Category Archives: Appearance

Physical appearance in Second Life, and how it matters, or doesn’t, as the case may be.

Default Erbo 2.0

As part of my own ongoing program of changes, I’ve made some adaptations to my original “Default Erbo” outfit. It still looks like me as I would when going to work, it’s just a different outfit, with some higher-quality clothes and new gear. Danielle’s influence, of course, is still felt, but in some slightly different ways.

The shirt and pants are now from Blaze, one of the best providers of menswear in Second Life. (I swear by their wool suits with flexi ties.) The black casual slacks and white golf shirt closely resemble items from my RL wardrobe, except the shirt has an “Avaltus” logo on it (one of the companies I used to work for) rather than the Blaze flame logo.

I needed a second set of shoes for this outfit, so I got another pair of brown nubuck leather shoes from D2TK, which is now at a new island location. They’re Version 3 of the shoes, with more built in walk animations and colored sole and lace options. I don’t need the walk animations, but I turned the soles dark to better match my RL Timberland shoes.

Danielle found a good new hairstyle for me, from (where else?) GuRL 6, now at their new “GuRLyWood” island location. It’s the “Mr. Nice Guy” style in dark brown, done by Six Kennedy’s partner Dominik Bauer. It also resembles my RL hair in many respects, especially when it hasn’t been cut for awhile…though I’ll continue to use the Pazazz Metro Brown for some outfits, too.

The skin and attachments remain unchanged, though I’ve added one more attachment, at Danielle’s urging: a Reverie Virtual Systems “Ultimate Male Animation Override.” Chris Ellsworth had one of these before he died; every time I type “/ao on”, it’s like a little reminder of his presence, which is comforting. Plus, there’s no denying the AO gives better animations than the default; the “flying” animations, in particular, really do make me look like Superman.

And, once again, a tool by the esteemed Ms. Ordinal Malaprop has helped me to produce this blog entry; this time, it’s the “SLurlblogger,” a device that lets you take notes based on location and then E-mail all those notes to yourself, properly tagged with their locations and SLurls. An invaluable blogging tool for explorers of the Grid, it may be had gratis from her freebie box at Ordinal Enterprises at The Lighthouse, Caledon.

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Redux Episode VI: Appearance Shifts

When last I covered identity and appearance here on Evans Avenue Exit, I focused on the things that remain constant when people change appearances, the “cues” they give to their identity. This time, we consider the flip side: how about the things that change?

To be sure, changes in appearance are nothing novel in SL; when one can change one’s entire look as easily as one changes one’s socks, some people allow their appearances to flow like water. Others stay rooted to one basic form, with only minor variations. I posit that these alterations have one of two possible rationales:

  1. People change to allow them to express “different sides” of their personality.
  2. People change to allow them to better express their basic personality.

I’ve seen two examples of the latter recently. Triste has included wings in his “standard” appearance, as well as a Victorian formal outfit. Yet both of them seem to fit his personality, bringing it into sharper focus. Perhaps the wings better give him the air of someone dealing with the supernatural, as he does in his role as minister. (They serve a practical purpose as well; they hold the script that displays what his music stream is playing at any given moment.) And Danielle has darkened her standard skin color; it’s a change from the “peaches and cream” look she had at our wedding, but not a particularly jarring one. I’ve opined that it gives her an exotic look, like a dusky tropical maiden, or like a Vietnamese lady I knew back in college. She’s still the same Danielle, just in a different hue. (Of course, pregnancy has changed her looks, too…but pregnant women always look beautiful, in RL or SL.)

On the other side, Torley has so many aspects to her (his) personality that it’s hard not to think of each of them as different individuals, representatives of a great “Council of Torleys” drawn from the farthest reaches of space-time. The “Tollie” avatar she recently used (as documented by Yours Truly here), for instance, seems to represent a “protective” aspect of Torley, taken to its logical conclusion as “Marshall Tollie.” Yet her other aspects are always coming to the fore, sharing a moment in the sun and moving on. Yet this is only the most dramatic example; lesser examples, such as my friend Matt’s flirtation with furrydom (as documented by me previously) exist.

I’ve dealt in both sides of the equation myself. Some of the changes I’ve made, such as the prim hair and the Natural Skin, have allowed me to look “more like me” to myself. Other changes, such as my “dangerous outfit” and the various “Goth Erbo” looks, have allowed me to go directions I wouldn’t have gone in RL. (At the extreme, I have a lion avatar, that Danielle thinks of as “Simba” while I think of it more as “Aslan.” I haven’t used it much, which is probably a shame…) And “Default Erbo” isn’t as much of a default as it once was; often times I pick my outfit with a white shirt, khaki tie, and khaki pants, and my gray pinstripe suit is always a hit (especially last night, when I got the right “look” for The Gin Rummy’s opening by combining it with a snazzy fedora). And, often times, instead of my Bent, I’ll be wearing the Superman pendant that Danielle found for me…encouraged by the fact that she calls me “Superman” often. And this despite the fact that I’m all too Clark Kent-ish a personality…:-)

I could go on and on for hours about this, I suppose (and already have done, in fact), but I suppose the fact of the matter is this: Identity, like everything else in SL, is what you make of it. And appearances, while they offer cues to our identity or identities no matter what, can mislead as much as they assist…they may be anything from a profound statement to a conversation piece. Two of Miyamoto Musashi’s principles from The Book of Five Rings are useful to keep in mind: “Learn to see everything accurately” and “Become aware of what is not obvious.” As you journey through Second Life, keep those in mind, and you can’t go far wrong.

