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Avatar, Assembled

The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies

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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 Twenty-Nine: Controllers & Inputs: Masters of Puppets (Daniel Roth / Jean-Luc Lugrin / Sebastian von Mammen / Marc Erich Latoschik)

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CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Controllers & Inputs

Masters of Puppets

DANIEL ROTH, jean-luc lugrin, sebastian von mammen, & marc erich latoschik



Picture vibrant cities of the future or battlefields of the past—we can dive right into these fantastic scenarios by means of modern technology. The digital characters that populate these and various other digital worlds are distinct. Some are referred to as “agents” and are driven by the machine—they wander about and behave based on algorithmic instructions. Others are “avatars” and are driven by human movement, like puppets: “The interaction of the player with the video-game is the puppetry. Puppetry describes how the player starts approaching the video-game until eventually the game being played is the outcome of the actions of the player” (Calvillo-Gámez, Cairns, & Cox, 2015, p. 47). As the puppet Pinocchio’s creation was famously characterized by his maker Gepetto: “The legs and feet still had to be made. As soon as they were done, Geppetto felt a sharp kick on the tip of his nose. ‘I deserve it!’ he said to himself. I should have thought of this before I made him. Now it’s too late!” (Collodi, 1881/2012).

Although Collidi’s Pinocchio and Gepetto seem to be disconnected entities, it is Gepetto’s intentions and physical actions, in combination with his senses, that control his wooden companion. To become the puppeteer of an avatar, breathing life into its digital body, controls are...

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