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The Place of Play

The Place of Play: Toys and Digital Cultures

Maaike Lauwaert
Series: MediaMatters
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Place of Play
    Book Description:

    Increasingly, technology is at stake in toys, games and playing. With the immense popularity of computer games, questions concerning the role and function of technology in play have become more pressing. A key aspect of the increasing technologization and digitalization of both toys and play is the vagueness of borders between producers, consumers and players. In these so-called participatory cultures, players do not simply play with toys designed behind closed doors but become co-designers. This book takes a critical look at the advantages and disadvantages of participatory cultures and places the changing world of toys, games and playing in a historical context. Contrary to many New Media and computer game studies, this book takes the historical background of these phenomena into account by situating the changing world of play in the context of the social and cultural processes of commodification, domestication and urbanization from the 1850s to the present. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0796-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, History, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-20)

    Daniel Siskind (1970) received his first LEGO™ set in 1975. His parents had brought it with them from a trip to Europe. Ever since, he has been ’hooked on playing with Lego building bricks’ (Siskind, personal website). In 2000, Siskind started his personal website to sell his MOC (My Own Creation) LEGO sets. Siskind’s favorite themes for MOC sets are castles, trains and war paraphernalia. Siskind ships his MOC sets in a box with a printed picture of the design on it, like a real set. A manual with building instructions accompanies the LEGO pieces. His Blacksmith Shop, designed in...

  4. Part I: New Children, Different Toys
    (pp. 21-44)

    In recent years, many scholarly books have appeared on the subject of computer games. While these recent publications all provide valuable insights into the inner workings and cultural context of computer games, they do not focus on the long-term historical perspective of play as a cultural practice, the role of technological innovations within this history and the changing dynamics between players, toys and companies. Notable exceptions areDigital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketingby Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig De Peuter (2003) and Henry Jenkins’s article,Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play(2000)....

  5. Part II: From Solitary to Networked Geographies of Play
    (pp. 45-70)

    Construction toys are an outstanding example to illustrate how toys mediate between societal processes such as commodification, domestication and urbanization and the individual child because construction toys exemplify these very societal processes. During the 19th and early 20th century, hundreds of different construction toys were produced and sold. Some companies and their toys survived long enough to be remembered today while others have disappeared and been forgotten. The history of construction toys is closely linked with the coming into being of consumerism. The combination of new production processes that facilitated the mass-production of relatively cheap toys and the rise of...

  6. Part III: Commercial Geographies of Play
    (pp. 71-106)

    Toy companies increasingly depend on user communities for creating challenging new products or extensions of existing products, for keeping a brand alive and commercially successful. Within the LEGO geography, part of the many-to-many activities are commodified and used for new product developments. This gives players a more active role in the design of new products. As such, players become to a certain extent co-constructors of new products and of the embedded design scripts and user configurations of these products. When individual users or a community of users shifts from being consumers and users of products to co-designers of new products...

  7. Part IV: Serious Geographies of Play
    (pp. 107-126)

    Companies increasingly rely on a vibrant and active periphery of play to keep their brand vital and commercially successful, to maintain a positive relationship between player, consumer, game and company. The many-to-many template is not only becoming common practice among both traditional toy makers and digital game developers, it has also attracted a lot of attention from other companies and organizations as well which are seeking new ways to involve consumers in the world of their brand. The dedication of both LEGO andSimsfans is something most companies dream of. It’s not only commercial companies that recognize the potential...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 127-136)

    This book deals with the ways in which the many-to-many model produces changes within the world of toys and playing. The nature, characteristics, mechanisms and problems of the many-to-many model are acutely visible and manifested within the world of toys and playing but are by no means restricted to this domain.

    The historiographical perspective on the complex interplay between societal processes, technological innovations, toys and players shows the many-to-many model at work and on the move, its rise, manifestations and ways of involving users. In the context of commodification, domestication and urbanization, new technological artifacts are introduced, consumed, domesticated, modified,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 137-138)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 139-152)
  11. Index
    (pp. 153-159)