Proceedings: GI 2009

Presenting identity in a virtual world through avatar appearances

Carman Neustaedter, Elena Fedorovskaya

Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2009: Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, 25 - 27 May 2009, 183-190

  • BibTex

    author = {Neustaedter, Carman and Fedorovskaya, Elena},
    title = {Presenting identity in a virtual world through avatar appearances},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2009},
    series = {GI 2009},
    year = {2009},
    issn = {0713-5424},
    isbn = {978-1-56881-470-4},
    location = {Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada},
    pages = {183--190},
    numpages = {8},
    publisher = {Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society},
    address = {Toronto, Ontario, Canada},
    keywords = {appearance, avatar, identity, virtual worlds},


One of the first tasks that people must do when entering a virtual world (VW) is create a virtual representation for themselves. In many VWs, this means creating an avatar that represents some desired appearance, whether a reflection of one's real life self, or a different identity. We investigate the variety of ways in which people create and evolve avatar appearances in the VW of Second Life® (SL) through contextual interviews. Our findings reveal that users balance pressures from the societal norms of SL with the need to create an appearance that matches a desired virtual identity. These identity needs differ based on four types of users---Realistics, Ideals, Fantasies, and Roleplayers---where each presents unique challenges for avatar design. Current research tends to focus on the needs of only one of these user types.