Computer science has long been intertwined with society's technological dreams. The dream of automated homes relates to ubiquitous computing, just as the dream of sentient machines relates to artificial intelligence (AI). Another of society's dreams could be called the "Avatar Dream," a culturally shared vision of a future in which, through the computer, people can become whomever or whatever we want to be.
Our focus is not, however, on simply developing the technologies that can support the Avatar Dream. We instead argue for the need to reimagine the Avatar Dream where the potential social and cultural impacts of virtual identities are considered intrinsic to the engineering practices of inventing them. This article is an overview of our endeavors toward this end and several key results and findings demonstrating our reimagining of the Avatar Dream.
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