SocioAnthro SIG
Transcript for the Avatars'98 Conference Session

The following meeting took place in Active Worlds on 21 November 1998.

Many thanks to Kilesa for providing the transcript!

taylor: thanks to everyone for showing up. it seems our speakers aren't here
taylor: we are scheduled for noon pst-1:30pst
"DrJanet": Taylor???
taylor: ah! janet!
taylor: hello :)
"DrJanet": I have been lost for a long time
taylor:  sorry
taylor: i think it is a bit crazy 
taylor: glad you made it
"DrJanet": and have no idea where or what the F I am
taylor: come on over here, toward the stage
taylor: we'll give you a minute to orient yourself 
"DrJanet": Are you one of those black triangles
"DrJanet": crawling around??
taylor: so, this is a session sponsored by the sociology/anthropology special interest group of the contact consortium
taylor:  only until the graphic loads
Kilesa: I'm a bird  
taylor: the group started last year at the avatars conference and we've been holding
taylor: periodic reading groups online as well as a ongoing email list
taylor: heyya kilesa :)
E N Z O: taylor is Dr Janet a speaker?
taylor: yeap, janet levalley is one of our speakers today
E N Z O: let me set her up as a citizen
taylor: reed riner, an anthropologist, will be here as well
taylor: ah, great enzo. thanks :)
taylor: can i just maybe get a "show of hands" how many of our regular group members are here today?
Kilesa:  [well, I'm a lurker on the group]
taylor:  show of hands being like a yes or something 
E N Z O: Dr Janet... please give me your wemail
boeing admin: Well, I'm a lurker.  :)  Haven't had much time to read it lately.
"DrJanet": Hello???
"DrJanet": I am having an avatar nervous breakdown here, Taylor
E N Z O: Dr JAnet... I will get you a citizen ID
E N Z O: please give me your email?
taylor: while janet is getting set up, let me just intro the session
taylor: several group members will be presenting their work and then we can just have a general discussion
taylor: oh, a couple folks are asking about the group...
taylor: check out for more info
taylor: maybe i will just give my quick spiel while janet is getting set up 
taylor: the topic of my very brief talk will be on digital materiality
taylor: i've recently been spending a lot of time thinking about the question of materiality inworld...
taylor: offline we often think of flesh and bone as making up the materiality of our coporeal bodies...
taylor: but online i would suggest that these things come to be replaced by code. by software
taylor: we need to begin to give serious consideration to the ways design and software structure and inform the
taylor: materiality of our lives online.
taylor: what kinds of functionalities, capacities, possibilities are embedded in code
taylor: even before the arrival of users
taylor: it's been interesting for me to be looking at moo code, in particular player classes
taylor: and doing comparisons with some graphical spaces
taylor: looking at the kinds of things, the assumptions about idenitity and community, built into the software
"DrJanet": Taylor???
taylor: so, from the get go, even before users arrive and do many creative, engaging things, there are parameters of 
embodiment laid out
taylor: yes janet?
E N Z O: dr janet
"DrJanet": Is that you again???
"DrJanet": I keep on disappearing
"DrJanet": and I cannot find myself
taylor: i'll pause there for any questions actually
taylor: enzo, can you pow wow with janet for me?
E N Z O: im trying
E N Z O: Janet?
taylor:  thanks
E N Z O: can you hear me?
taylor: did anyone have questions so far?
Little Cupid: LOL - too many
taylor: i hear ya. feel free to dive in though. discussion is better than me rambling 
Zeke: sounds very interesting Taylor !!
Little Cupid: Okays  ;-)))
E N Z O: dr janet
E N Z O: hello?
Zeke: please continue !!  *S*
taylor: oh, okay 
"DrJanet": Sorry.  Didnm't realize you were presenting just now.  
taylor: heh, offline event keeps calling my attention  talk about split worlds!
E N Z O: can you email me?
taylor: oh, no problem janet 
E N Z O:
Little Cupid: DRJanet - can you hear ENZO?  He needs your email address!   LOL
taylor: anyway, i actually wanted to just present this as a general issue to be raised. to be thinking about 
E N Z O: i will call you if you send your #
E N Z O: and walk you through any problems
Zeke: can I start a point of discussion then ??
taylor: forms of materiality in online life. we generally consider it, or it is better put that it is generally spoken of,
E N Z O: BTW I am on the Active Worlds staff
taylor: as disembodied  immaterial minds
E N Z O: :)
taylor: what i'm proposing is that one component to an understanding of embodiment online
taylor: is understanding and unpacking (through looking at code and talking to designers) the ways
taylor: materiality can operate in digital space
"DrJanet": Enzo, I can hear you but I suppose everyone else can too huh?
