Friday, October 16, 2009

Dress codes for avatars?

Gartner has expressed the view that companies should develop dress codes for their employees' avatars. Computer Weekly and ITPro have both had their say on the subject.

A few years back, when I attended a Second Life workshop, the woman who was facilitating it boasted an avatar with the face of a fox (literally, not metaphorically) and an, er, interesting outfit. My own looked and dressed like me. I felt a little staid. As if I had missed the opportunity for creativity. I was tempted to go for something a bit more outlandish, but decided that a situation might arise in which I wanted a more accurate representation of myself.

I have mixed feelings about the idea of avatar dress codes. I can understand that a company with a virtual world presence will want to project the same sort of professional image online as they do face to face. But I also wonder how far they can push this. Will it just be about dress, or will people be restricted as to body shapes and accuracy of representation? Could a large, bald man be prevented from having an avatar that is a slim man (or even woman) with a full head of hair?

As with blogging policies, there's a lot of grey area here. There's the situation in which you represent your organisation. There's the situation in which you in no way represent an organisation and are free to pursue other interests. But then there's the situation in which you represent yourself, but in a space related to your profession, and therefore populated by clients, potential clients, colleagues, competitors and so on.

I ask the same question here as I did when blogging policies were the hot topic. Where do terms of employment butt up against individual liberties? This is risky turf.

What do you reckon?


Anonymous said...

While I have not participated in Second Life, I have banterd with my fellow e-Learning and Info Architecture friends about what would be acceptable in a corporate Second Life website representing a Virtual Office. Would bikini's be proper attire? Could workers cubicles be adorned with pin-ups? Could your avatar be smoking in what a reality based room would be non-smoking? Should you be allowed to have your avatar with its feet up on the desk?
It would appear to me that some limited propriety is needed in terms of context. If you are interacting with your co-workers, boss, or clients in second life, you had better transpose your corporate dress and behaviour code to Second Life as your true identity is key to your credibility. I can still see you taken some exaggerations with your looks (slim vs wide, hair vs bald) as your Corporate intranet or public website would likely have an image of your true self.
Second Life is a place where there can be some suspension of reality, but if you are using Second Life for serious purposes, then real-life serious rules need apply.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Karyn!

I'm with you on this one.

When I went into SL I was among educators for the first few days, for that was all I knew of SL. And yes there was a dress code of sorts.

When I started exploring the other SIMs, I thought, "Dress code? What dress code?"

Within the first half-hour I was greeted by a sexy feminine avatar wearing what looked like three transparent bus tickets. They were three transparent bus tickets. No kidding.

My youngest daughter (15 y o) who was watching over my shoulder fell about laughing. I thought she had the right perspective. We moved on.

But apparently there are dress codes, on the Titanic, and in the Sistine Chapel - believe it or not!

Catchya later