Review: Avatars–Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet [ILLUSTRATED] (Paperback)

5 Star, Information Society, Information Technology

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Dated but Superb Introduction to New Possibilities,

December 9, 2005
Bruce Damer
I am quite surprised by the mean-spirited reviews of this book. Perhaps the individuals writing them consider themselves “gods” in cyberspace, which causes me to wonder, if they know so much, why did they buy the book in the first place?

Published in 1998, the book is certainly outdated by the phenomenal advances in interactive multi-media technology, but I never-the-less consider it a superb introduction to new possibilities.

For me, although I have some exposure to technology, this book was an eye-opener. Initially I wondered why people would spend so much time in cyberspace “avatar-acting” but then I had two “aha” experiences from the book that easily earn it five stars:

1) In a similar vein to the early work in “cyber-cafe's” where interactive audio-visual was put into gathering places for Hispanics and for Negros (and perhaps whites and Asians also, but these are the two I remember), avatars break down barriers to sincere interaction. Of course they open paths for deception as well, but the key point here is that if in cyberspace no one knows you are ugly, you can focus on substance.

2) The second “aha” experience occured when I turned this book upside down and asked myself, if we can create avatars that are imaginary, can we go the other way? Can we feed real-time real-world information into a “serious” game and go to the next level, where the public can literally “be” the President, “see” all intelligence about anything that is available to Google, and experiment with alternative behaviors, policies and investment options?

I spend a lot of time reading (#66 over-all, #1 for non-fiction about global issues) and this book was a real pleasure to read, and an extremely valuable catalyst to my thinking. Dated or not, I recommend it very highly.

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