Dear Jeremy Bailenson,
Your article on how avatars are constructed and currently utilized during social interactions was very relevant to what's going on in our class called Self and Society in Virtual Contexts because our class is using Second Life to meet and interact half the time. We recently watched the film Life 2.0 on Oprah, and it's so crazy how representative and relate-able avatars are to us in virtual reality and how addictive this virtual world can be to us. I think we find such an inclination towards the virtual world because it's this whole new dimension of limitless possibilities where we can do whatever we desire, yet there is that touch of reality because it's so representative to our own world. And it not only determines who we are but who we long to be. In your experiment of examining identity capture, candidates that captured aspects of the specific subjects' facial structure gained advantage and was more likely to receive the subjects' votes. We tend to like things that resemble ourselves more.
Your question, “Is TSI fundamentally different from plastic surgery, makeup, self-help books, and white lies,” really interested me because honestly I don't think TSI is any different from plastic surgery and make-up or whatnot. Two-dimensional sources make us not so rigorous in our skepticism concerning the authenticity of form and behavior. Thus trusting the very pillars of social interaction, like what a person looks like and how they behave, presents interact-ants in a very difficult position. In Life 2.0, users in Second Life enter this new reality of freedom where they can assume alternate personas that are sculpted and manipulated depending on the heart's desire. They can represent reality, fantasy, or a mix of both. For example, a man in his 20s used an avatar of an adolescent female, so how is that any different from creating and manipulating your own identity which people can do through plastic surgery or white lies? Therefore I strongly believe in your take-home message: “As computer-mediated communication becomes more advanced and prevalent, it will be fascinating to monitor the progress of TSI strategies as well as technology designed to detect and foil the non-veridical rendering of appearance and behaviors.”