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


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

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top