The shivers of teleportation

Navarathna’s shot film. ‘A journey into the metaverse’ playfully and powerfully explores the concept of identity and the supposed boundaries between the ‘real’ self and the ‘virtual’ self, between the real world and the virtual world. It offers a response to Boellstorff’s question, ‘Can the avatar speak?’ (Boellstorff, 2008, p. 149). The narrative focuses on an avatar, abandoned by his creator in Second Life who sets out to find his ‘God’. The avatar initially becomes the master but the film real and virtualexplores how boundaries between virtual and real identities are mutable and shifting; the notion of separation is a false construct and, for the avatar/real ‘self’, ‘chance, reality and virtuality (lose) all sense of definition’. The film blends real world and virtual world footage, further blurring the sense of boundaries between the two domains.

250px-Sannyasin.Indien.Mönch
Sannyasin: a religious ascetic who has renounced the world by performing his own funeral and abandoning all claims to social or family standing

Set in part in India, the film draws some interesting parallels between the fate of the central avatar/self and the Sannyasin, who renounce the material world. Further, meditation, and its power to ‘free the mind and lose ego’ is also referenced. Navarathna thereby alludes to the key concept of what our smeditationelf, our identity is. Where does it lie? What is it? Is virtuality a way of accessing our true, more authentic self? Is the self without place, without fixity, a concept explored by Dennett. In drawing parallels with meditation which requires us to separate from thought, from ego and develop a different sense of what it is to ‘be’, Navarathna posits exploration and immersion within the virtual is also ‘freeing’ – our self can ‘slip through the crack.’

Boellstorff, T. (2008). Personhood. In Coming of Age in Second Life (pp. 118-150). Oxford: Princeton University Press.

2 Replies to “The shivers of teleportation”

  1. Hello Helen,

    That’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought to relate avatar experiences to meditation. I agree that meditation asks us to understand selfhood in a very different way. I’ve been meditating for 20 years and my sense of self is profoundly changed and yet I do still have an experience of ego. It’s just that I don’t exactly imagine myself as fixed or separate any more. It’s summed up somehow in the idea of two-but-not-two …not-two-but-two. An experiences of unbounded interconnected self and somehow still a distinct self … quite tricky to explain. I wonder how this relates to SL experiences? I’m not sure yet. I know the embodied self in interbeing with other material and social elements is strong in meditative experience. Hmmm … will have to think more.

    Best,

    Velda

    1. Hi Velda,

      No, nor had I until I watched this film. I’m quite a novice when it comes to meditation; I started two years ago when I lost some of my hearing in an accident. It was actually part of the hearing therapy and it had swift and profound effects on all of the irksome side-effects which come with hearing loss. However, I didn’t expect it to be so transformative. The disconnection from ‘my’ thoughts, the facility to abstract myself from them and regard them dispassionately has been key to its impact on me. Like you, I need to do more thinking to bring clarity to my ideas about how meditation can be aligned with the disconnection from ‘self’ which Navarthna suggests comes through immersion within MUVEs.

      Best,

      Helen

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