Avatars and the present social and cultural phenomena they generate indicate that the first waves of avatar populations are increasingly penetrating the barrier that divides the physical from the virtual status. Avatars are successfully establishing virtual societies in networked virtual communities and they represent the first immigration waves in the territories of networked virtual reality. Are avatars a temporary fashion destined to be consumed from the public curiosity or are thay representing a real revolution in how humans will establish agency in virtual environments?
This panel will focus on the subject of avatars, user representation and avatar centric user behaviour in online virtual communities, analyze how avatars function as a personality interface and throughout a discussion and demonstrations try to draw a descriptive framework for the displaced self as it becomes manifested through its confrontation with the revolutionary forces of networked virtual reality. If identity is being revolutionised by becoming exposed to the forces of multiuser technologies – an identity which becomes temporary and custom-tailored within the context of the virtual society – does this situation represent a revolutionary exodus that opens the doors of rampant transformation as it becomes apparent that there are no fixed boundaries for the representation of the self? Are avatars truly revolutionary? Towards what avatar design genres should we be aiming for? What are the alternative narrative ways for agency and user interaction within networked virtual societies?
- Yannis Paniaras (USA), Convenor, VRML Designer — Interactive Developer, Silicon Graphics — Cosmo Software, California.