Home > Project Endless Possibilities, Virtual Identity > Project Endless Possibilities (12): Derridada Mimiteh

Project Endless Possibilities (12): Derridada Mimiteh

(Another very interesting perspective on virtual identity and our beloved avatars. You can read more about the project as well as find the previous entries here.)

  • Does your avatar look like or represent your real life self?

I see my avatar as the representation of me in this virtual space so I modeled the look after what I might look like in RL if I could. So – it represents me an idealized way. I share certain attributes with my avatar – but in the virtual space these can be –um – enhanced. In RL I sport a decaying hipster ponytail – perhaps long past its expiration date. I like it as a quotation, an affectation. In world my avatar has a lovely red ponytail – the one I would have if I could. Since I opted for the steampunk look I outfit my avatar with a groovy set of chops and prominent goatee. I ended up emulating this in RL by growing a van dyke – first as a kind of joke, but then – forgive me – it kind of grew on me.The shape is perhaps more muscular than I am in RL – but the basic size is not too far off. Derridada does, however, have a much better wardrobe than I do.

  • Do you make significant changes to your avatar often?

Not significant, perhaps more evolutionary. The skin was the major change. When I came in I opted for a green pallor – mainly because I couldn’t have this color in RL without some major health issues. But it also set my avatar apart from those with more natural skin tones. I had this look for a few months and decided I needed a change – actually to begin evolving into of a sort of clockworkman. I found this great metallic skin by Yabusaka – who has some lovely high-end stuff. The skin was a freebie and I thought I would see if I liked the design before moving to a more expensive one. I loved it – it felt right – so I decided to keep it. Stripping the clothes and adding the tattoo layers was the last main change. I like the idea of an artificial skin accruing text, images, etc over time –kind of like a “living” palimpsest. So even when I end up putting the long coats back on I will still know the tats are there.

  • Why have you chosen to have your avatar look like he/she/it does?

I had never heard of “steampunk” until I came into SL. Looking for ideas to outfit my avatar I discovered a wealth of information on this subject. It seemed like a good fit since I likes hybrids – any mashing together of two ideas I find supremely satisfying. Postmodern, postdigital, praxis top the list. I find this similar to what Lewis Carroll referred to as portmanteau words like snark (snake + shark) in which a new idea, creature, identity, etc is formed by the collision of two or more ideas. Coming into SL I knew that the name I wanted was Derridada since the collision of Derrida and Dada offers a nice definition of my own thinking process. It was actually what I named my cell phone a few years ago and so the avatar has evolved from there.

  • Do you have a signature look? Is it important to you how your avatar looks?

I think so. I rarely run into other avatars with metallic skin. I also don’t run into too many steampunks either – but perhaps they just don’t like dancing to techno or indie rock like I do. I change clothes about every few weeks – less because I ambored and more out of an odd kind of peer pressure. When I go out dancing the other avatars seem to change their clothes every day. After I wear an outfit for about two weeks I feel like it is time for a change.

  • Do you have some basics that you always wear (certain color of hair, eyes or …)?

The metallic skin, red ponytail, tattoos on body and face, red fingernails, glasses, watch, boots, and steampunk inspired wardrobe define Derridada. To make any drastic changes to this look I would probably need to create an alt. Since I spend a fair amount of time in world listening to music and dancingI like to wear clothes that move. Modern male clothes tend to be a bit tight and stiff. I have a few wonderful long Victorian era coats that look great when I spin and jump. The latest outfit is a short skirt – which does the same thing. When my daughter was little she was obsessed with wearing dresses, but not just any dress – it had to be able to twirl. Now I completely understand what she meant.

  • What does it mean to you how other avatars look?

I tend to take avatars at face value – which means that 90% of the avatars I see are beautiful young people. At first I was reticent to talk to these beautiful people – as I would be in RL – but realizing that the reality behind the avatar is different I got over my shyness. I do like the variety in size, shape, clothing and accessories and I am always curious when I see a unique avatar.

  • Do you avoid talking to some avatars because of their appearance?

Perhaps at first, but, generally I will check out the profile to see if we have anything to talk about – an interesting quote, music references, an odd or enticing statement. I know that the appearance is just a construct –even if it looks like the person in RL – it’s what’s behind the construct that interests me. It’s also this gap between the two worlds that I find fascinating. Although I do find it unnerving when someone I know in world looks radically different than the last time I saw them. The personality is the same,but it takes some time to readjust to the image. I find the same is true for me on Facebook when my friends change their picture.

  • How has your perspective on your avatar and your thoughts about your appearance changed since you first joined Second Life?

Well – I am a Myst junkie and lived with an avatar through the last two Uru games. At first I didn’t like it, but eventually got used to looking over my avatar’s shoulder. The choices in Myst are very limited, but my SL avatar did end up looking quite a bit like my Uru avatar. I also have a Wii Mii that looks a lot like this too. But SL is unlike anything I have ever experienced and I am still processing the idea of an avatar here. They are both a mask to conceal the real, but also a conduit to the real. As constructed bodies they represent us exactly the way we want to be seen – at least in a specific moment. They can also change in seconds. While I revel in the choices, I find that for me a kind of consistency is important in how my avatar looks.

  • Has Second Life influenced your Real Life in any way?

Absolutely. My background is in performance theory and analysis with a strong semiotic and poststructuralist influence. SL is a wonderland for this type of theory. I love that I now have a research project that is both fun and also includes me in the equation.

  • How do you view your avatar?

As an extension of myself and as my portal into this world. Unless you mean physically – always from behind – I need to feel that sort of puppet/master dynamic. And yet I love to fall since then I have no control over the image.

  • Is it just a tool to be able to navigate SL, is it an aspect of your persona, a virtual representation of you or maybe your best friend?

Most definitely a virtual representation that is an aspect of my RL persona. I take loads of pictures in SL because it feels like I am documenting something I made. Plus – I love when things come from within SL into RL. I am also fascinated by putting RL into SL. So I see my avatar is the link between these two worlds.

(Photos by Derridada Mimiteh and Gracie Kendal)

(You can learn more about Derridada by reading his blog, Derridada in Second Life.)

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