Avatars are technological artifacts that provide communicators a body in virtual spaces. It is through this affordance of embodiment that people, places and things are made concrete, tangible, and present. Presence consists of two interrelated phenomena: (i) telepresence: the sense of being there, and (ii) social presence: the sense of being together with others. In the context of virtual worlds, telepresence or the degree of immersion and engagement in the computer-mediated space is achieved through communicators’ interaction with their avatar, and social presence through their interaction with others as an avatar. Building on this typology, we develop a multidimensional conceptual framework of the avatar-self relationship, that is, the interaction between a communicator and his/her virtual (re)presentation. Relying on data collected via photo-diary interviews from residents of Second Life, a virtual world, we then identify and empirically describe various enactments of the avatar-self relationship. Our results highlight that Second Life residents enacted multiple avatar-self relationships and cycled through them in quick succession, suggesting that these avatar-self relationships might be shaped and activated strategically in order to achieve the desired educational, commercial or therapeutic outcomes.
Schultze, Ulrike and Leahy, Matthew Michael, "The Avatar-Self Relationship: Enacting Presence in Second Life" (2009). ICIS 2009 Proceedings. 12.