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Who Do They Think They Are?

Teenage Girls and Their Avatars in Spaces of Social Online Communication

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Connie Morrison

Who Do They Think They Are? Teenage Girls and Their Avatars in Spaces of Social Online Communication documents a descriptive case study of teenage girls who created autobiographical avatars for their social online spaces. It explores the complex and often conflicted negotiations behind girlhood identity and representation in a cyber-social world. Comparisons are drawn between autobiographical avatars and the profile pictures that teenage girls use on their social networking sites as they consider the manner in which identity is negotiated, constructed, co-authored, and represented. The contradictions and expectations of online social and popular culture make representations of identity simultaneously limitless and limiting for the girls who create them. Given the nature of the identity-defining and social act of creating an autobiographical avatar, a critical media literacy frame provides a pedagogical opportunity for bringing avatar construction into the secondary English language arts classroom.
This book provides guidance for educators and researchers interested in the social construction of identity in an increasingly visual world, and will be valuable in courses ranging from literacy studies, media education, cultural studies, youth studies, educational research, teacher education, and popular culture to feminist, gender studies, and women’s studies courses.

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Acknowledgements vii 1. Introduction 1 2. Avatars, Identity and Autobiography: A Theoretical Perspective 18 3. Making a WeeMee One Click at a Time 59 4. The Girls and Their Avatars: Who Do They Think They Are? 89 5. That’s Not Who I Am Today: Making and Remaking Identity 117 6. I Can’t Find a Thing to Wear! The Pressure to Look Cool 145 7. “Just a second of your life represented.” What Avatars Can and Cannot Do 169 8. DIY: Making Avatars in English Class 199 References 231 Index 241

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