Working on personality using avatars

  • Goal

To support and facilitate individual counselling sessions on personality development by using avatars. Working on personality is not simple in individual counselling. Young people are increasingly wary of asking for assistance. They often struggle with their own personality as a teenager, have doubts about who they are and what they will become. Buddy poke offers a tool to experiment in creative ways with their self-image and their ideal image. We started to use the Buddy Poke avatar application on Netlog and Ning social network sites.

  • Activity

Using the Buddy Poke application (www.buddypoke.com), available for various social software sites such as Netlog, Facebook, Ning, Orkut, MySpace etc, to add an avatar to a personal profile page. This avatar can reflect aspects of a young person’s personality. It is an animated online character, and individuals can customtise almost any feature (gender, skin colour, clothes, hair, eyes, mouth etc) of the avatar they choose to create of themselves. Once it has been ‘designed’ by its owner, it is possible for the young person to express feelings, interactions or transactions through the avatar. Young people can interact with one another through their avatars. There are other software options, for example the creation of groups that can interact. The Buddy Poke avatar allows young people to experiment with their image. We see many young people create avatars that have appearances of personalities that they ‘want’ to be, they perform impossible actions and do things that express frustration in their dreams. Observing this activity gives youth workers much information about the young people that can be use in individual counselling. It is also important that as leaders themselves they are also present with a Buddy Poke avatar, and all of this happens in an open atmosphere, but with respect for one another’s privacy.

  • Tools and Resources Used

Buddypoke can be found on social software sites like: Netlog, Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, Friendster, Lokalisten (. De), Quepasa (. Es). It is a simple application that is added to your personal pages. People who visit a person’s profile page may see the avatar and interact with it, using their own Buddy Poke avatar. This is very important for young people.

IMVU is a similar application that allows group interactions. With IMVU it is possible to have entire groups living together and to speak in a virtual world. IMVU requires more computer power and will not run on old hardware. In IMVU, one can create one’s own space where interaction with other participants is possible. IMVU works with credits that are quite easy to acquire for free.

  • Results and Evaluation

The avatar is very popular among our youngest people. They adopted the concept very quickly and used it intensively, as long as it was on the opening page of the Netlog profile. When the Buddypoke was moved to another page, just one click away, some of them lost interest. Young people experimented with gender and appearance with several Buddy Pokes on different profiles. It opened opportunities for youth workers to interact with them and to have a different angle to talk about their personality, dreams, ambitions and so on.