My digital self

My digital self


Last week’s 12 hour charity stream turned into 13 hours and we raised £558.50 for Autistica, the UK’s leading autism research charity. Thank you all. It was a joy to see the support for the cause and to have engaging conversations about autism through the day. Loved it.

hello computer

This week’s photos are from November 2016 when we had a wonderfully foggy afternoon on the river.

You can buy prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fiso I can buy film for my camera.

My digital self

I watched a video demonstrating virtual character technology aka VTubing (Virtual YouTubers). If you weren’t aware it is entirely possible to do live streamed motion capture at home. If you have a spare $20,000 that is.

The technology enables you to, from a safe space, experiment with your visual identity. In the 90s all we had to do was chose our username on IRC to represent our identity. Today you can have a fully motion captured virtual representation of yourself. If you could recreate your identity in a virtual space would you remake yourself in your meatspace form or would you experiment? Different hair? Eyes? Sex?

Over the pandemic I’ve experimented with my appearance because I don’t need to be out in the real world. Hair dye and mens leggings for example. Times where I’ve had to go out I can hide under a mask and swap the leggings for jeans. I would very much like to be free of anxiety and simply be myself. The online space grants you this freedom. Who is the real you? The physical one or the virtual avatar you feel comfortable embodying because it enables you to be free?

It’s an interesting question. Back in the 90s after getting access to the internet I realised I was two people. Online I was confident, witty, outgoing, not shy and fun. I had no social anxiety. To talk to someone all I had to do was type their name and my message. A conversation would start. My interests all made sense and to a degree life worked for me.

Offline I was the opposite. I found it difficult to fit in, to connect to people and basically felt like I was failing all the time. “What was wrong with me?” I kept wondering. Nothing. Just different. I spoke to others about this and they found it surprising. They said they were the same offline as online. I was not. Online me was very much who I wanted to be offline but couldn’t.

Today I run a Twitch channel where people can stop by and chat to me. I appear as a white human male with a purple tinted beard, purple hair and colourful nails. I can take my time to read messages in the chat and respond at my own pace. This is a visual representation of 90s internet me. I am enabled by technology. I enjoy life and I love that I can share my interests with people. If you were to watch my shows you may see a confident person you would like to chat to in the real world. However you would find real world (offline) Pete Carr to be not as skilled at human interaction as they seemed.

When I started my channel I tried out using an avatar. I had a screenshot of my Animal Crossing character. I did this to protect offline Pete Carr from random strangers approaching me to chat. Meatspace is not my comfort zone and takes a lot of work to endure it. Adding in a surprise conversation is a lot. I can do it but not as well as I appear to on Twitch. If I had the money would I have gone down the VTuber route at the start? No. The reason why I chose to be a visible human online was to fight against stereotypes of what an autistic person looks like. I didn’t want the answers coming from behind an avatar as it could look like I was hiding. I wanted to be 100% up front. Full frontal. (Steady!) Plus I wanted to show off my hair and nails.

It makes for interesting discussion though. VTubing could help enable some people to do things they never thought they could. They could interact and build a community of like minded individuals. Yes it may seem wired but it’s only different. Don’t judge. Be curious. (Not saying you are judging because that would be me judging you which I’m saying don’t do… right?) I’m fascinated by its future. What it means for identity and even as a form of exposure therapy? Using it to slowly come to terms with yourself in a safe way?


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