Avatars in Digital Culture
The term avatar was first popularized as a concept in cyber culture and science fiction through books like Neal Stephenson's 1992 classic, Snow Crash.
Stephenson uses the word "avatar" in his novel: "The people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse (the virtual reality internet)."
Virtual worlds, avatar experiences and communication tools are becoming more prevalent in digital culture. Here are some recent books that discuss the contemporary use of avatars:
I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life (New Riders) (Paperback) Mark Stephen Meadows (Author)
Publisher: New Riders Press; 1 edition (January 6, 2008)
From the Book Description:
What is an avatar? Why are there nearly a billion of them, and who is using them? Do avatars impact our real lives, or are they just video game conceits? Is an avatar an inspired rendering of its creator's inner self, or is it just one among millions of anonymous vehicles clogging the online freeways? Can we use our avatars to really connect with people, or do they just isolate us? And as we become more like our avatars do they become more like us?
Alter Ego: Avatars and their Creators ~ Robbie Cooper (Author) Publisher: Chris Boot (May 1, 2007)
From the Book Description: ...presenting the phenomenon of the contemporary avatar-the virtual characters gamers choose and design to engage in 3D worlds online. Portraits of gamers from the United States, Europe, China, and Japan (including leading figures of the gaming world) are paired with digital images of their alter egos, graphically dramatizing the gap between fantasy and reality.
Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft® Reader
-by Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg
Publisher: The MIT Press (May 31, 2008)
From the Book Description: World of Warcraft is the world's most popular massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), with (as of January 2008) more than ten million active subscribers across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia who play the game an astonishing average of twenty hours a week. This book examines the complexity of World of Warcraft from a variety of perspectives, exploring the cultural and social implications of the proliferation of ever more complex digital gameworlds.
Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality (Paperback) ~ Edward Castronova (Author) Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (November 11, 2008)
Product Description: Virtual worlds have exploded out of online game culture and now capture the attention of millions of ordinary people: husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, workers, retirees. Devoting dozens of hours each week to massively multiplayer virtual reality environments (like World of Warcraft and Second Life), these millions are the start of an exodus into the refuge of fantasy, where they experience life under a new social, political, and economic order built around fun. Given the choice between a fantasy world and the real world, how many of us would choose reality? Exodus to the Virtual World explains the growing migration into virtual reality, and how it will change the way we live--both in fantasy worlds and in the real one.
Who Do They Think They Are?: Teenage Girls and Their Avatars in Spaces of Social Online Communication (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) (Paperback) ~ Connie Morrison (Author) Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing (January 15, 2010)
Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human (Hardcover) ~ Tom Boellstorff (Author) Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 21, 2008)