I said I would publish the abstract of Avatar Emergency (my book in progress) starting from the conclusion, and did. But now this decision seems a false start, since I am not posting the sections all at once. Therefore, begin again: the first unit, entitled “Avatar.”
The function of avatar in electracy is as the site of a new dimension of identity formation, supplementing spirit (oral) and literate (self) formations. The character of this expanded understanding of avatar is developed by means of analogies, to show its potential functionality as a practice of deliberative (practical) reason appropriate for a digital prosthesis augmenting individual and collective judgment (decision-making). Analogies for Internet-assisted judgment reviewed in this chapter include several relationships, modeling the relationship between player and avatar: Arjuna and Krishna (in Bhagavadgita); citizen and Socrates; Socrates and his Daimon; Titian’s “Allegory of Prudence”; querent and sage in the I Ching; writer and work in Blanchot’s revision of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The rationale for this approach is provided by the popular culture usage of “avatar” to name a player’s icon in online venues. The argument explores the practical consequences of taking seriously the full potential of this Sanskrit name and tradition. “Avatar” means “descent,” referring to the incarnation of a god at a time of crisis. The crisis in our context is that of the General (Internet) Accident described by Paul Virilio: the dromosphere (dimension pollution). The player-avatar relation is associated with the history of practical reason and the virtue of prudence, or good judgment. The proposal is to upgrade prudence from literacy to electracy. Prudence in practice names the ability to use experience of the past to make decisions in present circumstances leading to good outcomes for the collective order in the future: it is a time logic. Virilio’s point is that in the dromosphere (light-speed mediation) all dimensions collapse into Now. What is prudence for the dromosphere? Apparatus theory shows that this upgrade involves not only the outline of a new mode of inference, but a new mode of identity as well. Avatar is identified as the site of a new experience motivating a shift in behavior and even of being, both individually and collectively.