In Ad Age‘s most recent “Media Morph” entry, avatars get some … kind of recognition. From the entry (Link – free registration required):
An animated or photographic image, human or non-human, that Web surfers use to identify themselves online, usually in chat rooms, but also sometimes included in viral e-mails or in mobile phone messages.
In an age of consumer-generated media, avatars also help keep consumers engaged with a brand.
Like many novelties, avatars do get attention.
“Novelties”? Wow. I’m not sure they could get it more wrong. I guess the title of the piece, “Monkeys and Burgers Create Online Personas”, indicates how well-researched this piece is. If only they could more accurately explain the concept and all the things tied into it instead of attempting to reduce it to a “novelty”.
A videogame character model is also an avatar. As is the 3D representation used in IMVU or There. In Second Life avatars do more than just “chat”. They are a means of real interaction (including telepresence sex; SL’s qDot avatar is one of the real people on the cutting edge of that integration – Link NSFW).
Avatars are also a means by which people access other content – both real and virtual. Virtual representations of real products can be used as content within these virtual environments and, through embedded code, link the real people behind the avatars to real eCommerce sites selling the product. Some companies like Nike are even partnering with videogame companies to allow player customized content to link with their own real product customization websites, so potential customers can virtually try before they buy.
Avatars can also take on a “life” of their own. My own avatar, oddly enough, has gotten real world recognition that the real person hasn’t received. And avatars can allow people to explore other parts of their personality that, for what ever reason, they hesitate to explore in real life.
Additionally and importantly, avatars can also provide a means of regaining a part of real life that is lost through illness or injury (read this excellent story over on New World Notes – Link – to gain an appreciation of the nicer possibilities). After reading the NWN’s article come back and tell me that an avatar is a “novelty”.
There is much more to an avatar than the author, Kris Oser, lets on and what’s provided is, unfortunately, purely superficial. No surprise I guess. But not fully appreciating what an avatar represents before attempting to move into the arena would, imo, be a huge mistake.
Furthermore, there are already scanning devices across the U.S. and perhaps elsewhere that essentially put the real person into the virtual environment. So as virtual spaces become increasingly realistic, avatars will play an increasingly important role in our collective, connected future.
For additional information, try these links to some previous entries:
Here are some additional links to other sites:
Also, for reference: