Wednesday, March 25, 2009



Lori Landay/L1Aura Loire

NMC Keynote, March 25 2009


Subjectivity is the experience of the “I”.  Subjectivity can be defined, in Raymond Williams’ phrase, as “structures of feeling.”  It encompasses a person’s feelings, thoughts, and perceptions; it emphasizes their individual encodings and decodings of their environment, social interactions, and experiences.  The term comes from the French verb asujettir, which has a double meaning of both to produce subjectivity and also to make subject--it is both creative and restrictive.

If subjectivity is the first-person experience of the “I,” shaped by both individual psychological experiences and wider cultural forces, and it is intersubjective—created socially—then the people behind the avatars certainly bring their actual world subjectivities in here.  However, once inworld, instead of having a body through which to experience the world, we have an avatar and visual and sound input that are not necessarily connected to that avatar’s position.  There are "mirror neurons" in the brain that respond to what the avatar does, but it is different than direct sensory input.  Therefore, the already blurry line between the self and the world is completely smudged in virtual subjectivity.


In the rich visual world of Second Life, there is intense visual stimulus. Throughout the rise of visual culture, physical point of view and subjectivity have been connected; to some extent, all visual representation explores this, and as each new visual medium arises, that relationship is recreated and extended.  In a virtual world, the viewer position is both immersive and detached, both connected intimately to our experience of the avatar—but also strangely outside of him, her, or it.  

So, instead of an "I," now we have an "I/Eye" of virtual subjectivity, which is a mode of first-person experience in a virtual world that is founded on a fusion of visual and metaphoric point of view, shaped through "self-design" of the avatar and environment, reinforced and extended through social interaction, and enacted through virtual agency.   Part of virtual subjectivity is the extent to which the mind/body connection translates inworld experiences into embodied sensations that feel "real."  To sum up, there are four major factors that contribute to virtual subjectivity:

1) virtual point of view

2) virtual self-design

3) virtual social relationships 

4) virtual agency

From the conclusion:

I also have a glimpse of something in here—a kind of virtual subjectivity that I would associate with the trickster—a shapeshifter who uses the avatar as a mask, a crosser of boundaries, culture hero or heroine who embodies and enacts central cultural conflicts.  I glimpse a virtual subjectivity that would reveal all of the virtual world as installation space and oneself as a performance artist within it, calling our attention to the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds by finding new ways of crossing them, looping between them, shifting the borders, again and again.

Selected Sources

Battaglia, D., ed. (1995). Rhetorics of Self-Making. University of California Press. 

Blakeslee, S. (2006). "Cells That Read Minds."  New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-23, from

Boellstorff, T. (2008). Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton University Press.

Cooper, S.  (2002). Technoculture and Critical Theory: In the Service of the Machine? Routledge. 

Curtis , A.  "THE CLAUSTRUM: Sequestration of Cyberspace." (2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(1), 99-139.

Landay, L. (2008). "Having But Not Holding: Consumerism & Commodification in Second Life." Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 1(2). Retrieved 2009-03-23, from

Ortner, S. (2005). "Subjectivity and

Cultural Critique." Anthropological Theory Vol 5(1): 31–52

Steinberg, M.  (2004). Listening to Reason: Culture, Subjectivity, and Nineteenth-century Music, Princeton University Press.

Vertov, D. (1985). Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov. University of California Press.

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1):3-43.

An Emergent Second Life, Video. [28 min] Paper Tiger TV.  Co- Producer and Director, Bianca Ahmadi; Associate Producer, Juan Rubio; Editor, Juan David Gonzalez; Content Director, Jason Pine.Watch inworld at Brooklyn Is Watching 􀀂 or

Not Possible in Real Life Blog


L1's Eye/I built by Cube Republic (Cube Republic store, Crimson Night (155, 90, 22)

KinoEyePlane built by Alexith Destiny (Destiny Blue Designs, Destiny Blue (173, 15, 1369)

& scripted by Simon Kline

Interested in learning how to script?  Find out  about Simon's classes!


Verbal Television

Caerleon Art Collective (128, 74, 26)

Misprint  Thursday

with collaborating scripts contributed by Oberon Onmura and Cinco Pizzicato

V-TV examines the beauty in both the visual translation of text and the limitations of text communications in these forms.

Digital text communication like chat, email and texting have increased our ability to share ideas with one another. The concept for V-TV, or Verbal Television, is to translate text communication to a visual form of communication. V-TV responds to text input by creating a digital art display which becomes a sort of visual poetry.  The piece, is, however limited in its scope and function to respond which perhaps mirrors the idea of the limitations of non face to face communication.


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