endnotes on the avatar project & process

The new face of Ms. Herr when online launched Friday afternoon on Twitter.

What started with a friend’s critique of the photographic quality of my then default profile pic and my own feeling that the same pic was ill-suited to serve my growing adoption of both personal and professional networking platforms, led to a strong desire for a new social media avatar. Subsequent conversations on personal branding and web presence cemented a notion that one’s avatar was a tool, an iconographic representation of self, serving to frame perceptions of their unique identity.

Already a fan of his abstract fine art work and his Dog a Day series, I was excited to work with Tyson Crosbie (@tysoncrosbie on Twitter) for my shoot, which in essence, was a conversation traversing a number of subjects during which he captured over 50 moments of self-expression.

Having spent much time discoursing the power of social media to engage audiences in meaningful conversations and crowd-source information, I felt it was important to include my own audience in the image selection process. Tyson posted a soft edit set* of 16 images on Flickr and we asked people to select their favorite. (*Link may take you to set of another individual/subject as Tyson and his clients continue to use this process for soliciting feedback. Selections from my set are currently archived here.)

The crowd-selected image is not the image I would have selected…and I consider this incongruence indicative of a successful process. It is often said that each of us is our own worst critic. How we perceive ourselves, how we hope to be perceived by others, and how we are truly perceived by these others are rarely perfectly aligned. What I believe to be my greatest attributes may not sync with those attributes that draw others to me. And so by yielding the selection of my avatar to a voluntary participant group, what rose to the top was an iconographic representation of self that connects most strongly with others.

Want another perspective? Tyson blogged his thoughts on the relationship between the avatar and personal branding.

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  1. #1 by Sara on June 4, 2008 - 2:13 pm

    I love this idea for choosing a photo. And I think the final choice is great! (FYI – the soft edit link goes to another shoot, not yours)

  2. #2 by Ms. Herr on June 4, 2008 - 3:49 pm

    Sara, thanks for the head’s up about the link. I’ve left the link as is because Tyson continues to use this process ( which we pioneered with my shoot) with his clients to solicit feedback for social media avatars. Selections from my set are currently archived here.

    I think it is a very intriguing process, especially as many of us have taken time to find and build communities online. I am proud to have been the one to start a new microtrend and am excited to see where it goes. 🙂

  3. #3 by Ms. Herr on April 16, 2009 - 10:24 am

    For additional thoughts on the power and importance of your avatar, check out Seth Godin’s power of a tiny picture post.

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