Do we really have a common definition of avatars? Many people think of the movie Avatar that featured a man inhabiting the form of another species where he was required to take on characteristics of that being while overcoming his own human limitations. This notion of avatars seems partially true.
Avatars to me represent an interplay with 'self' that is as diverse as the personalities of the people whom inhabit their avatars. Of course not all people inhabit thier avatar, if they have one at all. Much more research is needed on identity, but it is clear that the leaders who foster communities across distance and time zones often use avatars. These communities provide the glue that connects annual events like conferences.
Speaking of avatars, The Virtual Education Journal of the International Society of Technology in Education's Virtual Environments Network features some profiles of educators who are often tireless scouts of new media and technology. The issue is called My Avatar and Me. Check it out: