The Birth of an Artistic Avatar

tool theme for publishingpioneer

This is a transitional time in my work—expanding creativity into new formats. As a dedicated blogger, keeping my three blogs (this one, The Idea Initiator) vibrant was my greatest creative outlet until a month ago. Then my view of reality completely changed because I discovered virtual reality!

But first, I am struck continuously with the flexibility of creative blogging. As a traditionally trained designer whose career has gone from rubber cement pasteups to single line digital typesetting to desktop publishing to web sites, usually the work that I do is done when it is done. But with cyber publishing, the most fun is to mold, experiment, and try new techniques. Using this blog as my creative sketchpad and presentation, it has to reflect my new direction.

Little did I know that by exploring virtual reality, not only would I find myself there, discover a greater voice, but that I would develop yet another extension and new dimensions of myself! In creating my avatar, she is taller, blonder, and younger, but my personality has infused her in the same way it rules my real social and artistic life. Already, I have found a character, a voice, and even a profession there!

Avatar activities

My avatar looks appropriate for my activities. Very busy, posing from left to right: touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, visiting a Tudor Palace, attending a lecture, shopping in a bookstore, and sitting in discussion.

I thought long and hard about being someone else in virtual reality—especially taking on a male persona. It is tempting because the biggest differences I feel between male and female social roles is primarily one of mobility. As in real life (RL), in Second Life (SL), I don’t go to parties or bars by myself. I avoid public places to hang around. And I notice through interactions that male aggressiveness still dominates.

My avatar has defined our interests and discovered not only satisfying activities, but and entire world complete with politics, competition, and complex relationships. Primarily I (we?) spend time:


 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian1.Taking classes.
Not only are there free (but you must tip) seminars for building skills in Second Life, there are interactive tutorials for Photoshop and web applications. There are many inworld educations sims in addition to major universities that offer programs that do require enrollment.

tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian2. Doing research. With my preoocupation on nonprofit design, I have reviewed Nonprofit Commons and go to their weekly meetings. Several of my friends have RL offices and find that SL helps them become internationally visible, fundraise, and do communitiy organization.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian3. Attending discussions. Perhaps the most fun for me is participating in several groups of penetrating conversation. There is a freedom of expression present, and ability to confess and vent, that is protected because your ‘friends’ don’t know who you really are. I have connected with a few in RL in case my computer goes down—someone to contact any commitments i have made.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian4. Visiting bookstores. Learning about how publishing is handled in SL actually offers several exciting new formats. Most of the bookstores direct sales to a website housing Amazon links. But there is a new presentation that more mirrors an actual publication: IntelliBook. I have found several people who use this new mini-page format really well. I have yet to prepare one myself as the software is about $30. I will do it when i have a solid idea.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian5. Tour art galleries. This is also very frustrating. Most of the galleries are really middle-of-the-road. Going through the 1,000 resident there, it is an ongoing preoccupation to find the diamonds in the rough. I keep my ears oopen and ask people i meet for suggestions.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian6. Participate in groups. This can be the black hole of my activityies very easily. There is a group, or more than one, for every interest that i have. There are events, presentations, parties, and exhanges offered, as each group leader competes to host the coolest and most attended activities.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian7. Explore historic sites. I can’t help it, but this is probably my favorite part of SL. The recreations are absolutely astounding. The educational value of these presentations, I believe, is going to be one of the major forces to legitimize SL from its initial bad reputation of being a place for play and sex.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian8. Hear music. there is an explosion of creative mustical presentation in SL! It must be having a major impact on that industry. Combining a lot of technical skills, though, with good musical ones is an editor. Yet, the international arena has opened us innocent avatars to music we could have never heard otherwise.

 tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian9. Parties. I don’t do this much, but sometimes I go dancing with my “best friend” on a mountain top. She likes Philosophy Island, which I find way to esoteric, but we share tastes in many of our activities and she is someone I can go places with I wouldn’t otherwise. (In RL, she lives in San Diego and is a health care professional.) The dancing is hilarious to watch. Avatars just click on a dance ball and off they go! The costumes, the antics, and the interactions are very well done! And while the “avis” dance, all participants are listening to music and chatting. These are intense and all-encompassing experiences!

tools of the trade by Liane Sebastian 10. Role Play. This is the most serious black hole that can eat up hours without notice! I investigated about ten of them (historic ones) and discovered Chicago Roaring 20s just when the owner/developer had sold it to a new owner. There was a large group that initiated the sim beginning about a year ago, but they have dispersed to other interests. Rather than close the sim, a new group stepped forward. Little did I know all this, but soon discovered that this is a great place to build my professional skills! The developers now are all very helpful, teaching, and experienced. Most of them are couples, to my dismay. Yet it turns out that i am the only player who is actually from chicago, garnering me respect and authority.

There are real advantages jumping into SL now, four years old, versus at the beginning like most of my friends have done, half of which are super-techy scriptors who find creative outlets in constructing islands, buildings, and sims. Most of the women that i know are very into decorating their houses and hostessing events there. The fashion aspect, as a designer, has caught my attention. But unlike the majority of females in SL, I don’t spend a lot of time on outfits. I can’t help but feel it is like playing with dolls. On the other hand, how you look is extremely important—it is your business card. So reluctantly (and i do admit it is fun), I dress my little comic self in ways that i so or wish i could in RL.

Most importantly, virtual reality is nothing short of a new communication and creative medium (it is more than that but reflects my interests). Learning how to combine RL publishing, internet platforms, and virtual reality together is my greatest passion at the moment.

Liane Sebastian, illustrator, designer, writer, and publishing pioneer

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