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(Re)Constructing Childhood Memories: Nostalgia, Fandom and the World of LEGO Collecting

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

LEGO’s shift to producing product tie-ins has been supported by a very popular range of video games (eg. LEGO Star Wars) and the creation of online fan clubs aimed at both children and adults. One of them, the VIP Program, boasts a members’ only website, special offers and a point rewards system, specifically targeting grown-ups and encouraging them to collect LEGO rather than play with it, display it rather than pack it away. This convergence of popular fandom, new media, nostalgia and contemporary toy culture suggests that the lines between past and present, technology and culture, childhood and adulthood are increasingly porous. Memory is an important component of being a fan and the remediation of childhood toys like LEGO through video games, animated television shows and online communities helps to reconstruct memories of youth that are subsequently used to negotiate digital collaborative spaces shared by other fans. These spaces also serve as the means to add to and promote the often vast collections of adult collectors. In these web spaces personal memories and official histories of children’s culture are constantly negotiated and reshaped, taking on new meanings, as collections grow and collectors determine the subcultural and economic value of old and new LEGO sets. LEGO, a children’s toy originally based on the physicality of construction, has taken on new significance in contemporary media culture as it allows adult collectors/fans to reconnect with their past and define a fan identity through more ephemeral and digital interaction. Now that the LEGO “system” incorporates global franchises like Star Wars it means collectors/fans of one brand crossover to become collectors/fans of the other. The LEGO Star Wars universe develops a fandom of its own with the minifigure versions of Han Solo and Darth Vader (animated with comic effect in the video games and TV episodes) becoming just as iconic and desirable amongst collectors as the “real” toy originals. Therefore, I argue in this presentation that LEGO’s shift from educational children’s toy to transmedia adult collectible is characteristic of contemporary convergence culture. It highlights the importance of nostalgia in the influencing of what childhood media and commodities get collected but also how nostalgia acts to limit the original potentials of those remediated texts and commodities. There is an inherent conflict between how childhood texts are rebranded by producers and how fans choose to remember and negotiate those texts online. As a consequence, this presentation will also consider the reconstruction of personal and public memories of childhood in the digital sphere and assess the difficulties associated with the archiving and collecting of children’s media.
10 Feb 2016

External organisation (Academic)

NameBournemouth University
Web address (URL)
LocationFern Barrow
CityPoole
CountryUnited Kingdom

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