The Tricksters of Social Media; Fakesters vs Avasters

“So much seems possible at the beginning of a trip, so many  things seem brimmed with meaning.” pg 5hat trick by cayusa on flickr cc license

“…trickster is a boundary-crosser. Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce.” Trickster, pg 7

Reading about fakesters led me to this post on fake twitter accounts varying from Fake Steve Jobs to Fake Seth Godin to my favorite, Chuck Norris. Chuck throws down the tracks like

When google has a question, they “norris” it.

And some fakester parodies are richly deserved like rahodeb of Whole Foods (In)Fame(ity).

Motivations for fakester accounts based on famous people might include a desire for attention, satire, performance art, hatred of what a person represents, desire to be in on a “secret”, or admission into a Goffmanesque “back room” to blatant monetary goals. But there is a motivation of some kind that piggy-backs on top of someone else’s fame.  Every invention of a new namespace opens up opportunities for these reputation barnacles.

But there is a different type of “fake account” in the form of a completely made up person or object. A persona. And this type of fakester account is lumped in with the impersonators, and this is a mistake. I submit they are entirely different.

In disparaging terms, these are called “sock puppets.” Wikipedia clarifies

“The key difference between a sock puppet and a regular pseudonym (sometimes termed an “alt” which is short for alternate, as in alternate identity) is the pretense that the puppet is a third party who is not affiliated with the puppeteer.”

My problem with the “sock puppet” term is that the pejorative nature overrides the trickster legitimacy and social commentary conveyed. Hence I suggest a new term for those that have passed a social acceptance threshold within the community. For lack of a better word I’ll call these characters Avasters.

Avasters – an character created by a person or persons that is not based on a specific person living or dead. An invented character that acts and behaves with a unique personality. And earns the right to be considered a “person” within the community.

Examples of Avasters anthropomorphizing an object or creature are:

  1. Love Lamp – yup, a lamp, on myspace. I love lamp. Calling love lamp a sock puppet just seems wrong.
  2. MarsPhoenix – a talking mars rover
  3. AskThe Universe – a cosmic answer source
  4. The Unicorn – bio: “I skullf*@k Leprechauns”

Avasters anthropomorphizing a deity or anti-deity include:

  1. TweetJeebus
    – just on the verge of sacrilege, and funny as hell. Note he is not impersonating Jesus, rather has created a new almost impersonation.
  2. Satan – self explanatory

Avasters that are invented people are:

  1. Jon Swiftblogger who was deleted and added back later on facebook. I include him here because the real JS is clearly deceased.
  2. Twitches protected account just for bitching between “in kids”
  3. TweetTarded – mean spirited commentary on social media folks, but not that creative IMHO
  4. Amanda ChapelPR vixen and social media impresario, borderline mean but genuinely an avaster in that “she” is “real”.
  5. etc.. etc.. (but feel free to add more in the comments.)

Friendster once killed off the fakester accounts which is attributed to their death knell. Facebook has policies against fakester accounts. Yet Amanda exists. Why?

The first difference to me is that Avasters create a personality and are just as real as a real person. They aren’t leap frogging to popularity
on another’s fame, only to tire of it. They are building something. Creating something even if trolling at times.

There is also a distinction between an avaster acting as a created persona and a blogging-pseudonym. Blogging under a pseudonym is simply a way of protecting your identity while expressing your opinion. Perhaps with greater candor than otherwise allowed, but nonetheless it is “a”
person. And they might have legitimate political reasons for hiding. Life and death reasons.

What fascinates me the most are the avasters that garner attention, have built reputations, remain closely held, offer intelligent commentary
and yet are run by GROUPS of people.

“… it becomes apparent that the way people seek and give attention and the amount they are likely to receive is significantly shaped by their social roles and their status within the major institutional hierarchies.” – The Pursuit of Attention, pg 34

The most famous avaster of all IMHO is none other than Mr. Bungle of LambdaMOO fame. This is a medium literally built on top of a rape in cyberspace. Dangerous territory indeed.

The most interesting current Avaster? That would have to be the lovely Amanda Chapel. Brought to you by none other than the honorable profession who brought us the unprecedented Committee on Public Information. Say what you want, she makes an adept critic of our society.

Image: Hat Trick by Cayusa