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Online Dress Codes

2009 October 8
by Richard N. Landers
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An article in ITPro discusses a study by research firm (and apparently futurists) Gartner suggesting that businesses will have dress codes for their employee’s online avatars by 2013.

Avatar isn’t defined by the article, so it’s unclear what kind of avatar this research was investigating.  When logging into online discussion boards or social networking sites, users often choose a small picture that will always be posted next to their name – this is an avatar.  When using a virtual world, users create 3D characters to represent themselves – these are also avatars.

My guess then is that Gartner is not really predicting the organizational regulation of avatars, but instead, the regulation of online personas in general.  When employees speak for the company in real life, the corporate argument is that these individuals have a responsibility to make sure they represent the company as it wishes to be represented.  When employees have the freedom to represent themselves online however they wish and then represent the company, that image may not be maintained.  I can imagine some of the weird avatars people choose to adopt in Second Life at a business meeting and cringe.

None of this is particularly surprising.  The interesting part is the timeline – if organizations find business-dealings-by-avatar to be important enough to have regulations about them, then that implies Gartner believes such online negotiation will be common by 2013.

I guess that gives me a pretty good deadline for when all this virtual worlds research needs to be finished, eh?

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