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Me and My Avatar

Me and My Avatar

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A friend of mine - a very senior banker - just flew in from Sydney to stay with us. As we talked about this and that it transpired that he didn't know what an avatar was. This was an astonishing admission and I quickly reached for my Windows Phone 7 to show him my avatar on Xbox Live. After seeing it jumping around all over the place he became a convert both to Avatarism and the new Windows Phone 7.

I then went on to explain at length the potential for avatars in the workplace for use in virtual meetings and communications and the pending launch of Avatar Kinect. Despite the fact that he had just been on a plane for 24 hours, his eyes got wider and wider.

It is just possible that there are other people in the world who don't know what an avatar is and since I put my social and public responsibilities before anything else I decided on an urgent blog. Enlightenment is my mission in life.

Thankfully, the team at Microsoft Research came to my rescue and has recently published a paper called "Me and My Avatar." The paper was all about exploring users comfort with avatars in workplace communication.

The paper includes an excellent definition of an avatar - for those who need it - and provides fascinating research on the extent to which Avatarism has infiltrated workplace communication.

I shan't repeat the conclusions here, but will simply add from my own experience.

A former colleague of mine is a devoted avatarist. His avatar was attached to every email he sent, both internally and externally. It was a weird looking creature - his avatar not him - and I was worried about the impact it might have on his corporate credibility as well as on that of the great corporation we both represented.

Then suddenly he was headhunted by a major financial institution to be their Head of Security.

We may never know the impact his avatar played in his career progression, but clearly it was no disadvantage.

Are you a devoted avatarist?

"Me and My Avatar: Exploring Users' Comfort with Avatars for Workplace Communication" by Kori Inkpen and Mara Sedlins can be found at:

http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/143831/nt454-inkpen.pdf