Exploring Digital Identity Through Avatars: A Look at Drax’s Our Digital Selves Documentary

Alice Bonasio has written an article for The Next Web about Draxtor Despres (a.k.a. Bernhard Drax in real life) and his recently-completed documentary called Our Digital Selves: My Avatar Is Me.

Titled Exploring Digital Identity Through Avatars, the article looks at how a variety of differently abled people choose to represent themselves in virtual worlds such as Second Life.

For those that speculate about the potential of social VR, it is interesting to note how inhabiting a virtual world allows these people to form and maintain meaningful relationships and connections with others, as SL user iSkye Silverweb recounts:

I don’t think my partner and I ever would have met in the physical world, even if we were in the same city, and it is because I am deaf.  Communication IS an issue for me; I would always be concerned about it, with meeting anyone.

It’s a raw and intensely emotional investigation into the power of living vicariously through an avatar, and how this – as one user puts it – “provides her with sustenance” and helps people to cope with all manner of both mental and physical disabilities.

It’s a great article and I urge you to go over to The Next Web and read it in full.

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Cody Lascala wearing a VR headset in Sansar
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Cody LaScala and His Project

Me and Cody Lascala in Sansar 26 May 2018
Cody LaScala (right) and I in Sansar

My introduction to Cody LaScala was via Draxtor Despres’s documentary Our Digital Selves: My Avatar Is Me, where he was one of 13 individuals with differing abilities interviewed by Drax. Cody LaScala is someone who comes quite often into Sansar, and I have gotten to know him over the past few weeks as he has attended Atlas Hopping.

After today’s Atlas Hopping, Cody invited me to join him in Second Life so we could talk about his project: he wants to start up a movie studio in SL!

Cody Lascala and me 26 May 2018
Cody LaScala (right) and I in Second Life

And I have offered Cody my help in getting this project off the ground. I am a born Second Life shopper, and I can assemble a really detailed, well-put-together avatar like nobody’s business! Surely that skillset could come in handy when starting up a movie studio!

Cody’s story can be read here. He has severe cerebral palsy as the result of a near-drowning in a swimming pool when he was just one year old. But Cody is much more than just his disability!

Virtual worlds like Sansar and Second Life provide a sort of level playing field for people with disabilities like Cody, allowing them to present themselves to others as they wish. For many people with differing abilities, virtual worlds may offer them the first opportunity in their lives to be able to self-disclose their disabilities when and where they wish, rather than having people just see a disabled person first and foremost. In Sansar or Second Life, other people don’t see a wheelchair first, they just see Cody!

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Picture of Cody LaScala in real life (taken from Cody LaScala’s Triumphant Story on the NAPA Center website)

So, we are embarking on a wonderful adventure. Perhaps you’d like to join Cody in his dream of founding a movie studio in Second Life? The more the merrier! Just send me a message via this blog or in-world in either Sansar or Second Life (I also told Cody I would support his project by blogging about it today). Sound off in the comments! Thanks 🙂

Drax’s Our Digital Selves Documentary is Now Available to Watch on YouTube

Cody and Donna at Linden Lab
Cody Lascala and Donna Davis at Linden Lab headquarters in San Francisco (still from the documentary Out Digital Selves)

Earlier this month, I had written about Draxtor Despres (a.k.a Bernhard Drax) and his documentary on the experiences of people with disabilities in virtual worlds, titled Our Digital Selves: My Avatar Is Me. Drax interviewed 13 people with a variety of disabilities for this film. Among the locations which Drax visited for this documentary were the corporate offices of High Fidelity and Linden Lab (the latter is the company behind the Second Life and Sansar platforms).

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day,  the purpose of which is to is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities. So Drac decided to release his documentary today, instead of tomorrow as he had originally intended!

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I was able to watch a preview of this documentary, and I enjoyed it very much! I think you will too.