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Digital image manipulation and avatar configuration: implications for inclusive classrooms


Jo Ann Oravec, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, 800 W. Main, Whitewater, WI 53190, USA. Email:


This paper outlines concerns for inclusive classrooms involving personal digital image modifications and selections, as well as avatar configurations. Classroom interactions incorporate various dimensions of personal appearance; however, educators try to make them primarily about knowledge and wisdom. Students in environments where they can interact with each other face-to-face are constantly immersed in issues involving their exterior manifestations. However, the utilisations of digital media in the classroom and in the online delivery of instruction are providing new ways of manipulating the digitised images of individuals, as well as their characteristic patterns of speech and motion. The rising popularity of avatars in education (such as in Second Life) also provides a new spectrum of representational choices. Individuals who reconstitute their images so as to appear more ‘normal’ may achieve results that are more problematic than liberating, however. Fostering the development of manipulated images and avatars for the purposes of educational interaction can also be construed as an attempt to ‘erase’ stigma and in effect disempower individuals, especially those with disabilities. Likewise, image modification can be incorporated into bullying initiatives as part of efforts to ridicule and marginalise. In endeavours to mitigate these problems, faculty and staff can model the creative and empowering use of digital image and avatar technologies while celebrating (and not eradicating) their own idiosyncratic personal characteristics.