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The Song Remains The Same: Identity Cues

(or, “Well, Erbo, you wanted excitement…”)

First of all, Tateru: Touche. But I note that, even as a furry, you’ve retained some of your “visual identity cues” from your “standard” avatar…the dress and the flower are the most obvious two. For me, that made that image of you instantly recognizable, despite the furry body. I’ve seen this with another of my friends, too; when matt27 Churchill went furry for awhile, he retained sufficient identity cues, such as the rose he carries, to provide a “bridge” between his previous identity and that one.

This makes me wonder: When people change their visual identity in such a manner, do they often leave “identity cues” like that, consciously or subconsciously, that provide this kind of bridge? Certainly, I have done so…as in the case of my “Goth Erbo” appearance. (And I wish I had a picture of it to post here…but I couldn’t find one either on Snapzilla or Electric Minds.) The body shape is still my own, of course, but, in addition, I added a silver version of my Bent to the outfit. And it still felt like me, despite the pale-bordering-on-ghostly skin, the black eyeliner, black lipstick, black nail polish, and black hair…none of which I would ever do to myself in RL.

But there’s another point to consider, one which I neglected to make in my last post…not all “identity cues” are visual. A big identity cue for me is typing style, and vocabulary, as well. For instance, only Torley seems to use the words “Yayzerama!” and “Thanxies.” (When I was talking with her not long ago, I actually used the word “kewlzerama” when I spoke at one point, mimicking her style. She said, “I’ve got to use that word more often!” šŸ™‚ ) It could be as simple as how people express laughter; Travis would say “hehe” where I might say “LOL,” and someone else might say “lol” in lower-case. It could be people’s use of “smilies” in text; I tend to the three-character “:-)” where others favor the simpler “:)”. (Onionpencil Musashi often uses “XD”; I never quite “got” that one…) At an extreme, my coworker Ed uses a very “clipped” way of speaking in chat and IM, which is sometimes hard for me (and others) to understand. I tend to the opposite end myself, trying to type in a more “literary” fashion, though sometimes I forget my capitalization if I’m in a hurry. (And don’t forget gestures! Many people make more use of SL’s gestures than I do, and they’ll prefer a variety of different ones. I don’t use them quite as much because I’m always forgetting the commands or key-bindings.) Sadly, Tateru, I haven’t spent enough time around you to know your typing style as well as I might/should…

Those of us that are bloggers and blog-commenters have another way of expressing our identity, too…through our writings here online. I’ve had more than one person in-world tell me that they liked my writing style here on Evans Avenue Exit, for instance. It also offers us an opportunity to influence the opinions of those people who are not (yet) Residents. And that brings us full-circle…Tateru, your change in appearance didn’t alter my first impression of you, mainly because, via your blog, I had already formed a “first impression” of you before I ever set foot on the Grid. It was a favorable one, to be sure…you struck me as an intelligent person, and someone who knew an awful lot about online community, a subject near and dear to my own heart. And, as one of the first SL bloggers I ever read, you may have helped influence me to “take the plunge” in the first place. How’s that for a job of “mentoring”?

(Oh, and while we’re owning our own clarity here…Mera, at least part of my reaction to your new appearance was overexaggeration, for dramatic effect. But you probably already figured that out.)

UPDATE: Herewith, for your entertainment, is Goth Erbo:

Also, read the comments for Danielle’s important observation and my reply.

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Identity And Appearance, Redux

Mera seems surprised at her reaction to her new look. While I was among the most startled by her new look, which appears to almost completely eschew the color for which she is best known, her reaction got me thinking: How much of our Second Life’s identity is defined by our appearance?

This isn’t the first time this topic has come up; Tateru actually wrote about this last month. In her posting, she mainly dealt with the way people expose aspects of themself through their choice of appearance in SL. There’s a flip side to this, of course; how does our appearance influence other people’s perceptions of us…particularly when some aspect of that appearance becomes iconic of us?

