Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's all about the avatar

Once I finish my first book, God willing this summer, this is the topic of the second one. I wrote an earlier post about what I think the Internet will be like in 5 years (or at least a quick approximation of such) and a very smart gentleman I know added some additional thoughts and commentary on the matter in his own blog.

What my prediction is around, more than the actual style of the content being presented (2.0, 2.5, 3.0), is the nature in which we will all eventually interact with digital information. And my prediction is that we will all eventually have an online identity other than a screenname or login ID. I predict that soon, we will all have an avatar and how we interact in the digital frontier will largely be guided by these digital personas.

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I've been exploring Second Life. For awhile, I was obsessed, trying to understand the parameters of the media, the interactions, and quite simply, how people were using it. Then I moved on to what I thought people COULD use the technology for, and started exploring those ideas.

The one constant throughout all of these interactions was my avatar. I spent a bit of time getting her to look the way I wanted, and if I do say so, she's a pretty decent looking chick even for Second Life standards. Early in my Second Life, I did experience all of the physiological responses that research says people do. I started experiencing shyness in certain situations, feeling uncomfortable in others. I began to feel so protective of her, and her identity, that I decided it was impeding my research-minded explorations, so I developed another avatar (an "alt") with the thought that she would be able to do the dirty work that I was uncomfortable with my original avatar doing. I started to feel guilty when I logged in as my alt, feeling like I was denying my first avatar airtime and experiences. My alt didn't have any SL friends, and that was lonely. And I found that even as my alt, I wanted to frequent all the same old familiar places in SL.

Right around this time, my husband decided it was time he checked out this virtual space that has been occupying so much of my time. He made his own avatar, and even though he SAID that it was just a cartoon, after I made his av look like him, he was particular about the clothes he was wearing. He was jealous of other avatars hitting on my avatar. Let me state this AGAIN: My real life husband was feeling jealousy related to my avatar being hit on.

I had thought about identity and virtual worlds before, how the avatar driving your experiences adds a level of complexity and motivation not seen in any other type of digital interaction. Even in most gaming, you don't take it personally when you "die." But we are approaching an time where our digital lives will so integrate with our real lives that I predict they will be nearly one and the same.

Its an exciting time to be building in the virtual world space, and testing the water on new applications. But ultimately, its all about the avatar. When more people figure that out, our digital world will never be the same.

1 comment:

  1. // And my prediction is that we will all eventually have an online identity other than a screenname or login ID.

    I would absolutely agree. There are really two areas to be considered: the delivery stream itself, and how users interact with the information conveyed in that stream. I (somewhat clumsily) touched on the former, and you expertly addressed the latter.

    Of future intrigue might be how we'll manipulate objects and connect with other users in the digital space. Interaction models will drive this paradigm; the avatar will drive the interaction)