Monday, 25 June 2007

Digitally gendered

Digital texts offer spaces in which children can perform both transgressive and conformist gendered acts. The interaction between structure/agency here is obviously key, and what concerns me at the moment is the way in which popular texts for young children are attempting to shape particular readings and performances. I have written about the sexism embedded in the ‘Bob the Builder’ site in a paper available here on gender and early digital literacy, but another pre-school animation that is irritating me greatly at the moment is ‘Underground Ernie’. Why, in a programme commissioned by the BBC in the 21st century, we have the two female trains described respectively as ‘a motherly figure‘ and ‘a hippy chick’ and the male trains described as being mathematical wizards and loving technology is beyond belief. Not only that, but the way in which technology is often shaped for young female interests (pink technologies) is also frustrating. Yes, a postmodernist take recognises that young girls can adopt an ironic and reflexive stance in relation to some of these items whilst still finding pleasure in them but the fact remains that often these replicas of adult technologies are reductive in nature in that the functionality of artefacts aimed at girls is of a lesser quality than similar items targeted at boys. So what’s new? This has always been the case with toys, but I do worry that the transition from home to nursery technologies then becomes that much more of a challenge for young girls. Julia's work with older girls certainly points to full engagement by many in digital lifeworlds, so maybe these early experiences are not as potentially limiting as I think...

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