Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Penguins, Hype and MMOGs for Kids: Online First in Games and Culture Journal

I am very happy to announce the publication of my latest article, entitled "Penguins, Hype, and MMOGs for Kids: A Critical Reexamination of the 2008 “Boom” in Children’s Virtual Worlds Development," in Games and Culture Journal (now available via Online First, print issue forthcoming). The article revisits and reanalyzes some of the data that I collected for my dissertation research on children's MMOGs. Here's the abstract:
According to various media and academic sources, the virtual worlds landscape underwent a profound transformation in 2008, with the arrival of numerous new titles designed and targeted specifically to young children. Although a growing body of research has explored some of the titles involved in this shift, little remains known of its overall scope and contents. This article provides a mapping of the initial “boom” in children’s virtual worlds development and identifies a number of significant patterns within the ensuing children’s virtual worlds landscape. The argument is made that while the reported boom in children’s virtual worlds has been exaggerated, a number of important shifts for online gaming culture did unfold during this period, some of which challenge accepted definitions of “virtual world” and “multiplayer online game.” The implications of these findings are discussed in light of contemporary developments and trends within children’s digital culture and within online gaming more broadly.
You can check out the article on the journal website, and/or access it through various library databases. Warning: A journal subscription is indeed required in order to access the full article.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grimes and Feenberg Workshop: Rationalizing Play, March 1st at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology

Workshop: Rationalizing Play: A Critical Theory of Digital Gaming

Tuesday March 1 6:00 - 9:00 PM
SARA GRIMES Faculty of Information (iSchool), University of Toronto
Special guest Andrew Feenberg, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University

McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology
39A Queens Park Crescent E. – Parking available off 121 St. Joseph St. Toronto

In this workshop we will present and discuss a new framework for the study of games as sites of social rationalization based on Feenberg’s critical theory of technology. We will begin by making the case for a consideration of games (non-digital and digital) as systems of social rationality, akin to other modern systems such as capitalist markets and bureaucratic organizations. We will then present a conceptualization of play as a process through which the player focuses attention away from the undifferentiated action of everyday life toward a differentiated sphere of playful activity. This approach reveals how the experience of play changes as it becomes rationalized through the technological mediation, specifically computerization, and widespread standardization that occurs as games become largescale social practices. We will review our theory of the rationalization of play, ludification (Grimes & Feenberg, 2009), and outline the key components or processes found in socially rationalized games. Workshop participants will be invited to discuss different applications of ludification as an analytic framework, explore with us its limitations, as well as consider alternate or oppositional tendencies found within digital game technologies and culture.

This workshop is open to all within and outside academia. You are encouraged to register online:

Updated March 4: Here are my slides from Tuesday's workshop:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hey, I forgot to mention...our book is out!!!

Edited by wonderful Miriam Forman-Brunell and Rebecca Hains, Princess Cultures: Mediating Girls Imaginations and Identities provides a comprehensive, nuanced and cutting edge look at the various facets, functions and incarnations of "princess culture" within contemporary girlhood. I feel extremely honoured to have a chapter included in this compilation, entitled "Rescue the Princess: The Videogame Princess as Prize, Parody, and Protagonist," which examines some of the key princesses archetypes found in video games.  The book is part of Peter Lang's Mediated Youth series, edited by Sharon R. Mozzarella, and is available in most book stores, as well as from the publisher website.

Reminder: Freedom to Read Week Starts this Sunday (Feb. 21-27)

Freedom to Read Week (Canada's version of Banned Books Week) runs from February 21st to 27th this year. As usual, the official site is a great resource for both finding out more and for accessing various free materials, kits and fact sheets that you can share with your students, friends, family and community groups. This year's kit contains some particularly great articles, including one by Nicole Brewer on who gets to decide what kids and teens read, as well as one by Donald Lynch exploring the freedom to read versus political correctness.

You can also check out the most recent list of the most frequently challenged books in Canada, combining results from the past 5 years, and the more comprehensive Challenged Works List. It's both illuminating/infuriating and a great place to find out about controversial books you might want to read during Freedom to Read Week (it's always fun to read a challenged book in defiance/solidarity/celebration), and beyond. This year, I'm going to check out the award winning Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann, and Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka & Mac Barnett (Illustrated by Matt Myers).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

CFP Alert: 2016 Conference on Childhood Studies in Turku, Finland

The 1st call for papers for next year's Conference on Childhood Studies is now live. Cut and paste here (from the original announcement sent out to the childhoods-net email list):

