Attributions of Human-Avatar Relationship Closeness in a Virtual Community
43 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2009
Date Written: January 21, 2009
Avatars are increasingly being used in virtual communities to provide users with a natural and favorable online experience. However, the achievement of the avatars' advantages depends largely on the building of close human-avatar relationships, which will also contribute to the virtual communities' sustainable development. In this study, virtual community users' attributions of the human-avatar relationship closeness are explored. We conceptualize human-avatar relationship closeness as composed of interaction frequency, activity diversity, and relational influence, and identify its antecedents (perceived needs fulfillment, relationship irreplaceableness, and resource investment) by extending the investment model of interpersonal relationship commitment to the human-computer interaction domain. We test the hypotheses through an online survey of Second Life "residents", and find that people's perceived needs fulfillment has positive effects on interaction frequency and relational influence and that relationship irreplaceableness positively associates with relational influence, while resource investment positively associates with all three human-avatar relationship closeness dimensions.
Keywords: human-computer interaction, human-avatar relationship, avatar, relationship closeness, virtual community, Second Life
JEL Classification: L86, L82
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