Friday, May 02, 2008

The Financial Times Takes a Look at VW's for Kids

Check out today's online edition of the Financial Times for an article by Jonathan Birchall examining commercialization in virtual worlds for kids. Birchall quotes both Susan Linn (of the CCFC) and yours truly (!), focusing on BarbieGirls and Webkinz as key examples. I must point out that although I'm erroneously described in the article as a professor (while I am definitely still just a "PhD Candidate"), I'm really pleased with the quote and the way my comments were framed:
In the US and elsewhere, public discussion of virtual worlds has been dominated by potential threats to children from sexual predators and from violent images in online games. The media and toy companies have responded with an emphasis on site safety, with limits on what messages a user's avatar can send.

But Sara Grimes, a communications professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada, says there has been very little attention paid to the commercialisation and marketing elements of digital play, including the collection of data that can be used for advertising linked to online behaviour. "It is easy to get distracted from these issues . . . The sites also play on that by promoting themselves as safe havens and tapping into parental concerns," she says.



Shaping Youth said...

Hi Sara, Amy at Shaping Youth here again...Looks like we're tag-teaming and paralleling on this topic once again!

I just posed the same question to the panel at the CSM/MacArthur Foundation event at Stanford which was beamed into Teen Second Life on 4/23.

I went to hear Mimi Ito and danah boyd et al again, but was a bit restless that the research wasn't more readily avail with takeaways, and the Q&A was limited, and basic.

I snagged the mike for one of the handful of questions allowed, and asked them to address the encroachment of commercialism! we can prevent it from altering the creativity, innovation, conversations, digital dialog and frankly, the overall platform!

A hush fell over the crowd and you could hear a pin drop.

The panelists deferred to the MTV guy saying, " wanna take that one?" sigh.

It was right at the tail end of the event, and I was swarmed by a plethora of people sounding off about same, carping, "Why didn't they discuss this in the first place!?"

Guess it was meant as more of a 'primer' and overview, but for Silicon Valley environs, it was 'internet 101'...and no hard balls were lobbed at all.

Even Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media said to me later, 'wow, that was the million dollar question now, wasn't it?!' --- Others came up and said, "no one answered your question, did you notice that?"

Uh, yup.

Dying to hear your take on the new virtual worlds 'blue book' and such too...

Name your topic, pick your post, or send me which one you'd like to get more exposure and I'll run it verbatim (send me a jpeg photo of ya?)

Valuable info you've got here... every keystroke. Keep up the fabulous work, I'm going to link back to this in that same post right now as an 'update!'--Amy

Glenda Shaw Garlock said...

How wonderful you you Sara! And wonderful/interesting research.

Sara M. Grimes said...

Wow - I can't believe that commercialization still isn't a top of the list issue...good to know you're out there taking them to task.
As for the post, will do! As always, anything you want to bring over to Shaping Youth is absolutely A-OK with me!

And thanks so much Glenda!

elliott_peggy said...

yay sara, getting quoted in the Financial Times!