Your appearance now is what we call residual self image. It is the mental projection of your digital self.”
― Morpheus to Neo[src]
Within the Matrix, a self image may refer to:
- Residual Self Image or RSI. The subjective appearance and bodily structure of a redpill while inside the Matrix. It was coined for the redpills whose digital appearances, as the name suggested, carried over from their previous appearances as bluepills rather than their actual physical appearances in the Real World.
- Digital Self Image or DSI. The appearance and bodily structure of a bluepill while inside the Matrix. The DSI is generated by the pods through a feedback system called Semblance which generates the self image based upon scans of the actual bluepill while inside the pod.
The self image was strongly tied to the individual and the base image (or body) itself could not be greatly altered. However, any part of the self image not personally tied to the individual, typically clothing and anything not part of the body, could be easily changed. Neo, while standing in the empty Construct with Morpheus, was first seen wearing regular street clothes that were not much different from what he wore in his apartment. Then through time, Neo's outfit periodically changed.
The outfit may also be defined by the locale where the operative appeared, though it had only been seen in locations outside the Matrix, much like a theme or a uniform automatically applied to anyone entering a certain location. Neo's self image in Mobil Avenue station appeared in clothing very similar to that of the Merovingian's after Neo's mind was accidentally diverted there.
Typically, alterations to either the RSI or the DSI were restricted to clothing, hair, piercings, and markings such as tatoos. And the DSI or RSI would still retain the general resemblance of the real-world body. However, there were still a few occassions when they were altered.
With enough will, the Matrix offered great freedom for redpills to alter their own RSI. Neo's RSI, for example, always had hair, as opposed to his real-world self being bald at the time he first entered the Construct. Rocket, a fresh Resistance recruit, was also able to still walk inside the Matrix when his real-world physical leg was broken.
The Machines were capable of altering a bluepill's specific DSI loop to change how that bluepill was perceived. In order to hide both Neo and Trinity from the Resistance, for example, the Machines modified both of their DSI loops so that, while Neo and Trinity were able to see themselves properly, everyone else saw them as completely different people.
Hope, a young Potential, was also able to change her own DSI at will. While trying to escape from the pursuit of Agents, she consecutively changed her appearance to that of an old lady, then to that of an adult black man, and then to a being capable of flight.
The outward appearance of a program was referred to as a shell.
Behind the scenes
- Early drafts of the script showed that Switch's RSI was female while her real-world body was male