Large Image Display:Simone: Split Personage

This single still is from the widescreen version of the 2002 VR film Simone. It has been considerably scaled back from the original material.

In Lessons from Simone: Avatar Embodiment, it was discussed how Simone, not just as a film, but as a window into the social applications of technology, was able to take Victor, a failing film director, and embody him, mind and desire as Simone, the beautiful actress entirely under his control.

In many ways, the film explored the limits of becoming a purely virtual avatar at least using contemporary technology, it also went out of its way to show ways that the virtual can be leveraged in order to make the avatar-self so real that it can function as an independent person in the greater world.

However, there was another aspect that, at least in this case, that turned the paradigm on its head, and this single frame from the film showcases that. Two pictures, one of Victor with his arm out, another a photorealistic still of Simone herself, being carefully manipulated into a single image.

Victor was Simone. He poured everything he was into her, and became her in a very real sense. Yet, at the same time, he was also Victor, her boss, and alleged lover. The one who kept her constantly from media and fan attention in the physical world. A very demanding, and consuming role requiring total commitment.

So it was that he became two people. Committed fully to becoming Simone; committed fully to becoming Victor. A kind of forced technological duality of spirit, schizophrenia in a way, although whilst only one brain was involved, each personality had its own body.

In the film, in the end, Victor felt himself tearing in two. Simone didn't have much of a mind; she drew on successful ways of speaking and moving from famous women from previous years. However, all the talent, all the control was Viktor. Essentially, his talent was expressed in her acting, in her singing, in her success. His views, thoughts and feelings continually came to the surface through her.

At the same time, he was the increasingly ignored and under appreciated director; his avatar overshadowed his physical self, and rendered it almost meaningless. It is easy to speculate on what might have happened here. Perhaps it might have been better if he had dropped Victor and just been Simone, but he could not do that. The almost Greek tragedy of it was he had built up an odd duality where he needed both personas to survive.

And yet, with all he put into Simone, there was something missing in this approach to VR. He never once saw the world through her eyes or her senses. She was always, always, a separate person in his mind, one which he controlled completely, with his mind directly powering her body.

If it is proof of anything, perhaps it is that 3rd person VR is impractical for extended periods, without losing any grasp on the avatar as part of self. On the flip side, if you do see and sense through the avatar for an extended period, do you come to see the physical body, only really seen externally, perhaps, as no longer part of self?

Is there any hope of a happy medium between the two, or must you always cast off one, in order to survive? Given that we have not quite reached the point where we can know yet, only time, perhaps, will tell.

Back to Simone.