chapter  7
27 Pages

Is there anybody out there? Analyzing the effects of embodiment and nonverbal behavior in avatar-mediated communication

WithgARy BEnTE, nICOLE C. KRäMER, AnD FELIx ESCHEnBURG

Embodiment in the broadest sense can be defined as the existence and/ or the visibility of humanlike physical properties that enable the transmission of nonverbal signals (see Ruttkay et al., 2002). Embodiment is a given fact in all face-to-face encounters but can be minimized or even absent in mediated communication. Avatars, i.e. virtual representations of real human beings, are a means of embodiment within computermediated communication (CMC). Avatars are increasingly populating the net, appearing in a wide range of applications from social gaming to net-based knowledge communication. The mere technical feasibility of realistic virtual characters with real-time behavior capabilities and transformable appearance is certainly one relevant motor for the rapid development of this field. This development also seems to be driven by the particular interest humans devote to the visual communication channel and the exceptional sensitivity they have developed towards nonverbal cues, such as gestures, postures, movements, and facial displays (Depaulo & Friedman, 1998; Fridlund, 1991; Krämer, 2006).