Iconic appearances are certainly common among SL personalities. Of course, everybody knows the first example to cite: Torley. Torley is actually a unique case, because she changes her appearance so frequently. (Of course, this can also be interpreted as bringing out other members of the “Council of Torleys” to play in SL…which leads me to wonder if there is not in fact an eternal Torley-spirit, which chose to give its name to the young man who became the Torley we all know and love. Kind of like Pater Pan describing how “the spirit of the name chose me” in his name tale, in Norman Spinrad’s Child of Fortune. But I digress.) One constant is always present, though…the colors of the watermelon, bright pink and green. Anywhere I see those colors juxtaposed, I suspect Torley’s influence…and without them, Torley would not be, well, Torley.

There are other good examples too…Tateru’s Victorian-Gothic attire, Travis Lambert’s “Brian from Family Guy” avatar, Akela‘s white wolf, Dolmere‘s skeleton, Aimee Weber’s butterfly wings…the list goes on. And, for Mera, the iconic aspect of her appearance is…the purple. She herself has encouraged it…witness her blog tagline, her group title, her “typing” animation override. For her to turn around and seemingly abandon it…well, it just breaks our metaphors. Looking at Mera and not seeing purple has, in effect, changed her identity in our minds.

By the way, Mera, that’s the answer to your question about “why didn’t anyone notice my lack of glasses?”: When you change something as fundamental as the purple is for you, all other changes become trivial by comparison, and easy to miss. Besides, glasses, or lack thereof, are easy to miss anyway. I wear them myself on occasion–I was wearing them when I spoke at Chris’ memorial service, as the photograph will attest–and I don’t think anyone really notices one way or the other. (I wear them to give myself a slightly older and more distinguished appearance on occasion…they make me look more like my father, I think. In RL, I only wear glasses when I don’t have my contacts in.)

Do I have any iconic appearance qualities? Probably just my own face; I set it up to resemble my RL face, and haven’t changed it since Day One. (I adjusted my height…but that’s not the same thing.) There is my “Default Erbo” outfit, but I don’t always wear it…and Danielle would probably prefer I wear it as little as possible. Sometimes, too, I switch out the Bent for the Superman pendant that was a gift from Danielle, or I wear that pendant with other outfits as appropriate.

What would have to change about us before we’d no longer be recognizable as us? That’s a good question to keep in mind…especially in SL, where we can all look like anything imaginable.

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Default Erbo

Have you any idea how hard it is to find decent menswear in Second Life? Or, at the very least, decent casual menswear?

Seems like, when you look at the various clothing stores in SL, 90% of the available goods are for women…and 90% of what there is for men, RL me wouldn’t be caught dead in. (SL Erbo has a bit wider taste now, thanks to the influence of people like Val and Danielle…but I digress.)

One of the first good outfits I ever created was the outfit I now think of as “Default Erbo.” It closely resembles me as I look when I go to work each day, which is at a company where casual dress is pretty much the norm, and, even then, I’m about the best-dressed person there. It’s been augmented a little bit here and there, and now looks more like “me” than ever before. Here’s how I wound up doing it:

The shirt and pants are from Swell Second Life. I found the Khaki Belted Pants there, and was delighted to see that they had a decent polo shirt as well, the Original Hippo Polo in Charcoal Gray. (Yes, I’m aware of the semisacred status of hippos in SL…)

The shoes are Brown Nubuck Leather Shoes from D2TK. They closely resemble my RL shoes (which are Timberlands) and come with built-in animation overrides for walking, which isn’t all that big a deal to me, but is a nice touch.

My hair is Metro Brown from Pazazz, one of the few decent sources for men’s hair. That style rather resembles the way I like to have my hair cut, and the brown tone is close enough to my natural hair color.

I’ve taken to wearing a Natural Skin, in a rather pale color and without facial hair. This was mainly Danielle’s influence, but I found it made me look more like “me,” so I was delighted.

The eyes are a relatively new addition, from Deadly Nightshade Design Studios. They’re contacts in Seamist, which, again, is close to my natural eye color.

And there are three attachments I usually go around with; one of Timeless Prototype’s incomparable Multi Gadgets, a Deluxe Hug & Kiss Attachment from Maura & Phil’s Animations (7th floor…but check out the rest while you’re there, they do good work), and, of course, my wedding band, which is part of the Diamond Platinum Wedding Set from RICX’s Fine Jewelry.

The one grace note of my outfit that is uniquely my own is the pendant I wear…it’s the Bent of Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society, which I am totally entitled to wear in RL (but the one I have is quite a bit smaller in proportion to the rest of me). I created it in SL as a reflection of my desire to master the engineering principles of the SL world. I used a gold texture I created in The GIMP; I also have silver variants (OK, white gold, really) that I use with other outfits. If you click it, it actually displays object text reading “Erbo Evans – Tau Beta Pi – California Sigma ’90.” (This is my actual chapter and graduation year.)

Note: This post would not have been possible without the use of the SLurlchatter 0.12.1, from Ordinal Malaprop. Get one from her freebie bin at Ordinal Enterprises at The Lighthouse, Caledon.

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