Full Text

Avatars and Agents

Ning Wang and Skip Rizzo


Subject Human Communication and Technology » Gaming
Media System » Internet and New Media

Key-Topics incarnation

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Extract

The term “avatar” derives from the Sanskrit word avatāra , meaning “incarnation” and has been used to describe a deliberate descent of a higher being into mortal realms for special purposes. Avatar also has a long history of use in Hindu texts to characterize the human appearance on earth of various Hindu gods such as Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesha. More recently, avatar has become a popular term in new media technology to describe the digital representation, human or otherwise, of a real person in a virtual world. This use of the term emerged initially as a text construct in multiple user dungeons (MUDs), text-based social gathering points and chatrooms that became popular in the early days of the →  Internet , and then later on to describe a two-dimensional icon used on Internet forums ( Damer 1997 ; Fink 1999 ; Blackwood 2006 ) and other digital communities or the form of a three-dimensional human model used in computer games ( Lessig 2000 ). For example, a person can use an avatar to represent himself or herself in a meeting held in an online virtual environment such as Second Life or similarly as a tutor in the course of conducting a distance learning activity. Avatars can be designed to suit the “owner's” choice of how they want to be represented, whether it be a realistic representation of their actual appearance, an idealized form, or even a surreal character or animal. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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