"DrJanet": Is there and ESP function?
E N Z O: there is ... but i need to get you registered to have it
taylor: okay, i think i will stop there and open the floor for discussion
E N Z O: please send an email to
taylor: once janet is setup we can have her present
taylor: actually, janet you are here and speaking and we can see you fine. maybe it's best to just have you dive in and 
not worry about tweaking the setup
E N Z O: or else type yours in
Zeke: Taylor ... do you think that the avatar should be personalizable ... since it represents us ??
Little Cupid: Hmmmm, I like that Zeke  ;-)))
taylor: do you mean more along the lines of customizability zeke?
Rolu: Hi all :-)
Zeke: and maybe ... the avatar should be portable from world to world ... 
Little Cupid: Hi Rolu  ;-)))
Uldor: that would be nice Zeke
E N Z O: *shrugs
taylor: well, i definitely think users feel greater connection and affinity to an av they have customized
Zeke: well ... right now you can CHOOSE an avatar ... but you can't BE an avatar of your own making ... see what 
I mean ??
taylor: the portability question is fascinating and that was a vision a few years ago
taylor: but i think that has dropped off some
"Boston event 2": Hi alll ..
E N Z O: Hi Boston
"Boston event 2": We're here for the conference
taylor: it's interesting zeke, if you broaden our definition of ve's to include muds (which i do) the range becomes 
much greater
"Boston event 2": :)
E N Z O: you are interupting
taylor: and there are some graphical spaces that allow users to design their own
Zeke: I know in my own world ... Mystery ... that conferring an avatar of my visitor's choice was one of the most 
requested things 
Haba: what about information linked to avatars? not just the 3d body
taylor: heh, hiya boston :)
E N Z O: taylor is speaking
Haba: bodies that is...
taylor: boston events 2 is ramping up, so it's cool 
Little Cupid: But it's discussion too ENZO?
taylor: ah, like what kind of info haba?
taylor: there is that function in some worlds. urls. taglines. etc. it's a fascinating idea
Haba: umm, hobbies :) err...anything
taylor: but, one thing, getting back to building your own av... some folks simply don't feel they have the skill to do 
Haba: in blaxxun ccpro
taylor: or don't have the tools too. i think that means that when worlds operate with library systems they have to be 
Zeke: well ... I am just saying that if a citizen has greater control over the presentation of the avatar they use, such 
as customization ... it makes the experience much more personalized
taylor: very thoughtful about exactly what kinda of embodiment possibilities they thus include
taylor: yeah, having known interests is a fascinating idea. do we do that offline in any ways?
Uldor: a custom av would have to be put on a server somewhere too
E N Z O: we are writing the code for Custom avs in AW
taylor: i'm always kind of interested in running a comparison that way
Little Cupid: Oh, there you are Uldor.  lol
Zeke: cool Enzo !!
E N Z O: then everyone can have whatever they like... inside a few parameters
Uldor: here I am Cupid :)
Little Cupid: Kewl ENZO!
taylor: enzo - what are the tools folks will use to create those avs?
E N Z O: and world owners can dictate the use
Rolu: What about choosing different body parts - head, legs, etc - from a library?
Uldor: that would be easier Rolu
Haba: and of course custom sounds for avatars :)
taylor: yeah, the library model has some things that really have to be considered
E N Z O: There is a plugin being written for Truespace
Zeke: yes ... do for avatars what the WONDERFUL interface in the AW browser did for building in general ??
E N Z O: they will have a low priced AW bundle that outputs into RWX
taylor: [to enzo] do you expect most users will be able to create their own easily? are we talking gestures and all?
E N Z O: probly around 30 bucks
taylor: and emotes! 
Uldor: what will be the rules of a custom av though?  size? offensive material ?
Zeke: now THIS is really sounding COOL !!
E N Z O: and Lifeforms is working with them to provide an animation plugin
taylor: i think the vision of users creating there own stuff is very exciting
Rolu: animations can be in a library too.
