Because we live in a three-dimensional world, it's tempting to directly translate the spaces in which we live and work to virtual, three-dimensional spaces. The most striking instance of this is how people are represented in Second Life. While there is certainly a rich variety of different avatars, they tend to be static expressions of someone's identity that function in the same general way as clothes do in offline spaces. In Second Life, though, we don't need to be limited to clothes. What would an avatar that responded to your environment look like? How might it be useful?
In this prototype, I created an avatar that slowly grows out to connect with other avatars around it. Over time, these avatars' colors shift and change to become more like the colors of people near them. This serves as a kind of visualization of the social situation in the space. Other people can see how long people have been talking by how close they've grown together. They can also tell if they've been moving around while they talked.
This sort of avatar-as-visualization is interesting because it pushes avatars into a space where they represent the social situation of the wearer instead of what kind of clothes they decided to wear that day.
You might also be interested in my work on Information Spaces.