Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Customer Survey

At some point, five years ago or so, some application or other asked me to supply an avatar, and the nearest image belonging to me was the scan of this napkin-drawing:


So I cropped it a bit and stuck the image in there, and the image sort of hitchhiked around until it became my image in the Google-Yahoo industrial complex, like this --


If you know me online at all, you've probably seen it beside my comments and so forth. So after five years of this, it suddenly occurred to me that this more or less randomly snipped thing has become part of my "brand," and that I should think about whether it actually presents me as I want to be presented. (I love, by the way, the fact that we use the word "brand" about human beings, since human beings have indeed been branded, throughout history, with hot iron. If they're slaves. Now we cheerfully do it to ourselves, happy to be our own slavemasters and peddle ourselves in the market.)

The hitch is that I have no idea how it lands for people. I took a certain pleasure in the fact that it was a) homemade, b) had moon, stars, hills and water in it, and c) hinted at something possibly, in an off-center way, erotic. As a Buddhist (not to mention as someone tending to morbid self-consciousness) I always have an uneasy relationship with this sort of self-reification, so having once come up with something, I just kept it.

But now it occurs to me that I should do a customer survey of the consumers of my brand. What do you think of it? Does it represent me? Should I substitute something else? Have you always hated it and been too polite to say so? Now's the time to be rude.

20 comments:

Big D said...

Hi Dale,
Honestly that image as your brand doesn't quite resonate with me. the words that came up were - "yinyang potatoes in a martini glass". LOL
Then I thought about it and, interestingly thought, what image do I associate with you, and it's your facebook photo which I like alot.
And it has the advantage of being you!
That's my two-cents. Love, David

Jean said...

Well, I recognise it as one of your napkin doodles, so it's fine and makes me smile. But if I didn't, I'd be somewhere between puzzled and wondering if it's really quite suggestive, or is it me?...

Interesting that you raise this. I was just thinking that I need to get an avatar and make sure I have the same one in all of these damn systems. I had just left an admiring comment on a poem and seen it come up with a hilarious, but not clearly not admiring default avatar.

Murr Brewster said...

As I may have mentioned before, I don't see stars and a moon, but Swiss cheese and thong underwear. I like it, mind you--but it suggests more that you want to paddle yourself in the marketplace.

Zhoen said...

I'm not buying it.

So, you know, whatever dude.

Kat said...

I'm in the Swiss cheese and underwear camp. But I guess I'm used to it?

rbarenblat said...

When I look at the avatar, I see a crop of one of your napkin drawings. I like your napkin drawings, so I like the avatar.

In a funny way, I guess I think of the avatar as representing mole, rather than representing Dale.

I like the photo you use on FB, and could imagine that as an avatar, too. Though it's really up to you, isn't it? The avatar being your representation, and all. :-)

carolee said...

i think your gentle smile is your brand. go with a photo. :)

JMartin said...

I've always feared that the avatar scuttles around in the dark, and tears fingers from the dead. These are not the ineffable qualities which I associate with your writing, or you.

If you retain the avatar, I NEVER SAID A WORD.

Dale said...

Okay, I think the people have spoken :-)

Julie, my avatar has never consumed anything but coffee drips, honest!

deb said...

Ditto what Rachel said. :)

Jayne said...

I thought it was a holy bum, or bun, or something like that... er, I didn't know what it was, and since I am just getting acquainted with your brand, I can't say if it's a fitting avatar. I do like the idea of napkin art, though. That seems fitting. :)

Seon Joon said...

You know, although your current napkin-drawing avatar is an image I associate with you simply because of long use, I've never felt like it represented you much, either as a synecdoche or otherwise. I love so many of your portraits of the past several years; they neither over-simplify you nor reveal more than any of us particularly want revealed to all (internet) comers.

My two cents. I'm also backing-and-forthing over this avatar/gravatar business: what on earth to use? I like my clock-and-mala thing, but it's pretty cold. Hmph.

Sky said...

since i so rarely post here i am not sure i really have the "right" to voice an opinion about this personal choice, but i like your face so much better!

Peter said...

I was just thinking of consolidating my avatars like Standard Oil did in the 1970's, when it dropped Enco, Esso, and Standard Oil in favor of Exxon. It wouldn't cost so much for me to do it. The cool thing is, you change your avatar, and the new one associates itself with your comments from the beginning of time! (Would that I could change some of my comments. (An "I lied!" avatar?))

I'd only consolidate to gain total control of my brand. I have maybe four avatars out there, and I'm often surprised which one shows up where. Changing them will be like using the paint bucket tool in a graphics program: I won't have to change it at every point but only within each system (if a color in a photo can be compared to a system). It would still take me a while to work my will over the entire Internet, I expect.

The avatar gets to the heart of the whole blogging/Facebook/Twitter enterprise: the projection of self, or some part of self, into the universe. I think I'll keep my patchwork of avatars if only to acknowledge that its not so much a projection of self as it is a self-centered leak.

Did you have a question?

Dale said...

...not so much a projection of self as it is a self-centered leak.

:-) :-) :-)

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Something combining buttocks which might also be breasts and a bikini-clothed crotch. Oh, and a porthole looking out into the cosmos.
In other words, earthy and spiritual?
Or not.

JMartin said...

An altered avatar applies nunc pro tunc! A little disconcerting, no? I'm not sure whether tis more akin to a middle-aged face in the kindergarten pic, or a botox "refreshment".

To take consolidation one step further, we could socialize them - PDVSA not Exxon. What is the avatar equivalent to the Mao suit?

Lucy said...

I feel rather silly that I never saw the moon stars and hills in it but it's nice to see them now. I did think it was a bit saucy, or just generally somewhat bodily, also I rather saw some bone joints, pelvic or cranial perhaps, in it too...

But like Rachel, knowing it was a piece of your napkin art gives it charm anyway. That it's bold and linear makes it stand out and be recognised.

I had a photo avatar for a little while at the beginning, but quickly got tired of seeing myself, and ditched it when we set up the shared blog, I think. There's a photo of me (and Molly) in the sidebar of the mini-blog, which seems a suitably out-of-the-way place. I still have the fundamental problem that the I who writes/blogs etc doesn't feel like the me I see in the photos. I should probably just get over myself.

Dale said...

:-) Why should you get over yourself? I never will! I'll be amazed always.

Dave said...

I always saw a one-eyed dog with a shit-eating grin on its face.