

Recent evolutions in the contemporary iconoscape have enabled the production of pictures that elicit in the perceiver a strong feeling of being there”, namely of being incorporated into new and autonomous environments. Subjects relating to such environments are no longer visual observers in front of images isolated from the real world by a framing device; they are experiencers living in quasi-worlds that offer multisensory stimuli and allow interactive sensorimotor affordances.

    In relation to such quasi-worlds, a key role is played by the avatar, a digital proxy through which subjects interact with synthetic objects or other avatars. Rooted in the ancient Hinduist tradition and often associated in the Western culture with notions such as the double and the Doppelgänger, the term avatar mostly owes its fortune today to its massive employment in digital communication (e.g. video games, chat-rooms, social networks, virtual environments). The crucial feature of the avatar experience is the possibility to interact with the digital system and to be recognized by it, thus enhancing a two-way movement from the real world into the virtual ones and vice versa. ​​

The notion and the experience of the avatar raise manifold transdisciplinary issues:​

  • From the angle of the history of images and visual culture studies, the avatar represents a significant variation of the genres of the portrait and self-portrait.
  • From a philosophical, anthropological and sociological perspective, the avatar impacts on fundamental questions related to identity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity.
  • From a psychological, psychoanalytic and neurological point of view, it is linked to issues such as multiple or split personality, embodiment, body ownership, self-representation, proprioception, prosthetic implementations, and empathy.
  • From the vantage point of the new technologies and media studies, it constitutes the digital intermediary through which users interact with the virtual environment and other users.
  • Ethical and political issues are crucial in the avatar experience too, since not only through avatars we operate in the digital world, but also avatars can reverberate their effects on real life.
  • Avatars can also be employed to disguise one’s identity: imitative simulation on one side, deceptive dissimulation on the other thus constitute the two extremes spanned by their versatility.

Program

  • 27 November 2018 – Francesco Parisi
  • 18 December 2018 – Simone Arcagni
  • 19 February 2019 – Pia Tikka
  • 28 March 2019 – Luca Farulli
  • 9 May 2019 – Elisabetta Modena
  • 15 May 2019 – Jeff Malpas
  • 28 May 2019 – Lily Hibberd
  • 6 June 2019 – Martine Beugnet