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Avatars: Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet Paperback – October 31, 1997
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This book provides a guided tour of avatars--graphical representations (a smiley face, cartoon character, or even a photograph of yourself) of online chat participants that are set in a virtual space against landscapes ranging from the real to the surreal. The CD-ROM that is included with Avatars! is an integral part of the experience. As the book tells you about avatars and shows you the virtual worlds where your avatar can play on your behalf, the CD contains software that enables you to design your avatar and go to the virtual world of your choice. The book leads you to some virtual worlds where you can drop in and chat and takes you to others where you can join other participants in actually building the world and creating an ever-changing environment. The book and CD-ROM take you to eight virtual world systems: Worlds Chat Space Station, The Palace, AlphaWorld, WorldsAway, OnLine! Traveler, Virtual Places, Comic Chat, and Oz Virtual. Damer describes both the technical features and culture of each virtual world. He also shows you how to interact and describes the types of interactions you can expect to take place. The recurring segment "Digi's Diary" puts general thoughts about online interaction in the virtual mouth of Damer's own avatar, DigiGardener. He covers such topics as "avaddiction," dealing with avatars that some might find offensive, and the sort of amusing and not-so-amusing things that can happen when virtual and real worlds collide. After the tour, Damer discusses possible futures for virtual worlds and guides you toward creating a virtual world of your own.
From the Back Cover
Is there life after Web surfing? Yes, and with Avatars!, you can grab your avatar (a digital representation of yourself), run to the nearest virtual world, and experience a whole new Internet. Enter worlds where you take the shape of a butterfly darting in and out of the 3D world below, or where you assume the identity of a living cartoon-strip character talking in text bubbles above your head.
The only book of its kind, Avatars! focuses on what people do inside these virtual worlds, such as building three-dimensional structures, navigating through the worlds, and learning digital etiquette and social interaction skills. A CD-ROM provides readers with ready-to-run worlds that connect them with thousands of other people on the Internet and which are referenced in a companion web site that serves to keep virtual explorers abreast of the latest happenings in the various worlds.
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Top Customer Reviews
Published in 1998, the book is certainly outdated by the phenomenal advances in interactive multi-media technology, but I never-the-less consider it a superb introduction to new possibilities.
For me, although I have some exposure to technology, this book was an eye-opener. Initially I wondered why people would spend so much time in cyberspace "avatar-acting" but then I had two "aha" experiences from the book that easily earn it five stars:
1) In a similar vein to the early work in "cyber-cafe's" where interactive audio-visual was put into gathering places for Hispanics and for Negros (and perhaps whites and Asians also, but these are the two I remember), avatars break down barriers to sincere interaction. Of course they open paths for deception as well, but the key point here is that if in cyberspace no one knows you are ugly, you can focus on substance.
2) The second "aha" experience occured when I turned this book upside down and asked myself, if we can create avatars that are imaginary, can we go the other way? Can we feed real-time real-world information into a "serious" game and go to the next level, where the public can literally "be" the President, "see" all intelligence about anything that is available to Google, and experiment with alternative behaviors, policies and investment options?
I spend a lot of time reading (#66 over-all, #1 for non-fiction about global issues) and this book was a real pleasure to read, and an extremely valuable catalyst to my thinking. Dated or not, I recommend it very highly.
AVATARS is an excellent how-to introduction to virtual worlds. However, it is an even better now-what discussion of the impact of virtual communication. Damer introduces questions of the place of computer communication within more traditional channels. He reassures readers that life can be enhanced through online interaction; however, he also cautions that family and friends can't be hugged through the computer.
AVATARS is an enthusiastic, informative and balanced introduction to virtual words. An excellent place to jump in with at least one foot
Tho the book is well written, and very nicely illustrated, like everything in the world of computers, the technology has evolved to such a point where the technology mentioned out dated.
The book also goes beyond the technology, and into the communities that form online. This is a good study of the who and why of the Internet
As the author notes in the forward, this was his first attempt at writting, and it clearly shows as entire text was written at an elementary school level. This made the reading uninteresting as well as uninformative.
For those uninitiated with the Internet, virtual worlds, or any other form technology, this might serve as a good spring board. However, if the (to be) reader is looking for anything more than a general overview, I would recommend finding a different source from which to learn.