Call: ECREA 2010 pre-conference: Avatars and Humans



Preconference to the ECREA 2010 – 3rd European Communication Conference
12 October 2010, Hamburg, Germany

==Topic & Questions==

With the rise of digital interactive media, “avatars” – computer generated visual representations of users  – have become a crucial link between users and the digital spaces they navigate. While the term “avatar” reaches back to Hinduist scriptures ca. 200 BC, and the use of player representations in games can be traced to the earliest known games played more than 4.000 years ago, it was only in 1985 that the multi-user domain Habitat introduced the term for user representations in virtual worlds. Today, avatars are used in digital games as well as e-commerce applications, social virtual environments, virtual meetings and conferences, and many more digital spaces and applications.

However, avatars are not just an interface users manipulate to access and act in digital spaces – avatars and their human users form complex relationships. For instance, avatars may represent the users’ own or created identity, users may develop an emotional attachment or parasocial relation to their avatars, or the design or activities of an avatar may infringe rights or develop an economic value.

For the pre-conference “Avatars and Humans”, we encourage submissions from all disciplinary and methodological backgrounds on the complex relations between avatars and their users. Submissions might address, but are not limited to the following topics and questions:

  • Creating and Using Avatars: How and why do we create avatars, what are the motives and effects of specific kinds of avatars and avatar usage? Do we create avatars similar or dissimilar to us? What kinds of in-game avatars and avatar features enhance or delimit qualities of user experience, such as presence, immersion or enjoyment?
  • My Avatar and Me: How might we describe the (long-term) relationship between users and their avatars? Which factors influence the users’ identification with and emotional attachment to their avatars?
  • The (Para-)Sociality of Avatars: Which social psychological factors affect our (avatar’s) interaction with other avatars, either controlled by users or an algorithm?
  • Avatars and Profiles: How do avatar-based interactive spaces and the (mostly) „profile-based” spaces of social network sites and social media relate, especially in regard to matters of identity and relationship management? Can we observe a growing convergence or interdependence of the two?
  • nalyzing Avatars: Exploring the user-avatar relationship also requires the description of the avatar itself. What are the relevant properties of avatars? Which analytical instruments can and should be employed for systematic descriptions, codings, analyses of avatars?
  • Coding Avatars: As computer-generated representations of users, avatars have to be designed and coded, which puts important material constraints and preconditions on potential user-avatar relations. Which factors afford or constraint the customizability and variability of avatars? Which models of artifical intelligence guide the simulated behaviour of computer-controlled avatars?
  • Avatar Rights and Regulations: People invest time and sometimes sizeable amounts of money in their avatars, and avatars develop reputations that might radiate on their users (or vice versa). Put differently, users develop vested interests in their avatars, and avatars develop an „avatar biography”: Do we need specific “avatar rights” to protect the histories, experiences and reputation of avatars? Which virtual as well as real-life circumstances are neccessary to govern avatars effectively?
  • Behind and Beyond the Avatar: Which social and cultural processes take place between individuals, avatars and the communities they play in? How do the performances, gestures and emotions of avatars affect community building or the emergence of public communication in game worlds as well as everyday social behavior and society and vice versa? Does avatar-based interaction show the same social dynamics like face-to-face interaction (social control, negotiation, face work etc.), or does it differ – and how?
  • Methodology of Avatar Research: Which paradigms and instruments might be applied to research concerning the above questions? What is the specific potential, what are possible obstacles of methodological and/or ethical nature when researching avatars?


For further details, see the website and download the Call for Papers at:


All abstracts should be submitted through the ECREA 2010 website no later than: 30 April 2010.

Please note that this submission deadline will not be extended!

Online submission system opens in January 2010 at

To avoid technical problems, early submission is strongly


  • December 2009: Online submission system open
  • Deadline for submission of abstracts: April 30, 2010
  • Notification of acceptance: May 31, 2010
  • Submission of Full Papers: September 15, 2010
  • Early Bird Get together: October 11, 2010
  • Pre-Conference: October 12, 2010

==Local Organizers==

Hamburg Media School, Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research,
Ilmenau University of Technology


The pre-conference will take place at:

Hamburg Media School
Finkenau 35
D-22081 Hamburg, Germany


Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt
Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research
Warburgstr. 8-10, D-20354 Hamburg, Germany

Prof. Dr. Sabine Trepte
Hamburg Media School
Finkenau 35, D-22081 Hamburg, Germany

Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Wimmer
Ilmenau University of Technology
Ehrenbergstr. 29, D-98693 Ilmenau, Germany

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