Maslow’s ghost in a virtual world


Tarantula Hawker takes a very final bow before vanishing in a cloud of self-actualization.

Abraham Maslow’s ghost found its way into ‘needs’ an exhibit by students studying virtual environments at UCSD on March 18th, 2008. The exhibition raises intriguing questions about Maslow’s hierachy of needs (see Wikipedia) when applied to a virtual world.


Need for Belongingness
The first thing that struck me when I arrived was that I was surrounded by outlandish avatars. Most Second Life residents feel the need to look like youthful fashion models but here the students had deliberately avoided the ‘super-hunk/nubile-chick look’. Ironically, their various statements of individuality helped to identify who ‘belonged’ in their group. Feeling my own need for acceptance I quickly went bald, donned a pair of goggles and wrapped a scarf round my avi face. Now I could blend in… be a part of the crowd (half of whom seemed to be over excitedly running round with ray guns).


Urinal by Narddog Samtan

Physiological Needs?
Avatars dine on electricity, drink code and clear their cache on a regular basis (or be in serious trouble). They have ‘scripted’ sex, clothe themselves in pixels and take ‘afk’ catnaps. Yet our need for the virtual world to simulate the physical world is so great it is perhaps a new dimension of physiological/psychological need? SL coders tend to reproduce Newton’s Laws of Gravity to help avatars ‘know’ what is expected of them as they maneuver virtual space. Virtual worlds could in future become integrated desktop platforms blending the physical world with 3D metaphors of ‘reality’. We may login to a virtual room rather than stare at the flat two dimensional desktop metaphors of Microsoft and Apple? Our need for physical exercise will remain but perhaps coffee proof keyboards will have been invented by then?


Dnn Horton’s (Don Bui) installation ‘A Franciscan in Azeroth

Self-actualization in virtual worlds
Don Bui runs a blog ‘A Franciscan in Azeroth,’ accounting for his progress in World of Warcraft (link above). He writes: Is Poverty and Morality Possible in Azeroth while leveling? Total Time Played: 11h 12m Total Money Donated to the Church: 63s 53c.” The blog was more of a record of his progress than an account of ethical dilemmas faced, but it is intriguing that he has added this quest for self-actualization to his game. He is consciously creating an ethical avatar at a time when the mass media assumes the anonymity of the Internet and virtual worlds encourages immorality.


Social networking

Need for Safety
Finally, I misguidedly clicked on the exhibit ‘name_map’ by Zomg Ogopogo and permitted some script to be attached to my avatar. The next thing I knew, my avatar was unable to move according to my commands and was tugged and bounced around then wedged against another avi. No words were spoken, other than ‘zomg, zomg, zomg’, and the names of avatars. This no doubt symbolized the shallows of social networking but it reminded of ‘griefing’ and how, even in a virtual world, we have a need to ‘feel’ safe. It was time to shore up my need for self-esteem and leave!

You need to see this thought provoking exhibit and draw your own conclusions! (Just watch out for Zomg)

Ars Virtua presents this emerging artists exhibition in collaboration with the ICAM program at the University of California San Diego.

2 thoughts on “Maslow’s ghost in a virtual world

  1. And values will cause B-gravity on Web 3, based on vocabularistic Factor Analytic stoichiometry.
    Aldous Huxley: “We are individual components in a great social gas.” Therefore, stoichiometry would apply and therefore a test for gravity.

    Vocabulary will rule.

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