Philosophy of Computer Games | Athens 2011


I have the presentation, Animals & Avatars, on Google Docs.  [Update:  Animals & Avatars.]

Here’s a snippet of the introduction:

When I say “I am my avatar,” what do I mean?

What this claim does not seem to mean (at least not currently) is that “I” and “my avatar” are identical.  The conventional and original sense of “I” seems, in fact, relatively unscathed by this claim.  Rather, this claim seems to mean more nearly something like “My digital game avatar shares some portion of my personal identity.”  Or, perhaps, “My digital game avatar references some portion of my personal identity.”

These two claims are quite distinct in that the first is much stronger than the second.  As Saussure (1983) and other semioticians have shown us, referent-reference relationships are often arbitrary.  And thus, the significance of a digital game avatar referencing some portion of personal identity can possibly be no more than that of the three words “my personal identity” referencing some portion of personal identity.  In order to make “I am my avatar” a philosophically significant claim, we need to consider that a digital game avatar has unique properties, beyond those of say, a car, or a diet, or a drawing — and that these properties do more than simply reference personal identity existing elsewhere.  Somehow, to be non-trivial, these properties must indicate my personal identity — what constitutes my personhood — is significantly linked, at least in part, with a digital object.

How can such a claim be made coherent?

…and here’s a little of the part near the end:

In any case, I offer this account of analogous functions of digital and human interfaces as a means of mediating psychological and bodily versions of personal identity and, along the way, offering a coherent account (though perhaps not the only one) of what I mean when I say “I am my avatar.”  Prior to my avatar being a coherent and credible part of my personal identity, the digital interface that connects me to that avatar must be a coherent and credible part of my animal identity.  This puts a slightly different spin on the problem of personal identity being replaced or substituted or shared.  In this context, we are more concerned with personal identity being living.