Posted by: glue | March 4, 2010



Avatar as the “self” in electracy emerges in relation to the particular experience of spectacle life.  Freud devoted considerable time trying to pinpoint the exact nature of this feeling.  Going through lexicons he came across Schelling’s term, Unheimlich (Uncanny), and selected it for this purpose.  As an apologue to illustrate the experience Freud referred to Hoffman’s The Sandman, a Pygmalion-Galatea story in which a man falls in love with the automaton Olimpia.

Freud’s choice of term makes an important connection with the Western tradition that is guiding our invention of flash reason as rhetoric for avatar.  The hinge term, Uncanny, as the name of modern identity experience, was Schelling’s translation of “Nemesis.” Schelling’s definition (something hidden that should have remained secret is brought to light) describes the function of Nemesis as one of the personal deities accompanying each  individual at birth.  The five demi-gods are: Daimon (Latin “Genius”), disposition or internal cause; Ananke, Necessity, external cause; Eros (projection of desire); Tyche (Chance or Fortune).  The fifth personal spirit was Nemesis, Retribution (righteous  indignation), representing a principle of measure in the cosmos:  nothing in excess.  Avatar enables an electrate subject to undergo these forces in the mode of consulting.

Goethe translated “Daimon” as “Limit” (Grenze), as part of the updating of this cohort of forces or powers, and replaced Nemesis with Elpis (Hope).  The rationale for this switch perhaps was to clarify that Nemesis as a personal spirit promised through retribution the possibility of redemption.  The drive of Nemesis as measure is to expose whatever violates measure.  Its own disproportion is that the retribution is triggered automatically and without the possibility of negotiation or consideration of mitigating circumstances.

The relevance to the functionality of avatar is this role of Nemesis as archaic Law. The law before which one stands in consultation with avatar is not Nomos but Nemesis.  Hence the aptness of this term to name the feeling of anxiety, apprehension, even horror in Freud’s account of the Uncanny.

(See Davide Stimilli, The Face of Immortality).


  1. […] Unheimlich (04-Mar) […]

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