I love avatars.  I love that I get to play with my sense of self differently in different settings.  I love that there are bad songs about avatars, like Do You Want to Date My Avatar. I have a Mii on the Wii, a Voki to sing the Hokey Pokey, a Pirate dame to play the Puzzle Pirates game, and numerous other sides of myself to sing a Song of Myself.

It began simply enough.  I was taking an online course through the Minnesota Library System on the “23 Things.”  I needed to make an avatar, and went to Yahoo.  I mostly liked the results, although the lips were a bit too Angelina Jolie for me.

I played with some just for fun.  I Simpsonized myself to see how I might look on that TV show. 

I explored how I might look via the TV show Mad Men.  I liked the results so much that I use that avatar for this site and my online presence.   I just began to use this image as my Gravatar to present a consistent online persona.  

For this challenge, I decided to play with a few new avatar sites.  Each has its strengths and its limitations.  My favorite result visually was the version I made at My Web Face which you can see here.  Unfortunately, the site was extremely aggressive: it needed a download, it added a toolbar, and it changed my home page (without asking for permission, I might add).  After I finished making the avatar and taking a screen shot of it, I had to uninstall everything and restore my home page.  I’m not sure I would recommend using it unless you are comfortable doing all that.

I also went back to play with Voki, the avatar that lets you record your voice.  One of the foreign language teachers at my school used this last year with middle school students to have students record themselves speaking the language. Then, they sent the teacher the link as homework.  She could listen to the student’s pronunciation and give them personal feedback.  The students loved it since they could create their avatars and had an excuse to play on the computers. My result is in the sidebar. (I've taken down my Voki as part of my sidebar cleanup.)

Finally, here is my Picassohead.  I like to think that this is how my head feels on a bad day.

I chose to “brand” myself with the Mad Men avatar rather than with my own photo because in some ways it is more distinctive.  It is easier to remember and keep track of than an actual photo would be.  I included a photo on this blog on the about page with the avatar, and on Twitter I just use my photo.  I don’t really have a strong reason beyond consistency to do what I do.

With students I would insist on an avatar of some sort.  I think it just is one step toward keeping students safer than they would be otherwise, especially if they are younger students.  As I said above, our school already used Voki with students.  Many students are familiar with avatars from online and Wii-type games, so they are comfortable with creating such alter egos.

And as I said, I like having the opportunity to develop different facets of myself.  I think if you put all the avatars together, and then look at my photo you can see the resemblances.

So, go forth and be yourself—virtually!