E N Z O: was on the phone with both Seng from Credo and Terry from TS
taylor: i do wonder about tools though
E N Z O: there is also an av maker from cof
Totoro: We don't understand all the constraints of our real world emobiment. Is vr embodiment simpler to 
understand? Or is it real world + vr, and therefor more complex?
Zeke: well ... if the tools are simply "objects" that a world could cache ... or even just access from a common URL 
... that could work !!
taylor: it's a great question totoro
Rolu: create your own avatar - by picking the right parts and coresponding textures, colours and animations.
taylor: i think you are dead on in saying offline embodiment is quite complex
Kilesa: if DrJanet is still here, check your email  :)
taylor: i think we haven't yet taken that into full account when thinking about online forms
Zeke: Enzo ... please tell us more about the av maker from COF ...
Uldor: yeah, is it freeware ?   hehehe
setebos: additionally, there is the question of what are we?  our bodies or our ideas?
Little Cupid: It's 60.00?
paulix: taylor: can you say more about 'digital materiality'... what do you mean by materiality? are there avatars that 
Rolu: I think that vr is parallel to rl
setebos: an avatar displaying our ideas might be more appropriate for some - more 'real' to who they are.
E N Z O: hopefully we can release it soon
Rolu: it is both less and more.
taylor: hmm, what do you mean by "matter" paulix?
Haba: btw, Enzo. May I ask when are you going to make the aw "sound system" better? :)
E N Z O: roland is working on MP3
paulix: that was my q. to u :-)
E N Z O: :)
taylor:  ah
Zeke: well taylor, I know that it makes a difference when we use the wrong "sex" of avatar ... so avs DO make a 
difference !!
Mauz: stick to agenda Haba! :p
Haba: I'm talking about aw's own mixer
taylor:  good point zeke
Rolu: MP3? Hey I like that news :-)
taylor: paulix, yeah, i do think there is a materiality to an av
Zeke: and I know that some people even want to make sure they have the right hair color in their av ... LOL
taylor: i think it is a product of code and design. the stuff you can kind of "touch"
paulix: how is that in the code or coding?
taylor: also, there is a materiality created via social space
taylor: i think that is key in embodiment
Little Cupid: LOL - true Zeke
Uldor: I've spent alot of time picking out the right av for me in some worlds
taylor: yep. folks are very invested, and understandly so, in making their avatar "feel right"
Zeke: I think people want their avatar to represent them in the VW in the best possible RW light they can !!
taylor: hmm, it's an interesting question. i think some folks go for direct mirroring, some go for "best list" some go 
for totally different
Haba: I think that doesn't mean best way physically
taylor: though, what i always hear in interviews is that your avatar in some ways always has a life of its own
taylor: that is "gets away" from you at times
Uldor: <---- totally different av
Zeke: yes ... but I think most of all ... people want their avatar to match their "personality" ...
Little Cupid: I try and choose the shortest av's  *grin*
selda: has a life of it's own??
E N Z O: welllll... there will be implementation of direct 3d soon
taylor: though, personality isn't a static thing, especially for many folks once they get inworld
Uldor: hehehe Cupid
Zeke: Taylor ... that is soooo true !!
E N Z O: (meaning in a year or so...)
taylor: so many interesting threads. i want to make sure janet gets a chance to speak
E N Z O: and that would allow a better mixer
taylor: because she has some interesting things to say on this subject
taylor: janet, are you here?
taylor: and ready to speak? :)
Zeke: So ... since people's personalities are not static ... it makes sense for people to be able to customize their 
avatars to match the changes they are going through
Haba: ok, enzo :)
E N Z O: direct sound
taylor: good point zeke. and also the ways our avs "create" experiences for us
Uldor: hmmmm facial expressions for avs ?
Little Cupid: Hey kewl Zeke!  
Rolu: I like to have the birde and the bike avatar.
Kilesa: I like the bird too cuz it can fly  :)
Zeke: I know this much ... the avatar we choose ... decides to a large extent how others will interact with us ...
Rolu: however, I am not really a bird :-)
taylor: great point zeke!
Rolu: but I like the flying idea.
Uldor: You're not Rolu ?
Rolu: that's why I chose bird.
Zeke: cool Rolu !
