Hacking into Avatars as Proxies: Towards a Philosophy of technology of digital substitution Author
Organização:  CFCUL
Ciências ULisboa, Building C6
13 / 07 / 2023

This paper presents a scenic philosophy of technology of digital proxies in Avatar Studies working on Digital Substitution. We discuss the possibility of proxies in Avatar Studies in different scenes: a) Stellvertretung, b) Advocacy, c) Delegation, d) Substitution, e) Data Othering, related to human rationalities of cognition, will and sensibility such as learning, thinking and listening, speaking, socially behaving, autonomous acting, and creating inside a framework for exploring digital substitution of these categories and their relations. We examine ethical and aesthetic implications of different avatar types, including creative, heritage, and digital twins, and quantify others. Working with Levinas’ philosophy, we explore the concept of substitution confronting ML/”AI” avatar creations. We highlight the ambivalent nature (e.g., stochastic hallucinations of language vectors vs. dialogue) of using digital proxies as representatives, actuating systems as substitutes, surrogates and digital twins (for remote monitoring, enhancements, personalization for what-if scenarios) as spokespersons. Avatars can be used as proxies for physical presence in virtual space. The history of theatrical, theological, juridical, and narrative models of proxies demonstrates their constitutive ambivalence enhanced by virtual, animated and image-like entities such as Avatars when endowed by technical tools such as Machine Learning and other AI and digital tools that displace them. Yet, personification and representation enable agency only by simultaneously complicating an agent’s integrity, authority, and presence. Can digital proxies such as AI Avatars be our representatives, spokespersons, and testimonies? We question whether digital proxies can be our (personal, political, social) spokespersons (such as the chorus in Greek theatre) by exploring the intersection of ethics and aesthetics, law, and politics in avatar studies, we contribute to the broader philosophical debate on the digital in dramaturgies and technologies of becoming other.

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