2-4 | The Place of Play: Toys and Digital Cultures

Book Review

The Place of Play: Toys and Digital Cultures

Maaike Lauwaert
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. Diagrams, photographs, notes, bibliography, index. 160 pp. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 9789089640802

by Elisabeth R. Hayes

First Paragraph:

The concept of "participatory culture" has become increasingly associated with new forms of play made possible by digital media and the Internet. In our so-called participatory cultures, players do not simply play with toys and games designed by corporations, but become co-designers, modifying play practices as well as the objects themselves and sharing them with other players. Participatory culture has been lauded for its presumed shift of players from consumers to producers, the democratization of cultural production, and the increasing freedom from the dominance of corporations and industry in shaping and commodifying play. But a growing number of critics argue that such participation is not as open or liberatory as it seems. The Place of Play is a welcome attempt to tread a middle ground between hyperbolic praise and exaggerated censure. The book takes a careful look at the advantages and disadvantages of participatory cultures, locating the changing world of toys, games, and play in the (Western) social and cultural processes of commodification, domestication, and urbanization from the 1850s to the present.