Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Friends or Avatars

AvatarsWriting an article these days require the writer or journalist to be conversant with the language of the Internet and the web. For the next 3-6 months, my studies will encompass the topics of online web journalism, radio and television journalism, and journalism ethics.

In the World Wide Web, many people get to 'know' each other through blogging, chatting, and emailing, and in many cases, these people do not meet the other face to face or even see their real faces. A photograph of someone on the Net, even with a name attached to it, is seldom the actual face of the person you are communicating with. It is usually just an avatar.

An avatar, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is "an image which represents you in online games, chat rooms, etc." This essentially means a picture which is not you, placed anywhere online in the Internet or the World Wide Web, to represent you.

This form of representation can be discreet or exploitative. Discreet means to put an image that is obviously not you to represent you, such as a cartoon, a comic character, scenery, or something else. Exploitative means stealing or borrowing someone else's image to represent you.

For example, when John communicates on the Internet to write blogs or to chat, he uses avatars, obvious avatars that let the other party knows he does not want to be seen. He does not steal or borrow someone else's identity to pretend it is his. His many cyber friends also use avatars, but unlike him, they use cool pictures of images to represent themselves, mostly stolen identities or impersonation. It may be the real person is not handsome or pretty, but to have images that attract a person in order to be friends is not always ethical or acceptable at times, but then again, maybe, like John, they have something to hide, just as John discreetly hides behind avatars.

The 'reality' is, as users of the Internet, many people represent themselves using avatars. This can pose a problem. If some day a person gets close to knowing another on the Net and they wish to meet, it may turn out to be a shock when they do, because being beautiful or handsome sometimes plays a very important role to chemistry. As long as avatars are involved, people on the web are just 'real' individuals who hide behind masks!

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