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Avatar, Assembled

The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies


Edited By Jaime Banks

Avatar, Assembled is a curated volume that unpacks videogame and virtual world avatars—not as a monolithic phenomenon (as they are usually framed) but as sociotechnical assemblages, pieced together from social (human-like) features like voice and gesture to technical (machine-like) features like graphics and glitches. Each chapter accounts for the empirical, theoretical, technical, and popular understandings of these avatar "components"—60 in total—altogether offering a nuanced explication of avatars-as-assemblages as they matter in contemporary society and in individual experience. The volume is a "crossover" piece in that, while it delves into complex ideas, it is written in a way that will be accessible and interesting to students, researchers, designers, and practitioners alike.
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Chapter Twelve: Morality & Personality: Perfect and Deviant Selves (Matthew Grizzard / Changhyun Ahn)


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Morality & Personality

Perfect and Deviant Selves


Our personalities and our moral codes, perhaps more so than any other factors, represent who we are as individuals. They reflect both nature and nurture. They shape our behavior and communicate our identities. They tell others and they remind us who we are and what we are like. In everyday life, our actions and behaviors carry tremendous weight in terms of communicating our personality and morality, especially regarding first impressions. But in videogames, we are afforded potentialities that are typically inaccessible. Games allow us to engage virtually in deviant behaviors that would usually carry with them severe social or legal consequences. Alternatively, they provide us with the opportunity to craft and perfect idealized artificial manifestations of our self. It is this process of adopting an alternative personality and moral code through videogame avatars that is the focus of this chapter. Unlike other forms of media, the avatars of videogames allow media consumers to assume the role of a character within a narrative, engaging in behaviors and adopting a persona that either converges with or diverges from our own persona.


Current conceptualizations from psychology and communication describe both personality and morality in pluralistic terms. In other words, morality and personality are not monolithic, but rather are combinations of factors. A great deal of research in psychology...

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