Haba: you hear, Mauz? :)
taylor: the body is a key component in how we construct identity and how we engage in social space - just like 
Zeke: AW offers such an incredible number of possiblities for expression and interaction ... 
paulix: an it becomes a 'body' through our social interaction... :-)
Rolu: I'm not a bird, I'm a cray-3 running an AI program... but don't tell anyone!! :-)
Zeke: It seems to me ... that the avatar in it's current form has hardly been researched and developed !!
taylor: hmm, interesting point paulix. 
paulix: let's not get too essentialist... 
Immigration Officer: Dr. Drs. Jan A.W. de Bruin of the Tilburg University will be appearing in the 'BOWorld' soon, 
for a discussion about the use of Virtual Worlds for providing information to future students
Zeke: I don't think there is anything more personal to a person involved in VR than the avatar they are using ...
Haba: I don't think the virtual body is very important yet. In this kin of conversation you just keep reading the text, 
not watching the 3d picture.
taylor: the only thing i would suggest paulix is that we can't say it is just th social, but also the interaction with the 
possibilities laid out in advance of the users arrival
"DrJanet": Has everyone died?
Immigration Officer: When you enter AV98 click on BigBoard to teleport and see the schedule of speakers
Mauz: hi DrJanet
taylor: janet! nope. we are here :)
Zeke: Hi Dr Janet !!  Please join in !!
taylor: janet, would you like to jump in with your presentation?
E N Z O: JAnet can you please email me
E N Z O: then I can call you
E N Z O: and get you set up
taylor: i think it'd be best to just keep janet here talking if we can 
Uldor: Janet must be having troubles :(
E N Z O: or else just give your speech... :)
taylor: by any chance, is reed here?
Uldor: maybe she's WFS
Little Cupid: lol - she must be cause she asked if we've died which means we're quiet to her?
taylor:  good point cupid
Kilesa: click on the camera button if you want to see your avatar  :)
Zeke: hmmmm ... bad news
taylor: someone earlier raised the point about the body not being really  important here yet
Uldor: this is a long time to be in WFS though
taylor: and i think that is interesting because i confess i've been paying attention to the text mostly..
taylor: but for me that is more a product of this particular software and not the space itself
Zeke: somebody tell Dr. Janet to "kill" her AW browser, and restart it ... that sometimes helps !!
paulix: these 'bodies' jitter and fuss too much :-)  OUT OF CONTROL
Haba: I think voice chat makes the avatar more important
taylor: for example, in a text-based world i can embody much more via gestures and emoting
taylor:  paulix
Zeke: see you all later ... gotta go !!
Little Cupid: Byeeeee Zeke!  *waves*
taylor:  bye zeke
Immigration Officer: Richard Wojcik of Boeing speaking in Pod 4 in 6 minutes
paulix: but in text, that isn't in the code
Zeke: good topic though !!  *S* ... me poof !
taylor: hmm, i suppose given our abbreviated speaker list maybe we should wrap up early  say 5 minutes or so
taylor: sorry paulix? can you repeat
Immigration Officer: When you enter AV98 click on BigBoard to teleport and see the schedule of speakers
paulix: you example of text MUDs - the gesturing and body is in the language, not the code, eh?
Uldor: the big appeal of this world to me is it's flexible avs
Immigration Officer: The boeing speech by Richard Wojcik has been moved to the Boeing world
Immigration Officer: When you enter AV98 click on BigBoard to teleport and see the schedule of speakers
Haba: when it is silent, like now, it's nice to watch avatars and see what they are doing, though :)
taylor: ah, i follow now paulix
Little Cupid: LOL haba
taylor: actually, player classes contain code that allows them to engage in speech and gesturs
taylor: so, that is seen as a crucial component of any body in that space
taylor: sorry, i was distracted by the offline event here  i'm really working in split worlds 
taylor: paulix, did that clarify at all? i think not 
Little Cupid: y
Little Cupid: Ooops
paulix: i dn't know much abut MUDs... i don't disagree... just need examles and defns
taylor: ah, gotcha
taylor: well for example,t here is a certain range of functionality built into these avs
taylor: and through that functionality, a range of embodiment possibilities to some degree
Little Cupid: LOL - wb Uldor  ;-)))
Uldor: thanks :)
paulix: true... but that functionality only comes to 'mean' something through social interaction.
selda: yes, but don't users compensate with language?
paulix: Avies keep looking at their watches, but we ignore it...
taylor: yes, i agree with you to a very large degree paulix. the rooting in social is key
Uldor: I pay more attention to the chat screen emotes than I do to the graphical behavior of the avs
taylor: yeah,t he compensation question is fascinating. but is there a dissonance by doing  in a 
graphical space?
