Going (Digitally) Native
This article demonstrates first that, in epistemological terms, Avatar relies on scientific ‘documents’ to legitimize its radical political–aesthetic fantasy with such anthropological and historical accuracy that it attains documentary status. The author shows that Avatar constructs its viewers as both hypothesizers of and experimenters with fact, while simultaneously constituting them as critics of fiction. Secondly, he illustrates how scientific legitimacy in Avatar sits in judgment of aesthetic imagination, just as aesthetic imagination sits in judgment of scientific legitimacy. Thirdly, he argues that Avatar is a radical, animated spectacle committed to scientific realism while at the same time being an animated spectacle committed to radical political fantasy. Lastly, he demonstrates how the film offers an alternative model for identity formation, based not on the psychoanalytic processes of introjection, but on the quasi-phenomenological processes of projection into a life form that is factually alien to modern Humanism – into a model of social relations that incorporates symbiotic alliances with the non-human, with flora and fauna, with networked ecological systems in which all actants are interdependent, cooperative, co-constitutive and co-creative.