My Desired Self, Avatar: The Impact of Avatar Creation on Persuasion

My Desired Self, Avatar: The Impact of Avatar Creation on Persuasion

Youjeong Kim (New York Institute of Technology, New York, NY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJVCSN.2015010101
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In computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments, users utilize their avatars as a communication channel to interact and connect with others, and they choose and create them accordingly to represent their self. As such, several major question areas arise: 1) As an extension of identity, how does a user customize his/her avatar? How is the avatar's appearance related to the avatar creator's self-concept? 2) How does avatar creation influence the avatar creator's psychological and behavioral consequences? To answer these questions, the current study leveraged a Korean social networking site, which currently provides avatars called “Minimis,” in a randomized experimental setting. This study found that the more the participants perceived their avatars to look like their desired selves, the more likely they evaluated their avatars as being attractive, credible, confident, cool, capable, and persuasive, but failed to find a significant relationship between avatar users' perceptions toward self-created avatars and their attitudes toward the social network site or ads.. The limitations and implications will be discussed.
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1. Introduction

With the development of communication technology, it is remarkable that, unlike face-to-face communication, people are able to construct their identities in cyberspace. The technology enables people to create who they are. In particular, the avatar, as an extension of identity, has recently been focused on by many scholars in communications as well as online psychology.

An avatar is a graphical icon that represents users in online communities, chat rooms, or virtual reality games (Nowak, 2000). An avatar is not simply an embodied graphic that allows users to look at their creatures from a third-person perspective (Taylor, 2002) but is a visualized identification and a virtual self that is imbued with a user’s feeling of presence in the virtual space. It allows users to customize and change the appearance of everything from skin color to eye size and even gender easily.

In terms of power of anonymity, avatars motivate users to activate one of their inner selves. Through avatars, users present themselves either in their actual forms that are present in the public or in ideal forms that have not been shown in public but are what the users desire to be. Throughout the study, we attempt to explicate the sense of self that could be expressed through avatar creation and its persuasive role in influencing avatar users’ perceptions and attitudes.

To sum up, the current study aims to answer the following questions: 1) as the extension of identity, how do people customize their avatars? How does the avatar look like the user? Does it look like the user’s actual self or their desired self? Are there any perceptional differences between the actual avatar and the desired avatar? 2) If they are different, how do users perceive the desired avatar? 3) If users perceive them positively, what role does the perception of the desired avatar play in cyberspace, and what are the practical implications of it?

The answers will significantly contribute to the communication literature by successfully bridging the missing link between the avatar as an extension of self and as an effective communication tool in the context of persuasion.

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