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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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8. DIY: Making Avatars in English Class 199


Chapter Eight DIY: Making Avatars in English Class Teaching and learning the culture of the book is no longer the staple of what it means to be literate. Children learn more from exposure to popular cultural forms, which provide a new cultural register of what it means to be literate. This suggests a cultural pedagogy, rooted in cultural practices, that utilizes students’ knowledge and experience of popular cultural forms. Students should be taught to critically analyze the messages produced by the electronically mediated popular culture, but they must also be able to master the skills and technology to produce these forms, making their own films, videos, and music. Henry Giroux The Shifting Ground of English nce the cornerstone of English curricula, literacy and what it means to be literate have shifted—significantly so. It has been widely acknowledged that the definition of literacy includes far more than the ability to decode print text. Meaning is constructed and interpreted from all forms of text, not just from print. Evolving technologies are not merely tools to disseminate old forms of representation through newer and flashier means; rather, evolving technology itself can invite new ways of making meaning, creating, and reading text (Cope and Kalantzis, 1999; Kress, 2003). At a time when policy makers continue to privilege literacy in traditional print terms and call on schools to be accountable for ensuring that all students achieve literacy proficiency, there are those who believe literacy education requires a more expansive vision specifically for those students...

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