Haley R. Hatfield (Ph.D. student) & Aarum Youn-Heil (Ph.D. student) (2023). On being human: An investigation of virtual influencers and activism [Paper Presentation]. 2023 AEJMC Midwinter Conference, Norman, OK. *Top Paper Abstract in Mass Communication & Society Division
Abstract: Social media influencers leverage their online fame to influence consumers’ decision-making. With the advancement of immersive and interactive media technologies, virtual influencers (VIs) are rapidly catching up. As technology advances, the lines between responsibility and accountability blur because companies create and control VIs to portray a persona. Anthropomorphism, or the perception of human-like traits in non-human agents, can help to explain the humanness of VIs. Although VIs can look and act human, they cannot have human experiences like traveling or be harmed by dangerous social issues like racism and sexism. However, those consuming the images of VIs can. The current paper critically examines a famous VI known for advocating various social issues to understand the consequences of VI activism and how that may impact everyday consumers.