Bodies, Selves

Participants in online “virtual worlds” such as Second Life create alternative selves compounded of real minds and fictional bodies; as these alternative selves, they perform fictional actions. This process can be compared to the psychoanalytic transference, in which the analysand and analyst perform fictional actions as alternative selves. In arguing for these claims, the author develops a theory of human agency as a process of “animating one’s body.” He draws on the work of computer scientists who design “believable agents,” which in turn draws on the experience of cinematic animators. The paper concludes that the fictional actions of the transference are instances of real agency.