Avatars, SECOND LIFE®, and New Media Art: The Challenge for Contemporary Art Education

By Liao, Christine L. | Art Education, March 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Avatars, SECOND LIFE®, and New Media Art: The Challenge for Contemporary Art Education


Liao, Christine L., Art Education


Social networking technologies and online virtual communities are popular among youth. In order to participate in the online environment and represent a user, people create avatars, which may convey certain aspects of their identities. The visual presentation of avatars in cyberspace is a component of visual culture in the virtual world. How people communicate their identities through online social networking technologies, such as MySpace®1 or Second Life®2, is a crucial question for understanding the impact of new media on identity and communication. Art educators can participate in this discourse by discussing new media art that concerns online identity. Second Life (SL), an online 3D environment, presents opportunities for art education, including art creation, online exhibitions, education and communication through virtual environment, and learning about 3D space experiences.3 SL also brings issues for educators to ponder, such as identity, visual culture, and capitalism. This article discusses examples of new media art, which uses SL as a medium for the creation and play of identities through avatars.

New Media Art

New media art encompasses the use of digital technologies and the Internet as media, but new media art is more than these. It is both a hybrid production and an interplay between art, technology, and humans. New media art includes digitality, interactivity, hypertextuality, dispersal, and virtuality (Lister, Dovey, Giddings, Grant, & Kelly, 2003). Digital communication technologies give rise to these characteristics and "are all imbricated into the organization of culture, work and leisure with all the economic and social determinations that involves" (Lister et al., 2003, p. 37). However, the characteristics of new media art do not simply show the function of technology, but also critique and creatively explore those functions as meaning-making systems within human systems of communication. New technologies not only provide artists with new ways of expression but also involve artists in every facet of life (Popper, 1993). Thus, the study of new media art involves the study of everyday experiences as shared social issues and requires an inquiry into technology and its impact on human society.

New media is not just a tool but also a medium, a cultural interface connecting humans, technology, and culture (Manovich, 2001). In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich (2001) explained that new media art cannot be separated into content and medium, but must be combined to form the interface. He stated, "It is the work's interface that creates its unique materiality and a unique user experience" (pp. 66-67). Further, he described, when computer-based technology becomes a way of distributing cultural information, "We are no longer interfacing to a computer but to culture encoded in digital form" (pp. 69-70). He used the term "cultural interface" to describe a "human-computer-culture interface-the ways in which computers present and allow us to interact with cultural data" (p. 70). In other words, the computer is not a technology that artists use to create art, but a cultural interface that contains human experiences. Therefore, when looking at a work that includes the computer, ignoring its interface with culture is inappropriate. By approaching technology as a cultural interface, it is possible to interpret meanings of new media art in terms of technology's impact on humans, culture, and society. Culture encoded in technology, translated by new media art, becomes a language of art that reflexively criticizes its cultural meaning. For instance, the Internet, as a cultural interface, has an undeniable impact on identity transformation in contemporary society. The Internet provides a space for many people to experiment with different personas and challenges traditional understandings of identity (Turkle, 1995). New media artists, such as Tina LaPorta, critique and question "how we define ourselves in virtual as well as networked physical space" (Paul, 2003, p.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Avatars, SECOND LIFE®, and New Media Art: The Challenge for Contemporary Art Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.