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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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7. “Just a second of your life represented.” What Avatars Can and Cannot Do 169

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Chapter Seven “Just a second of your life represented.” What Avatars Can and Cannot Do Culture is the medium through which children fashion their individual and collective identities and learn, in part, how to narrate themselves in relation to others. Culture is also shifting ground where new and old literacies —ways of understanding the world —are produced and legitimated in the service of national identity, public life, and civic responsibility. As a site of learning and struggle, culture becomes the primary referent for understanding the multiple sites in which pedagogy works, power operates, and authority is secured or contested. Henry Giroux Fluid Representation and Identity (Re)negotiation tatements of identity, or how we narrate ourselves in relation to others, cannot be removed from how we engage with culture or how culture engages with us. Butler (1996) shows us that identity can be understood as a performance—a deliberate act of conformity and/or resistance to culture’s discourses. Such performances resonate in how we represent ourselves both to and in the world; these performances are limited by the economic recourses we have at our disposal, not to mention the historical and cultural location we inhabit. If we pause to examine the multiple ways in which identity is performed, we might notice that the performance is influenced as well by our audience. What we choose to reveal and what we choose to conceal often depends on whom we are revealing our identity to or whom we are concealing it from. Of course, these...

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