The Avatar as Agent.
In a three-dimensional virtual space the avatar is an embodied representation of its owner. Embodiment for an avatar exists in the sense of occupying time and space. Digital theorist and artist Mark Stephen Meadows has described an avatar as “an interactive, social representation of an Internet user”.8
Neal Stephenson uses the word avatar in his 1992 novel Snow Crash for ‘the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse.’ or the virtual simulation of the human form in the metaverse, a fictional virtual-reality application on the Internet.9 Kai-Mikael Jää-Aro classifies avatars from a functional perspective as ‘those objects, which potentially are in the high agency end of the spectrum, since the property of agency can change over the course of a session,’ (original emphasis).10 In each of these three contexts the avatar is the anchor for a personality in a virtual world. The relationship between the avatar and the person(ality) that animates it is guided by what determines agency in the virtual environment.
Avatars, like everything in a virtual online environment, are constructed from computer language code. How an avatar is able to move, what sounds it makes, how it communicates and physically interacts with other avatars, and what it looks like are all enabled by the code from which it is composed. However, in regards to the point/s of reception for the human participants in three-dimensional worlds it is the Graphic User Interface
(GUI) that presents options regarding how the avatar can behave. The visual and spatial attributes of the GUI are what the person behind the avatar responds to in interacting with the virtual world space. These attributes include such simulative and symbolic characteristics as the space between a door (a place of entry) and a sofa (resting or meeting place) and the physical dimensions of the avatar. The avatar is the line of difference between the person controlling and the visual and spatial attributes of the virtual world. Interpreting the virtual world is performed from the perspectives and abilities of the avatar. The avatar as such a line of difference is determined by the agency granted to it as part of narrative architecture.