[Air-L] (Call for papers) Avatars and Humans conference in Hamburg, Germany

Jeffrey Wimmer jeffrey.wimmer at tu-ilmenau.de
Wed Jan 13 06:36:15 PST 2010

Dear all

Apologies for cross-postings. Please send to interested
colleagues and students.

For more information just contact me



Preconference to the ECREA 2010 – 3rd European Communication Conference
12 October 2010, Hamburg, Germany


==Topic & Questions==

With the rise of digital interactive media, “avatars” – computer  
generated visual representations of users – have become a crucial  
link between users and the digital spaces they navigate. While the  
term “avatar” reaches back to Hinduist scriptures ca. 200 BC, and the  
use of player representations in games can be traced to the earliest  
known games played more than 4.000 years ago, it was only in 1985  
that the multi-user domain Habitat introduced the term for user  
representations in virtual worlds. Today, avatars are used in digital  
games as well as e-commerce applications, social virtual  
environments, virtual meetings and conferences, and many more digital  
spaces and applications.

However, avatars are not just an interface users manipulate to access  
and act in digital spaces – avatars and their human users form  
complex relationships. For instance, avatars may represent the users’  
own or created identity, users may develop an emotional attachment or  
parasocial relation to their avatars, or the design or activities of  
an avatar may infringe rights or develop an economic value.

For the pre-conference “Avatars and Humans”, we encourage submissions  
from all disciplinary and methodological backgrounds on the complex  
relations between avatars and their users. Submissions might address,  
but are not limited to the following topics and questions:

* Creating and Using Avatars: How and why do we create avatars, what  
are the motives and effects of specific kinds of avatars and avatar  
usage? Do we create avatars similar or dissimilar to us? What kinds  
of in-game avatars and avatar features enhance or delimit qualities  
of user experience, such as presence, immersion or enjoyment?

* My Avatar and Me: How might we describe the (long-term)  
relationship between users and their avatars? Which factors influence  
the users’ identification with and emotional attachment to their  

* The (Para-)Sociality of Avatars: Which social psychological factors  
affect our (avatar’s) interaction with other avatars, either  
controlled by users or an algorithm?

* Avatars and Profiles: How do avatar-based interactive spaces and  
the (mostly) „profile-based” spaces of social network sites and  
social media relate, especially in regard to matters of identity and  
relationship management? Can we observe a growing convergence or  
interdependence of the two?

* Analyzing Avatars: Exploring the user-avatar relationship also  
requires the description of the avatar itself. What are the relevant  
properties of avatars? Which analytical instruments can and should be  
employed for systematic descriptions, codings, analyses of avatars?

* Coding Avatars: As computer-generated representations of users,  
avatars have to be designed and coded, which puts important material  
constraints and preconditions on potential user-avatar relations.  
Which factors afford or constraint the customizability and  
variability of avatars? Which models of artifical intelligence guide  
the simulated behaviour of computer-controlled avatars?

* Avatar Rights and Regulations: People invest time and sometimes  
sizeable amounts of money in their avatars, and avatars develop  
reputations that might radiate on their users (or vice versa). Put  
differently, users develop vested interests in their avatars, and  
avatars develop an „avatar biography”: Do we need specific “avatar  
rights” to protect the histories, experiences and reputation of  
avatars? Which virtual as well as real-life circumstances are  
neccessary to govern avatars effectively?

* Behind and Beyond the Avatar: Which social and cultural processes  
take place between individuals, avatars and the communities they play  
in? How do the performances, gestures and emotions of avatars affect  
community building or the emergence of public communication in game  
worlds as well as everyday social behavior and society and vice  
versa? Does avatar-based interaction show the same social dynamics  
like face-to-face interaction (social control, negotiation, face work  
etc.), or does it differ – and how?

* Methodology of Avatar Research: Which paradigms and instruments  
might be applied to research concerning the above questions? What is  
the specific potential, what are possible obstacles of methodological  
and/or ethical nature when researching avatars?


For further details, see the website and download the Call for Papers  


All abstracts should be submitted through the ECREA 2010 website no  
later than: 30 April 2010.

Please note that this submission deadline will not be extended!

Online submission system opens in January 2010 at http:// 

To avoid technical problems, early submission is strongly encouraged.


* Deadline for submission of abstracts: April 30, 2010.
* Notification of acceptance: May 31, 2010
* Submission of Full Papers: September 15, 2010
* Early Bird Get together: October 11, 2010
* Pre-Conference: October 12, 2010 December 2009: Online submission  
system open

==Local Organizers==

Hamburg Media School, Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research,  
Ilmenau University of Technology


The pre-conference will take place at:

Hamburg Media School
Finkenau 35
D-22081 Hamburg, Germany


Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt
Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research
Warburgstr. 8-10, D-20354 Hamburg, Germany
j.schmidt at hans-bredow-institut.de

Prof. Dr. Sabine Trepte
Hamburg Media School
Finkenau 35, D-22081 Hamburg, Germany
s.trepte at hamburgmediaschool.com

Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Wimmer
Ilmenau University of Technology
Ehrenbergstr. 29, D-98693 Ilmenau, Germany
jeffrey.wimmer at tu-ilmenau.de

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