July 21, 2011

Stage names, avatars, handles and pen names, identity and choice - my life as an avatar

Before the internet went into the public domain in 1993 those of us battling with phone cups, Tandys and Ataris communicated on line using numbers as our 'handle'. Ah the 80s! Life on line seemed so cosy and private.

Moving into the 90s AOL, Compuserve, e-world etc. frowned on using your real name - in fact the only time i ever saw a hint of conformity was in academia. Most of us had a lot of fun making up names and designing or downloading gifs for our avatars and icons - no photos, no reality - what lay on the other side of the screen remained a mystery.

I liked that.

As a composer/producer/songwriter/musician i have always worked 'behind' the scenes, behind the artist, behind the glass, behind the monitor. There were a lot of us who were very happy being faceless before we were dragged into this world of digital instantaneous photo galleries and video.

And many stars, whilst not looking for anonymity, used 'stage names'. Who had heard of Declan MacManus, Reginald Dwight, Gordon Sumner, Adam Copeland or more recently Stefani Germanotta? 

Psychologically I would think it separates them from their on stage persona or sometimes they choose an easier name to remember - I mean Jay-Z is a lot easier than Shawn Corey Carter 

So because i enjoy making a wide variety of music it made a lot of sense for me to have a different image to front the different styles of music i was releasing myself - like having a different band name for different projects. Today it would be called 'branding'

Madame la Pulse was my first in the 90s - a dancing avatar with a top hat and cane - the madame of the house of groove! LOL

in 2003 i embarked on an electronica project called aTHeNa BLue - again an avatar was used - the artist Paul Harmon kindly let me use one of his paintings as the image that defined aTHeNa BLue 
Since 2006 i have been experimenting with music and artistic creative collaboration in virtual worlds using the avatar JaNa KYoMooN playing ambient reflective music and taking full advantage of having a 3D avatar that amazingly walks, talks and performs - we've come a long way baby from that animated gif!

and behind all of these on line identities is JaN PuLSFoRD -  i'm so easy to find, i'm not hiding from anyone - it's just a creative thing i do out of choice!

Facebook suspended the JaNa KYoMooN account with no warning and thousands of others in a weekend known as the virtual rapture -  and last weekend the same thing happened with Google Plus. There are many profiles missing - we had such high hopes after the mess that is Facebook but the corporate mindset that has taken over the web has other ideas. Our accounts are deemed as fake and unless we use our real life name and photograph we are suspended.

Aside from all the other issues it raises ( like identity theft, corporations keeping tabs on you etc.) it is really about choice - our choice as citizens of the internet to be who we want to be.

I would love to know what Tim Berners-Lee thinks about all of this . . 

Footnote: Since writing this G+ have reinstated me with no explanation - along with William Shatner!