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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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My sincere thanks goes to the remarkable scholars and designers who contributed to this book, and to my family (human and canine) who suffered fewer gaming sessions, sleepings-in, phone calls, and tennis balls as this book was completed. Thanks to West Virginia University who supported the authors’ conference that helped make this project what it is, and in particular to the Department of Communication and our fearless leader Dr. Matt Martin for support. Thanks also to Cheryl Campanella Bracken, Joe A. Wasserman, and Andrew Gambino for their insight during that conference. Respect goes to myriad game developers who have given us digital bodies to engage. A serious high five goes to the artist Frenone who so brilliantly interpreted the notion of a body that balances human and technology (cover) and of a modern da Vincian avatar (Fig. 0.1). And thanks to Jonathan Blow of Number None and Mads Wibroe from Playdead for generous permissions to reprint their game graphics. ~JB

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