A Santa Claus Reality *Update*

I just happened across not one, but two entries (“Avatarization of you” and “Avatarization of you 2“) on Terra Nova that relate to some of my previous comments (reLink) regarding the potential for some surprising mashing up of real and virtual persona … not just on an individual basis, but on a group level on both sides. What I don’t see yet is an indication of how far-reaching this could become.

Yesterday morning I woke up with the thought that perhaps the best current example is Santa Claus. Here’s why:

  • Santa Claus presumably started off as a real person.
  • Santa Claus is “real” for children, but unreal for (most) adults.
  • Real people become multiple Santa Claus’s every year.
  • Santa Claus is represented in many media formats.
  • Santa Claus has been a product spokesperson.
  • Santa Claus collects real money for charity.
  • and most importantly

  • Real people who assume the Santa Claus persona behave as Santa Claus (usually).
  • There are probably plenty more line items, but you get the point I hope.

    I can’t think of any other persona that exhibits so many of the qualities I’m trying to imagine. What’s interesting to me is that what has taken centuries may now occur in months. And that has me wondering if someone will eventually create a virtual character and move the virtual persona out into meatspace instead of the real person and go down a similar path. What would have happened if Fatal1ty had never shown his real face and instead existed only as a virtual adversary? And what if that persona became the seed for another kind of Santa Claus? Things to consider.

    {Update – not important enough for a new entry, but I was cleaning up some links and found something I’d saved about a band(?) called Art Brut that is/was doing something related to this subject. I might have mentioned them before; I forget. You can read about them on American Public Media Marketplace – Link.}

    2 thoughts on “A Santa Claus Reality *Update*

    1. Quite right. There are other instances – eg Sherlock Holmes. (Fiction, based loosely on a real character, represented on stage and screen many times, known to millions by a readily caricatured set of phrases, actions and visual cues.) You could make the argument for almost any dramatic character, eg Romeo and Juliet. But Santa is easily the most popular.

      However, Santa still relies mostly on real people consciously assuming a role, and after a certain age most people cease to believe that it is ‘really’ Santa.

      But digital avatars ‘are’ the role, wherever they appear: any one is as good as any other.

      Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacrum was a copy of something for which there is no original. (“where it is impossible to distinguish between the spectacle and the real, and where individuals come to prefer spectacle over “reality””). It’s not that digital technology makes it more difficult to distinguish the real and the virtual, but that the distinction itself ceases to mean anything. Your question about how far-reaching it will become leads me at least to think it will go in this direction!

    2. Yep. While I’d venture there are a few people wearing the Claus suit that believe they’re really Santa Claus, it doesn’t get there because it’s the crazy person exception that’s the rule. What I’m talking about is exactly what you’re saying: there is no distinguishing between anything (what does Santa really look like anyway?). Imagine if it wasn’t crazy, but commonplace.

      This whole thing sounds like anti-“identity theft” in a way; the opposite of people trying to protect their identity. To use someone else’s example, imagine if Madonna let go of her identity – all of it. Imagine what people would do. First thing probably: rifle through her bank accounts where all the passwords suddenly became open source. They’d apply to credit agencies using her identity and there would be cards issued but those could be used by all of them. They might get plastic surgery on their physical forms and try to book tour dates like Elvis impersonators (Elvis isn’t a bad example of a proto-type, either). Imagine a future where you’re at some event and the “Flying Madonni” (similar to the Flying Elvii… or Flying Elvises, depending on who wins the lawsuit) parachute in. They’ve all had plastic surgery to look indistinguishable to the original. They have complete access to all her “private” information; what she knows, they know and each knows what the other knows. And because they all truly believe they ARE Madonna and because that Madonna-thing is something more than one individual, when does the original cease and the new open source, multi-instance Madonna begin?

      We’ve all already discussed the concept of virtual identities being cited in the MSM as if they were separate from the real, when the distinction – as you point out – is effectively meaningless. I mentioned my own schizo experience (which led to how I came up with the name “kirkyan” for the object type). On a one-to-one basis this isn’t new. But it’s the active and voluntary open sourcing of identity that is then shared by a community that seems possible. Another example comes to mind: Odo from the ST-DS9 series. Weren’t there a couple of episodes where he feared merging with his species because his identity would effectively be open sourced (or something like that)?

      Thinking as I type here so I’m going to leave it at that and get to work.

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