Monday, September 26, 2011

From Porcelain Dolls to Virtual Dolls

My avatar? Or virtual doll? on BarbieGirls

Tomorrow in lecture, we will be discussing "The Politics of Dollhood: Texts, Toys and Socialization" through an engagement with the assigned (and recommended) readings, as well as discussion of contemporary trends and examples. In anticipation for how we might use the readings (many of which deal with historical rather than contemporary examples) to unpack current trends in kids' culture, you might want to check out this short Business Week article by youth trend expert Anastasia Goodstein, wherein she examines the then emerging phenomenon of virtual doll play. Here's an excerpt:
When you think about paper dolls, you probably think about children from past generations painstakingly attaching little outfits onto a cut-out female figure. Paper dolls have come a long way since then.

Teen and tween girls these days spend hours dressing up dolls—only these are online, in the form of avatars, or virtual representations. Consider Mattel's (MAT) Barbie, who was also a favorite paper doll. She now has a virtual world called Barbie Girls where girls can create their own avatars and try on clothes at a virtual mall. And Barbie isn't alone. A whole wave of avatar sites is hoping to capitalize on this age-old desire.

I've done quite a bit of research on Barbie Girls, and would be happy to share some of my findings and observations of the site and its players. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the continuities and differences between paper and virtual doll play, as well as playing with actual dolls. As mentioned briefly in the first week, if any of you have dolls that you'd like to bring in to class tomorrow, for some hands on examples/object analysis, please do!!

You might also be interested in checking out last semester's post for this week's topic, Some Thoughts on the Politics of Dollhood, which contains a discussion of the subversive doll play described in Miriam Forman-Brunell's article and how we might use Bakhtinian notions of the grotesque feminine and the carnivalesque to think through phenomena such as doll mutilation (as touched upon in this week's reading).

See you tomorrow!

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