Actors, Agents, and Avatars: Visualizing Digital Humans in E-Commerce and Social Media

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    How Virtuous are Virtual Influencers? – A Qualitative Analysis of Virtual Actors’ Virtues on Instagram
    ( 2023-01-03) Hofeditz, Lennart ; Erle, Lukas ; Timm, Lara ; Mirbabaie, Milad
    Recently, virtual influencers (VIs) have become a more frequent alternative to human influencers (HIs). VIs can be described as non-human agents who behave in a human-like pattern. Big enterprises such as Prada, Porsche, Samsung, or Ikea have already collaborated with VIs in the past. Even though it should be clear to users that VIs cannot practice values and virtues in the real world, VIs seem to express certain virtues. This research paper focuses on identifying virtues conveyed by VIs and the effect of expressing virtues on follower engagement by conducting a qualitative content analysis of social media posts. Furthermore, we checked on VIs being abused by companies to convey a more favorable image. Our findings suggest that conveying certain virtues seems to have a positive effect on the engagement. In addition, some VIs were used by companies for virtue signaling without being noticed by their followers.
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    Celebrity at Your Service: The Effects of Digital-Human Customer Service Agents
    ( 2023-01-03) Yuan, Lingyao ; Kim, Antino ; Seymour, Mike ; Dennis, Alan
    It is now possible to create digital humans that look and sound like real human celebrities. However, it is unclear whether celebrity effects from product endorsements observed in marketing research transfer to digital-human celebrities providing customer service. We conducted an experiment to investigate the effects of a digital-human celebrity as a customer service agent. We used a state-of-the-art neural rendering method to generate a digital human of Hugh Jackman. Our results show that users’ perceived celebrity of digital-human customer service agents leads to higher perceived ability, benevolence, and integrity of the agents, increasing the perception of trustworthiness and the intention to use the service. Also, when digital-human agents make a mistake, customers forgive celebrity agents more than non-celebrity agents. Contrary to what the prior literature suggests, whether the digital-human agents are controlled by a human or by AI has no influence on the impact of errors on perceived trustworthiness. However, the AI-controlled agents increase the willingness to use the service, though they are perceived to be less benevolent.
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    Significance of Visual Realism – Eeriness, Credibility, and Persuasiveness of Virtual Influencers
    ( 2023-01-03) Cornelius, Samia ; Leidner, Dorothy ; Bina, Saman
    Though human-like design can increase favorable social behaviors like familiarity and acceptance, it can also question the technology’s effectiveness, rationality, and functionality. With capabilities that allow technology to become more and more human-like, researchers and practitioners continue to delve over the efficacy and deployment of humanness in design. In this research paper, we measure positive and negative perceptions towards different levels of humanness among an emerging form of digital character: the virtual influencer. In doing so, we assess the efficacy of human-like design among virtual influencers by manipulating their visual realism and measuring the effect of this manipulation on their credibility and persuasiveness. Our experimental design also allows us to explore the existence of the uncanny valley in a novel technological context.
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    Credibility of Virtual Influencers: The Role of Design Stimuli, Knowledge Cues, and User Disposition
    ( 2023-01-03) Cornelius, Samia ; Leidner, Dorothy ; Benbya, Hind
    Virtual Influencers (VIs) are digital influencers that can look and behave like human beings but project themselves as “robots”. They influence people’s attitudes and behaviors through their presence and interaction. While human-like design can lead to acceptance, additional information about machine-like description (robot) can create conflict about the influencer’s identity and lead to unfavorable social responses. Social perceptions are also subjective. In this study, we examine the influence of human-like design, knowledge cues, and user disposition on user perceptions of VI credibility. In doing so, we present a case for the substitution of human influencers by “lesser human” counterparts in the context of social media.
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