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Thursday, May 22, 2014

What is a computer avatar?

What is a computer avatar?

A computer avatar is a graphic image or file that represents the person using the computer.

For example, below you will find a picture of me.

Now you will see five different avatars of me.

Now let's explore how two different web resources define the computer avatar.

First, according to  a computer avatar is a personalized graphic file or rendering that represents a computer user. There are basically two types: those used at websites, such as on Web exchange boards, and those used in gaming and virtual worlds.
The simplest type of avatar is a small graphics file used on websites. Websites that offer chat boards often allow members to upload an image to represent themselves. The avatar can be a real-life digital photo of the person using it, but is more often an image intended to be a creative alter ego. This might be a game-rendered snapshot of a beast, hero, or heroine; a humorous picture of a pet or cartoonish character; or a design that makes a statement. The image appears alongside the user’s posts, easily identifying the author for others at a glance.

Sometimes, a website will offer a generic pool of avatars for those who have not yet created their own. Commonly, the user replaces the generic image as soon as he or she learns how to create a personal one. Many websites offering services that use avatars provide instructions on how to create and upload them.

Now according to
a computer avatar is the embodiment of a person or idea. However, in the computer world, an avatar specifically refers to a character that represents an online user. Avatars are commonly used in multiplayer gaming, online communities, and Web forums.
Online multiplayer role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest allow users to create custom characters. These characters serve as the players' avatars. For example, a World of Warcraft player may choose a Paladin with blue armor as his avatar. As the player progresses in the game, his character may gain items and experience, which allows the avatar to evolve over time.
Avatars are also used in online communities, such as Second Life and The Sims Online. These avatars can be custom-designed to create a truly unique appearance for each player. Once a user has created an avatar, he or she becomes part of an online community filled with other users' avatars. Players can interact with other avatars and talk to them using text or voice chat. It's no surprise that "Second Life" refers to a virtual life that players live through their avatars.
Finally, avatars may also seen in Web forums. Online discussion boards typically require users to register and provide information about themselves. Many give users the option to select an image file that represents the user's persona. This image, combined with a made-up username, serves as a person's avatar. For example, a user may select a picture of a Pac-Man and choose the name "pac32" for his avatar. This avatar typically appears next to each posting the user contributes in an online forum.
Regardless of the application, avatars allow people to represent themselves online in whatever way they want. They may be considered alter-egos, since users can customize characters that are completely different than their actual personas. 

On the next blog post we will discuss how computer avatars can be used in instruction.

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