On Flickr, there is a an SLBareFaceChallenge going on for Second Life avatars. At first I dismissed the idea of a bare face challenge, but then decided it was worth thinking through that more.
The bare face of my avatar is really a neutral grey, as I now have a mesh head on top of the system body.
This skin I have had for 10 years, and I’ve never changed it. I resisted getting a mesh head, as the skin was made for the system body, but the introduction of Bakes on Mesh meant the skin, as a texture, could be applied to mesh. I was not willing to change my ‘natural’ skin – the equivalent of a ‘bare face’ – until I could do that.
If my eyes look like they have kohl, it’s a mixture of that skin and the three-dimensional shape of the mesh head. There are no additional features from the new mesh head, which allows a lot of changes with different options available.
So appearance-wise this is how my face has been for 10 years. It is as naturally bare as the digital ever gets. And that is why I resisted this challenge. Because the digital replicates and reinterprets. It can never be natural or bare – a choice will have been made. This parallels the photograph, which carries social expectations of showing the absolute truth despite the fact that it is inherently an art form and carries someone’s interpretation of the truth. Every photograph, every digital form, was made by someone, and never emerged from a distanced void.
But then there are two alterations I made to being ‘bare’. The minor one is that my hair is greyer. The bigger one is that I wear a tattoo layer of age spots.
So which is more natural? Which is more bare? If you say ‘real life’ shouldn’t come into it, how was that skin made in the first place? Am I wrong to have aged? How much of a bare face challenge is there really in a digital world?