Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Masks We Wear

Back in the olden days of my first online community experience (1996-1997) on Electric Minds there was a topic called "The Mask We Wear." It was one of those discussions that enabled me to see the power of online communication, and to explore with others how we can hide behind masks and use them to express our identity.

I can't recall the details of the conversation. But I remember the visceral feeling of understanding something more deeply than before I entered the conversation.

Tonight I came across a link via the New Media Consortium's Blog (Thanks, Alan) to this video from Robbie Dingo called Mask.

After watching it, I had that same feeling I had in the Electric Minds conversation those many years ago.

How we both see ourselves and represent ourselves, online and off, is an essential part of our connection with others. Even when we "hide" behind our masks, we are being some part of ourselves.

When we had only text based online interaction, with the occasional picture thrown in, we created those masks in our writing. Second Life, World of Warcraft and other games and virtual environments give us new ways to express ourselves, to hide, to flaunt, and to embody our identity.

A good friend of mine, while expressing her delight in her new Second Life experiences, said "I love my avatar." When I saw it, I understood what she meant. She had captured something ineffable about herself in the avatar. At 600 miles away, her spirit and love showed through that avatar. It was remarkable.

In making our mark online - in our blogs, wikis, discussions, emails, avatars, digital stories and writings - we are sending a bit of ourselves out to the world.

It is pretty darn remarkable, these masks we wear.


Anonymous Candace said...

Interesting post but it loses something when the video is no longer available. Could you give an idea of what was there?

5:38 AM  
Blogger Nancy White said...

Candace, the YouTube video embedded in the post is showing for me, along with the link. So it may have been unavailable for a bit. But your question leads me to think about how I can more carefully reference external material in case it IS unavailable. Good learning.

In any case, it was a montage of Secondlife avatars, merging from one to the other with music in the background. What was fascinating to me was a) they way people have chosen to represent themselves in 2ndLife and b) what I saw in common and different as the images merged from one to the other. How are we alike? How are we different?

6:36 AM  

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