Saturday, October 3, 2009


i was alerted (by the effervescent katie morris) to this article by christine marme thompson, collected in the book "when we were young: new perspectives on the art of the child" by jonathan fineberg. i found a .pdf online, you can read the full text by clicking the link below! that is neat.

in "the ket aesthetic: visual culture in childhood," thompson discusses the allure of visual culture for children being more about accessibility (visually stimulating content outside of reading/interpretation skills that young kids may not be equipped with) and more interestingly, about adopting a culture outside that of the adult world. thompson points out that "ket," originally a term for "an assortment of useless articles" and now a british slang term adopted by the nation's youth for small candies bought with weekly allowance, serves as a nice metaphor for children's culture that is separate but dependent on adult practice. the creation of this culture is appealing to youth because it is their own: the appeal of saccharine sweets or outlandish television shows can be traced to their independence from adult culture.

also interesting to me was the idea that adult resistance to visual culture content, particularly i schools where it is often deemed inappropriate or devoid of educational value may be from the simultaneous desire of children to establish their own reality outside the adult world and the adult effort to self-validate by seeing our children/students doing worthwhile, relevant things.

she goes on to discuss the value of toys/characters as a springboard for children to create/observe with hyper-specificity as they attempt to differentiate between multiple characters within a single universe (her example were the carefully noted minute differences in character design when children render the homogeneous teenage mutant ninja turtles). she also acknowledges, with a sort of "whether you like it or not" tone, that no matter how much the education world insists that visual culture is worthless, distracting, etc., etc., it is a HUGE force in the lives of children, and that by trying to ignore/marginalize its presence in schools is foolish.

i like this woman.

the one alarming statistic that she did throw into the mix was that 3/4 of all toys sold in the united states are "licensed" to a particular media character/program. it's a little strange to me that the appreciation and integration of visual culture excites me, but the thought of pedantic derivative toys (nothing handmade, nothing original, nothing imaginative) flooding the collective childhood of america makes me cringe. but man, does it.

1 comment:

  1. I like your reference to adults resisting childrens' visual culture - you could also look at some of Brent Wilson's work on that, and even the IDEA of children/childhood as a cultural construct. Super interesting.