Digital avatars in meatspace, and the absence thereof

Your mobile phone prompts you with an alert. You excuse yourself from your physical context to enter the digital realm. Is it a relief to escape to cyberspace or rather a nuisance to leave “meatspace”?

If you were born in the 20th century, you almost certainly recall the absence of a digital realm. At best a landline telephone might have transported you to a far away physical place to communicate with another human through the natural medium of voice. Like it or not, you once had to find comfort in meatspace — it’s all there was!

If you were born in the 21st century, you might not be able to fathom the absence of a digital realm. In fact you might not be able to fathom the absence of your digital self:  the avatar that emerged in cyberspace through countless interactions with the web and social media. Your generation was the first to grow up with a choice of realms in which to find comfort.

So, is it a relief when your mobile phone interrupts to invite you to join your digital self online? Regardless of your age, cyberspace has become quite comfortable, no? The online places that you visit know you and they treat you just the way you like. Of course they would: your avatar is unforgettable! It represents the very best of “you” and perhaps even more!

Now imagine instead that the notification on your mobile phone read as follows:

Would you like to invite your digital self to join you here?

How interesting would it be to have your avatar at your side right right now? Might your avatar select the perfect song to play next on the stereo by comparing its recent playlists with those of nearby avatars? Might your avatar cheekily post a recent tweet or Instagram pic of yours as graffiti on the next digital display you pass? Might the presence of your mighty avatar, the emergent ideal self, make you feel superhuman in your own skin?

Should it not be as fun to invite your avatar to meatspace as it has been for them to invite you to cyberspace? (as they so often do!)

Ironically, as we recently argued, such invitations may be postponed by reticence on the part of the companies that benefit so handsomely from our continued comfort in cyberspace! But one can only delay the inevitable so long…

Imagine the legacy of the Internet of Things generation: a baby born today may never be able to fathom the absence of digital avatars in meatspace!

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