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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

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Acknowledgements This book was written while juggling the final stages of my doctoral studies, teaching at Memorial University’s Faculty of Education and being a mom to my three daughters. While these separate directions in my life might appear to be at odds with each other – in reality, they have served to ground, give perspective and motivate each other. I couldn’t exist any other way. What is presented here is a version of my doctoral work. It is a look at how creating a cartoon self image can also be understood as visual autobiography. It’s about girlhood identity and the social implications of online representation. It was Dr. Ursula Kelly, my doctoral supervisor, mentor and friend who first encouraged me to submit a proposal for this book. Those who know Ursula will know how profoundly she changes lives and how her support can inspire hope and possibility. Her careful and thoughtful guidance has made this journey possible. Even though writing a book and a thesis simultaneously is a little out of the ordinary, Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel believed it could be done. They helped me to transform my dissertation language into something more approachable. For their unwavering support and advice through the writing and revision of this book, I am both grateful and indebted. I thank Kathryn Currin for her careful reading of the manuscript. Kat proves that it is possible for teachers to learn from their former students. Sophie Appel at Peter Lang has provided production support and an...

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