Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Katz, Steven B

Committee Member

Holmevik , Jan R

Committee Member

Davis , Timothy A

Abstract

This thesis argues that ethics can and should be applied to Second Life avatar design and behavior. Second Life is a unique virtual reality due to its connection to the physical world primarily through financial devices. Users buy and sell virtual and physical goods over these networks; the avatar, it is argued, is the primary instrument for persuasion in these contexts. Avatars facilitate a virtual aesthetic that is primarily 'natural.' By creating aesthetic avatars, the developers of Second Life enable audiences to affectively associate with other 'residents.' Not only is the avatar designed for aesthetic appeal, but it enables users to move, act, and interact in an online environment--to vicariously experience the emotions that accompany those actions. In the real world, individuals' actions have ethical consequences. Behavior in Second Life, it is argued, should be subject to ethics as determined by democratic communities of users.

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