"Let us make the woman in our image, in our likeness... only hotter."

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Sat Nov 8 21:31:52 PST 2003


Via ars, some fun bits:

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http://arstechnica.com/news/posts/1068240062.html

   "Let us make the woman in our image, in our likeness... only hotter."

Posted 11/07/2003 @ 3:21 PM, by Ken "Caesar" Fisher

Next week a new international beauty contest will be launched in Italy, 
but the winner won't be reveling in chocolate and champagne. Rather, 
she'll be packed back up into 3D Studio Max or some other 3D 
application, because this contest is for virtual women only. Here she 
is, Miss Digital World! The idea of crowning an "ideal beauty" that 
doesn't actually exist is a bit novel, to say the least. Yet, virtual 
women are nothing new. They can be seen ranging from the digitally 
touched-up women that grace TV, movies, and advertisements, all the way 
to the fully-digitized actresses that made movies such as Final Fantasy 
so fantastic.

There are several interesting things about this contest, all ripe for 
discussion. For one, I find it fascinating that although we're talking 
about digital creations, the contest precludes any submissions that 
have "engaged" in questionable "behavior" in the past. In addressing 
which virtual women are eligible, organizers had this to say:

"They should not have taken part -- not even as extras or cameos -- in 
pornographic films, shows or plays nor have made statements...in any 
way out of tune with the moral spirit of the competition," organizers 
said.

So, they may not be real, but we don't want their moral fiber to be 
questionable, and oddly, we prefer that they not talk (!). But then, 
what makes a digital model, a model? Would your porn-loving model 
become a brand new creation with, say, a change of eye color alone? 
What is the genealogy for digital representations of people? Is Max 
Headroom the Genghis Khan of virtual models?

Some of the readers who mailed in this story were rather alarmed at 
what the contest signals for where society is headed. The question 
revolves around just how much sense it makes to start heading down the 
path of non-real beauty and virtual human depiction. Humans have this 
remarkable capacity for visual learning. You can see children imitating 
their mannerisms of their parents long before they're able to 
articulate what it is they're doing or why. The visual gaze is one of 
the most powerful diffusive aspects of culture, but what if the case is 
directed towards unreal representations of who we are (or, rather, 
aren't)?

In the case of young women, there's an absurd amount of pressure to 
conform to media-manufactured ideals of appearance (men don't get out 
of this scot-free, either). The bar is already really high: you'd have 
to limit yourself to three sunflower seeds a day, some strategically 
placed injections, and a never-ending Gift Certificate at Armani 
Exchange if you want to keep up. What happens when and if that bar gets 
raised to the completely virtual level? Those who would postulate some 
kind of trans-human psychological unity (a shared cognitive process for 
appreciating beauty, for example) would argue that the strictures for 
beauty are a constant, and therefore it's irrelevant where they are 
found or how they are produced. Beauty is beauty, regardless of make or 
model.

However, if one believes that beauty is not a constant, but rather is 
produced on a societal or cultural level, one may also believe that the 
representation of beauty carries with it certain ethical components. 
Already it is unacceptable, for example, to explicitly deny someone 
opportunity merely because they don't look like a movie star. Is taking 
beauty to the level of the virtual ethically questionable? I suspect 
most people would argue that so-called real-world beauties are already 
so fake and so manufactured that substituting a digital woman for a 
real one is hardly any loss. But it's still an interesting social 
question: with technology coming closer and closer to depicting humans 
in an astonishingly real, yet virtual (therefore interactive, not just 
static) sense, what are the implications of the modern day, "Let us 
make women in our image, in our likeness... only hotter."



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