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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 Fourteen: Headcanon & Lore: Owning the Narrative (John Carter McKnight)


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Headcanon & Lore

Owning the Narrative


Have you ever imagined what happens to characters after the credits roll or the book ends? Or thought of characters being as in a relationship, or with a background, that wasn’t spelled out on screen or in the text? If so, you’ve built a headcanon—a personal narrative to expand on or modify what the author(s) of a story have established. Headcanons can be as subtle as seeing the villain in a sympathetic light, or as profound as imagining a character is a person of color, or gay, to relate better to them and their story; this process “can make the difference between whether or not someone connects with a work” (Asher-Perrin, para. 9). Headcanons can be shared, influencing how we see the original work, and can even influence official creators as they fill in and expand on stories in games and related media.


The term “canon” originally meant the group of texts accepted by authorities as part of Biblical scripture, and came to refer to a group of foundational texts of Western literature (the things teachers make you read in grade school). In popular culture use, it refers to the parts of a collection of stories that are considered by the copyright holders to have “actually happened” in the fictional universe. Canonical stories are often called...

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