Dear Mr. Bailenson,
I found your three dimensions of Transformed Social Interaction (TSI) very accurate, especially the third dimension, which is self representation. I found that some people have chosen to make their avatar look exactly like themselves, with every detail transferred from reality to virtual life. In the film Life 2.0, a couple can engage in everyday activities in Second Life that they can do in real life, from looking at each other’s houses to meditating together. Having an avatar that completely represents yourself can make the situation more realistic, and therefore more enjoyable.
Your question of whether TSI is different from plastic surgery, makeup, self-help books, and white lies is an interesting one. I personally believe that in Second Life, you are giving yourself a plastic surgery makeover when creating your avatar. When I created my own avatar, I was thrilled at the fact that I could make my avatar look like myself, but a more desirable version of myself. You are also creating a personality makeover, because you can behave in a completely different way in SL than you do when you are physically present. People can hide behind a computer screen much easier this way, and it goes beyond what plastic surgery can do.
That brings me to your next question, in which you ask, “why bother to use a communication
device in which it is not possible to trust any of the actions of the other interactants?” I don’t think that this question is fair pertaining to SL. People can be just as deceiving in real life as they are in virtual life, and it is up to the users to determine who to trust.