Childhood in Everyday Life
 6-8 June 2016 Turku, Finland 
The international conference on childhood studies ( is a multidisciplinary forum for research on children and childhood. The event is organized by the Finnish Society for Childhood Studies and the Child and Youth Research Institute CYRI on 6th- 8th June 2016 in the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, Finland. 
The theme of the seventh conference is Childhood in Everyday Life. The keynote speakers are: - 
  • Professor Emeritus Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York, UK) - 
  • Professor Anja Huizink (VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands) - 
  • Professor Simo Vehmas (University of Helsinki, Finland) - ] 
  • Associate Professor Patrick Ryan (King's College, Western University, Canada) 
The conference offers possibilities for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas for researchers who work with children or child related issues. We welcome papers that relate to the main theme Childhood in Everyday Life from different viewpoints. These abstract topics include but are not limited to: equality and inequality well-being and health food and eating play, sports and leisure time social relations consumption and market economy upbringing and education protection and safety mobility and segregation class, ethnicity and culture change and continuity history and future technology media disability diversity special childhoods or special needs some other viewpoint. 
A proposal can be submitted for individual paper presentation, poster presentation, self-organised symposium or workshop. Deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st January 2016. For more information and detailed guidelines, please see  
For further information, see: 
Find us also in twitter:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

CFP Alert: Red Feather Journal

Just saw this CFP on the Exploring Childhood Studies mailing list and wanted to pass it on. The deadline is coming up pretty soon, but the scope is fairly broad. I've been meaning to submit something to this journal for ages now - I really like its style and format, and have enjoyed a number of its issues and articles over the years. Here's a copy+paste of the announcement sent out today:

CFP:  Children in Popular Culture

Red Feather Journal (, an online, peer-reviewed, international and interdisciplinary journal of children in popular culture. 
Red Feather Journal seeks well-written, critical articles for the Fall 2015 issue (deadline October 31, 2015) on any aspect of the child in popular culture.  Some suggested topics include: children in film, television, the Internet; children in popular literature or art; the child in gaming, cosplay, cons, or fan cultures; children and social media; childhood geography or material culture; or any other aspect of the child in popular culture.  

Red Feather Journal welcomes international submissions.

Submissions to Red Feather Journal are accepted on a rolling basis. Red Feather Journal is published twice a year, in Spring and Fall, and adheres to the MLA citation system. Authors are welcome to submit articles in other citations systems, with the understanding that, upon acceptance, conversion to MLA is a condition of publication. Red Feather Journal is indexed through EBSCO host and MLA bibliography.

Interested contributors please submit the article, an abstract, and a brief biography (with full contact information) as attachments in Word to 

Deadline for submissions for the Fall 2015 issue is October 31, 2015.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

iSchool Colloquia Series Launches THIS Thursday

Not related to kids' digital media in any (real) way, but related to my work since I'm co-charing this year's iSchool Colloquia Series...please spread the word far and wide that there's a cool talk about McLuhan happening at the iSchool this Thursday (and yes, that's right - I said "cool" and "McLuhan" in the same sentence but am NOT going to make a clever pun about hot versus cool media. So there). Here are the details:

iSchool Colloquia Series: 
Unfinished McLuhan: 
Failures, Unfinished Projects and the Art of Kintsugi 

 Please join us as guest speaker Andrew Chrystall, Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University, New Zealand and current McLuhan Fellow (The McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the Coach House Institute) launches this year's iSchool Colloquia Series, with his talk "Unfinished McLuhan: Failures, Unfinished Projects and the Art of Kintsugi.”

Abstract: Would we think more of Milton if his masterpiece was incomplete? What about McLuhan? What if all we had were fragments? Broken (or double) perspective is a way of involving an audience in the action and providing an inclusive vision. Here, this presentation seeks to do precisely this by offering a retrospective of McLuhan's failures and incomplete projects—his musicals, plays, films, TV projects, political manoeuvres, and unpublished works—through the lens of archival fragments. The goal is to nuance and contribute to an evolving portrait of McLuhan, to open up spaces for future explorations of unsafe ideas, and enable (if not also motivate) us to walk beyond yet beside him.

Biography: Dr Andrew Chrystall is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University, New Zealand. His research seeks to develop and extend the work of Marshall McLuhan and the Toronto School of Communication. In addition to his primary discipline(s)—Media and Communication Studies—Dr. Chrystall has a background in Public Relations, Sociology and Theology. Dr Chrystall also likes surfing, playing judo and is an underwhelming jazz guitarist.

Light refreshments will be provided. All iSchool Colloquia talks are free and open to the public.

Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 16:00 to 18:00 Location: 140 St. George St, Rm. 538

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