“More Than a Render: Digital Humans and the Politics of Representation” presented by Drum


Session Title:

  • Social Impact and Socio-Technical Systems

Presentation Title:

  • More Than a Render: Digital Humans and the Politics of Representation




  • This paper addresses the politics of virtual representation of human bodies by focusing on two realms of on-line media: educational tutorials for modeling female avatars and market-places that sell virtual humans. As a professor who teaches 3D digital modeling and animation, I set out to empower my students with the critical language to unpack these problematic objects. Through reading and discussing D. Fox Harrell’s writing about phantasms, my students and I together dissect the ideology at work within these constructs, and we think through the mechanisms that allow these phantasms to appear socially real even though they are “rooted in processes of imaginative cognition.”[1] As part of this pedagogical and creative project, I have begun an ethnographic study comprised of an ongoing dialogue with the makers of web-based tutorials and the creators of digital humans for purchase. Through this research I am developing a stronger understanding of how virtual humans are produced and how they function in the marketplace. In turn, I am enabled, and my students are empowered, to build new phantasms to participate in less-violent, more inclusive worlds.