Avatars 97 Speaker Essay: Fred Davis

Avatars, the Evolution of a New Species
Presentation by Fred Davis
(c)opyright 1997, Fred Davis

Avatars represent the most highly evolved virtual life-form. But even so, it's still a very primitive species. Unlike biological evolution, which creeps imperceptibly along, technologic evolution occurs in leaps and bounds. In order to make avatars more meaningful, useful, and valuable, rapid evolution and even mutation needs to be encouraged. But the evolution of avatars is not merely technological, it's also sociological and psychological, and our own thinking about avatars needs to evolve considerably before we can address the magnitude of the problems and even hope to create meaningful solutions.

As a first step into increasing the evolutionary rate of avatar development, developers need to broaden their vision to consider a paradigm shift that places social evolution on equal par with technology development. How well an avatar is rendered is trivial compared with the larger question of what the avatar's purpose is and how it can be used as a tool for human communication. Scripted environments, simulations, and psychodramas can be used to help evolve the sociological and psychological aspects of avatars and to help us learn how they can move beyond being merely a puppet show and instead become an important new communications medium.

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