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Doctoral dissertation: Interactions and power relations in children’s online gaming are reflected in school life

A recent doctoral study indicates that the social power of popular children extends also into the gaming world.

Terhi Väistö, a doctoral candidate at the Aalto University School of Business, examined how children’s social relationships are formed in the interactions and use of power both in online games as well as during break times at school.

The doctoral study was based on group interviews carried out in two primary school’s located in the metropolitan area as well as the ethnographical study of computer games, in particular the MovieStarPlanet game, which is popular among girls and reportedly ‘played by everyone’. The participating school pupils were aged 10 and 11.

Ms Väistö observed that the children were particular about ensuring that the group members did not play games that were aimed at older children. Children that used, for example, Facebook, which is banned for children of their age, had to justify their choice to the others. The children also hid from each other new and possibly popular games.

Power during break times

In her research, Ms Väistö also analysed children’s power relations in school and online. For example, one way that power was exercised between popular and unpopular children was that unpopular children would give the popular ones gifts in the computer game in order to be allowed to join their rope skipping games during break times. Among the children studied, however, these attempts were not successful. Popular children were also able to decide who they accepted as friends in the online games, and used this power both to decide the outward appearance of the avatars and also to set the unpopular children’s level of involvement in the game.

In her research, Ms Väistö made use of the field theory developed by Frenchman Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) and focused in particular on positions and symbolic power and the way these were communicated in the children's talk during the group interviews. Children’s consumer behaviour has traditionally been studied within a consumer socialisation framework. In this framework, children are seen as developing and growing individuals which will in the future grow to become rational adult consumers. Instead of applying this consumer socialisation concept, Ms Väistö focused in this research on children’s present consumer behaviour in the context of online gaming.

Public examination of doctoral dissertation

The doctoral dissertation of Terhi Väistö, MSc (Econ), ‘Children's discourse on development in online and offline fields: A study of positions and symbolic power’ in the field of marketing will be examined in Aalto University School of Business on Friday 10 June 2016. The public examination will take place at the Chydenia building in the Stora Enso hall (Runeberginkatu 22–24) at 12 noon.

Professor Dannie Kleldgaard (University of Southern Denmark) will act as opponent and Professor Diane Martin as custos.

Further information:
Terhi Väistö
tel. +358 50 378 4958
[email protected]

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