Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Barbie celebrations

Just what Barbie-lovers (or maybe haters?) everywhere have always wanted, jewellery made from hacked-off Barbie body parts. Margaux Lange makes quite mind-boggling jewellery that is now getting talked about in the New York Times. Perhaps she will be invited by Mattel to make a special 50th anniversary medallion or something, given it is Barbie's half-century celebration year. And what a year it promises to be, with a 'House of Barbie' department store due to open in Shanghai (see report here) and a Barbie fashion show during the New York Fashion Week in February.In addition, as Mattel inform their shareholders, Barbie is also to have her own Facebook page - what about a Twitter stream? That way we can get to hear about every move she makes in her 50th year. Mmm - now where did I put that Swiss Army knife...?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Barack Obama

This is certainly an exciting day, as it is the inauguration of America’s first black president and also a president who is cognisant of the power of technology (just look at the list of social networking sites Obama and his campaigners use as an indication of this). Indeed, he has appointed two Second Life innovators to his ‘Innovation Agenda’ group and so no doubt US educators look forward to virtual worlds becoming a more central part of the education agenda in the years ahead. I will be reading RezEd to find out how this agenda emerges, but in the meantime check out the very interesting report on ethics in virtual worlds produced by the group, available here. As for now, there's only one thing left to say - Go, Obama!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Girl Ambition

I noted with interest the launch of a new social networking site aimed at girls aged 7-12, titled Girl Ambition. It was formed by three parents keen to provide a safe space for their children to engage in online activity and develop a site that challenges the traditional, stereotyped discourses about girlhood that circulate the internet. Whilst there is certainly a need for sites such as this that aim to develop girls’ self-esteem, I feel that it is unfortunate that the site looks so retro. It is hard to compete with the designs of commercial sites, given the marketing budgets they enjoy, but nonetheless a more up-to-date design would attract more users. I can’t help feeling that the site will appeal to a certain demographic and miss an opportunity to speak to a wide, diverse audience. I hope I am wrong and will be monitoring the site’s development. In the meantime, if anyone has had an opportunity to review the content of the site, do post your comments (or link to your review) here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A Chuggington chunter

Oh dear...I once talked on Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour' about the gender-bias of pre-school animations, citing in particular Underground Ernie's gendered stereotypes. (The interview can be found here if you are interested.) Unfortunately, Cbeebies on BBC1 have just started airing another series featuring trains as characters - 'Chuggington', which appears to be demonstrating some of the same problems. Only three of the ten trains are female and two of them are described thus:

Olwin is an older steam train who is a wound a bit tight. She always runs to schedule and can’t stand being late! She is a sweetheart, though, and loves mothering the young trainees. (It's just that the "little chug-a-chugs" find her caring ways a little too much, sometimes.)

Zephie is a young scissor-lift trolley. Unlike the other chuggers, she can spin round and scissor up and down in excitement. She is flighty, giggly, girly and fun. She knows when it's time to get to work, too.

Only one of the three female trains appears to escape stereotypes:

Koko is a fearless passenger engine built for high speed. She loves to explore and have adventures, and to challenge her friends to a dare or a race. Although her spirit might get her into mischief, she is always well-meaning and knows when to apologise.

With reports that the programme is scheduled to be shown in 100 countries and is to be linked to a range of toys, we can be sure that this is yet another objectionable programme, with gendered sterotyping that is completely unsuitable for a 21st century pre-school audience, which will become embedded in young children's popular culture with little critique.