Bente G, Rüggenberg S, Krämer NC, Eschenburg F. Avatar-Mediated Networking: Increasing Social Presence and Interpersonal Trust in Net-Based Collaborations. Human Communication Research. 2008;34(2):287-318. Available at: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2008.00322.x [Accessed May 25, 2011].
Mostly using this paper as a source for other papers to read. Lots of interesting stuff in the background bit at the top:
"Non-verbal channels account for major socioemotional variance in human communication. Media-dependent loss of this information comes at the expense of interpersonal uncertainty" (Bente et al. <- I can't find this reference online anywhere.)
Tanis and Postmes (2007 Two faces of anonymity: Paradoxical effects of cues to
identity in CMC. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 955-970.) "The key point here is not that all these theories are the same, the point is that despite their differences they subscribe to the same metatheory that the social effects of communication technology are caused by the disembodiment of interpersonal communication. (p. 957)"
"Choice of concrete virtual representative might have specific consequesce on its own because its physical appearance can influence impression formation and activate social stereotypes" (look up Nowak!, suggest Nowak et al 2005 as most recent referenced in this paper).
Avatars in a shared online environment have been shown to be more effective than video for co-locating. That's really interesting. Shared space, rather than the image of the person you're talking to. (I wonder if a projected image of the person you're talking to in a shared space would be more effective? Or if you combined that tech with the individual cameras with a room?)
Social presence (Lee 2004 Presence, explicated. Communication Theory, 14, 27‚Äì50. for overview). Apparently closely related to interpersonal trust. (Cyr Hassanein, Head & Ivanov 2007).
Two forms of trust (leading on from Lewis & Weigert): cognitive based trust (CBT) based on rational judgement of knowledge, competence & dependability. Also Affect-based trust (ABT) emotional bond, confidence that they will protect us and care for our welfare. Some evidence that CBT is easier to establish in virtual environments (Kanawattanachai & Yoo 2002), but ABT is important.
This paper finds that all channels (audio, video and avatar) do equally well in producing interpersonal results - and all significantly better than text chat only.