Avatar Ethics: Beyond Images and Signs
Journal for Cultural Research
Emmanuel Levinas argues that moral responsibility is enacted in the encounter between two people. Increasingly, however, encounters take place online and, rather than between two people, are mediated by virtual representatives known as avatars. In this paper I explore the theoretical conditions for grounding encounters between users mediated by these online proxies, and the extent that they can be convincingly cast as moral. First, I draw on aesthetic theory in order to argue that online
... ments in which such interactions occur can gesture towards the moral responsibilities experienced in the offline world. Second, I explore ways of grounding the encounter in these online environments through theories of signification, ultimately utilising Jean-Franҫois Lyotard's notion of the tensor read alongside the Levinasian ethical demand. Altogether, this paper attempts to provide an articulation of the very possibility of responsibility enacted and mediated through avatars and, as such, focuses upon the basic conditions of moral life online in order to provide a theoretical grounding.