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Who Do They Think They Are?

Teenage Girls and Their Avatars in Spaces of Social Online Communication


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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4. The Girls and Their Avatars: Who Do They Think They Are? 89


Chapter Four The Girls and Their Avatars: Who Do They Think They Are? n this chapter the girls from this study reveal how they believe their avatars tell (or do not tell) accurate stories about who they are. Before any critical analysis about the process of their avatar construction can be done, further description of the girls as well as their avatars is necessary as their stories provide valuable insight into the choices they made and how these choices affected how they created their avatars. Stack and Kelly (2006) remind us to consider that it is “what do girls do, wear, believe, value and know” that allows them to see themselves as belonging to a specific social and cultural group (p. 131). In this light, their constructed representations are, at once, an effort to carve out their vital political space (Dolby, 2003) and their potential cultural significance (Morley, 1993). Considering the limitations of the avatar creation program, these girls demonstrate that they are active participants and collaborators in their own identity representation even though their avatars represent a highly staged and often limited representation of who they think they are. What these introductions to the girls and their avatars allow is a questioning of how their desires propelled them to construct their avatars to look the way they do. What stories do they tell? What do they leave untold? As we look at the avatars and hear briefly from the girls about them, I will hint at the pedagogical opportunities...

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