What can an Avatar tell us?


from Springwise.com

Dr Shock has an old fashioned avatar, a photograph, on his blog and twitter. What does that tell you, an old fashioned guy? How do bloggers and such, choose to present themselves through an avatar? This was studied in a blogging, dating or gaming environment.

For the most part, avatars in blogging were created to accurately reflect their owners’ physical appearance, lifestyle and preferences. By contrast, participants in the dating and gaming treatments accentuated certain aspects of their avatar to reflect the tone and perceived expectations of the context.

Participants in the dating condition as opposed to those in the blogging condition, reported more ‘‘physical attractiveness”. They didn’t inflate the entire spectrum of avatar attributes but only accentuated the avatar’s physical attributes.

In the blogging condition, many participants reported mapping their personality and preferences onto their avatar. This was expressed in three key features of avatars of bloggers.

  • Stable aspects of oneself were mirrored onto the avatar. Participants opted for choices they liked, such as fashion items they often wear offline. Hobbies, such as playing games or an interest in history, were displayed.
  • Participants chose options that mirrored upcoming, past or current life happenings, thus expressing anticipated events or precious memories.
  • Desired life changes and self-improvements were also reflected in the avatars.

In the dating condition, participants repeatedly verbalized that avatars were created to impress by displaying their romantic, attractive, or intellectual qualities.

In the gaming condition:

participants created avatars that were self-representative but yet slightly ‘‘smarter”, ‘‘more creative”, ‘‘sporty”, ‘‘cooler” or ‘‘capable” because of the game

Yet, predominantly, these emphasized avatar attributes in the gaming and dating condition drew on participants’ self-image, and thus avatars were perceived by their owners as highly similar to themselves.

Why is this important?
These results can offer design recommendations for social networks and avatar customization tools. This study found that avatar users engage in selective self-presentation depending on the domain they intend to visit. This comes in conflict with designs that prohibit the use of multiple avatars.

Is this important?
No not really. It started with two hypothesis but the results were not impressive if at all. They kept analyzing and found some information not very different from common sense but at least they started with hypothesis. Above all it was fun to read, so here it is for the world to discover.

A VASALOU, A JOINSON (2009). Me, myself and I: The role of interactional context on self-presentation through avatars Computers in Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2008.11.007