Uldor: if someone just enters GZ and starts waving no one will even pay attention to them until they actually type 
Little Cupid: So true Uldor!
selda: true!
taylor: ah, but that isn't the case in other spaces
Mauz: you can harass people by moving your av on their face... :)
paulix: aren't _Worlds Away's gesturing and actions more integrated into community life?
taylor: if you are in a mud for example and gesture you are likely to be noticed. in much the same way as if you 
were offline
Uldor: but that may be just because of the way the chat screen is arranged in this browser
taylor: anad that is true for worlds away too... yep paulix :)
Haba: aren't muds text based?
taylor: good point uldor. this is where i think the design question profoundly affects interaction/embodiment
taylor: yep, text based. but you can still gesture and emote 
Haba: yes, the point is...
taylor: in fact, i find text-based spaces some of the most interesting
Haba: the gesture and the text is in the same place
taylor: right
Haba: and that's not true in 3d worlds, mostly
Uldor: the original beta version of this software only had the chat text above the avatars heads that forced ppl to pay 
more attention to the graphical enviroment
taylor: i find this lower chat window split a bit difficult
Uldor: but with just text above the avs head you miss what ppl say when you're not looking at them
paulix: why do we not look at each other?
Haba: the environment like Online traveler allow much more interaction with gestures, since ther is that voice chat
paulix: why do we look to the 'I' in the text?
Uldor: It's different in a more 2-d graphical environment cause ppl aren't spread all over the place
taylor: in worldsaway for example the text is put above the avs which works better
Haba: you don't have to move your eyes elsewhere to read something
paulix: true
taylor: right
selda: In OnLive you don't have to read
Haba: the text above head is also ver problematic in popular places
Uldor: some ppl prefer the anonymity of just typing instead of talking though
taylor: hmm, i agree its not ideal, but the lower one is tough for me. the way it gets blocked out
Haba: well, yeah :) I wouldn't like to talk, I prefer text based conversation...mostly beacuse of language problems :)
"PKSnoopy38": Hi
taylor: onlive is interesting too int hat you only have heads. steve dipaulo (sp?) had some interesting things to say 
about that last year
"PKSnoopy38": Hi
"PKSnoopy38": Goodbye
Haba: there are also some full bodies :) like the batman bird :)
taylor: did anyone catch steves talk today btw? i went to the space but seemed to have missed it
"PKSnoopy38": Goodbye
paulix: and cars
taylor: ah, good point :)
"PKSnoopy38": Hi
Uldor: I'm not too comfortable with the disembodied head look
taylor: but it was interesting in that he discussed the tradeoffs between very expressive heads and full bodies with 
very lower end gesturing
"PKSnoopy38": Goodbye
taylor: why not uldor?
Uldor: It destroys the realism, I'm use to seeing thing mirror real life
taylor: ah
taylor: kinda like kilesa being a bird there? 
Uldor: I can accept talking birds cause they're at least scaled to size
taylor:  ah
Haba: heh...
Haba: what about talking cars?
taylor: well, it's a fascinating discussion. i appreciate everyone turning out for this session :)
Uldor: not too much reality though, I would find that a bit dull, I don't want my av to bleed or get injured 
taylor: sorry we weren't able to have all our speakers here. i guess we have all just participated in a good experiment 

paulix: so the body shouldn't matter too much!!!
taylor: i think i'll just leave the floor open now for general discussion for folks to follow up threads and chat :)
taylor: and go to other talks! 
paulix: I'll belive the materiality when avatars form their own union...!
taylor:  paulix
Uldor: thanks taylor, it was a wonderful discussion :)
taylor: paulix, i'll have to make sure you send you a draft of that chapter and get your feedback ;)
paulix: POWER to the oppressed avatars... shells for human personalities... rise up and break your chains!
selda: thanks
taylor: thanks for participating everyone! :)
paulix: thanks to u
Haba: thanks taylor
taylor: see you all throughout the rest of the event! :)
paulix: i felt a slight disjunction between my avatar and me there... it's letting go!
paulix: ciao

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