* Experimenting with digital avatar’s.
Miquela Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela is a computer generated, nineteen-year-old Brazilian-American model, musical artists, and influencer with two million Instagram followers. At first glance the Insta-model could be understandably mistaken for a human. Captured in daylight in cool, desirable environments; not to mention, her wardrobe full of real-life clothes by streetwear brands and luxury labels. She socialises with real-life musicians, artists, and influencers. The digital avatar in-turn human, has undeniably blurred the boundaries between the real and the virtual.
Today, Lil Miquela is unquestioningly the leader of the AIs, and her presence across social media platforms has resulted in tech-savvy Gen-Z, forgetting she isn’t real. Her Instagram @lilmiquela provides a narrative, alike any other girls’ of her age- addressing matters such as, relationship break-ups – described by the influencer as “conscious uncoupling.” With an ever-growing audience reach, brands have realised the power of digital in creating innovative partnerships that break away from conventional boundaries, and gain widespread credibility.
In May 2019, Calvin Klein launched their “Get Surreal” campaign which featured Bella Hadid and digital avatar Lil Miquela considered controversial, the moving image debuted Hadid making out with Miquela- as a part of the #MyTruth campaign curated to “promote freedom of expression for a wide range of identities, including a spectrum of gender and sexual identities.” [@CalvinKlein, Twitter].
Digital avatars are one channel through which digital futures can be demonstrated. As an increasing number of people, notably Gen-Zers engage with video game culture; spend more of their free time online, and in virtual worlds. @lilmiquela serves as an example of how brands can utilise the power of digital influencers, to promote content but also create personas that truly reflect the brand story, identity and vision. Online avatars reduce the risk of utilising KOL’s who may face scrutiny; allow brands to control all information shared by the influencer. Playing the creator ensures diverse representations can be employed; appropriate narratives adopted. Meanwhile, as individuals spend more time online and in their virtual spheres- there will be a surge in the desire to build with creative free rein, realistic avatars. Enabling individuals to curate an alter-ego; desirable version of themselves.
Utilising facemaker.uvrg.org, I have created four digital avatars to showcase the power of digital in shaping futures. As technology advances [AR, IR & 5G], a new tone will be set for fast-paced, online futures. Creativity will undergo digitisation, and new tools will emerge to support innovative, forward-thinking content creation. The four avatars featured below highlight the power of digital in probing into diversity, and truthful, honest and authentic representations.
I have further sourced inspiration from photographer Angelica Dass and her  project “Humanae.” Dass utilised over 4,000 portraits to display the spectrum of human skin colour. In 2012, Dass began photographing people of every skin colour and matching each subject’s skin tone to hues from the Pantone printing colour chart. The beautiful and truly eye-catching outcomes of the project has travelled the world and featured in the National Geographic, focusing solely on the idea of race as a social construct, rather than a biological one. In 2016, Angelica Dass hosted a Tedtalk entitled “The Beauty of Human Skin in Every Colour”: https://www.ted.com/talks/angelica_dass_the_beauty_of_human_skin_in_every_color?language=en ;the work of the project has since debuted on billboards, across public spaces and in museums.
Inspired by Dass’ use of Pantone colour swatches, I have utilised the eyedropper [colour] tool to identify the skin colour of the digital avatars created, and then changed the backdrop colour as follows. I intend to further develop my use of avatars within my project, and notably within my online reports- referencing future technological innovations; additionally, I would like to further develop my creations through experimenting with layering, featuring stimulating backdrops, and possibly creating gifts or short-clips.