Reading Room

Review 1

Literature Review of Jane Pavitt’s, The Camberwell Collection of applied arts, Camberwell College of Arts, The London Institute (1997)

By Nadia Ramnarine

Jane Pavitt’s The Camberwell Collection of Applied Arts, Camberwell College of Arts, The London Institute, provides a compact account of the origin, purpose, and organisation of The Camberwell Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) Collection. The article provides an overview for some of the 2000 objects contained in The Camberwell ILEA Collection and their initial purpose as a collection, which was to teach children in London schools the principles of “good design” in order to encourage their interest in design principles and crafted artifacts (1951 to mid-1970s). (Pavitt, 1997, p. 225) “Good design” implied social responsibility; therefore the lesson was intended to be ethical as well as practical. (Pavitt, 1997, p. 226) Details also include the formation of The Camberwell ILEA Collection as a collaborative approach between the London County Council Education Department and the Council of Industrial Design to promote the creation of “beautiful” things as something desirable with consumers of the future. (Pavitt, 1997, p. 225) This article is comprehensive in listing an overview account of The Camberwell ILEA Collection. It gives substantial details about the objects including materials used to construct objects, the types of objects that were contained in individual collections and how these individual demi-collections were eventually merged to form The Camberwell ILEA Collection. The article also links objects’ purpose with their intended audiences-initially to teach children in the London area school and then for use by researchers and academics once The Camberwell ILEA Collection was no longer part of the school curriculum. There are mentions of “good design” and a shadowing of its implication of using these objects to craft a socially and ethically acceptable society, equating “good design” with “the responsible child”. (Pavitt, 1997, p. 226) However, the article does not detail the impact of The Camberwell ILEA Collection on the society it was intending to influence. Additionally, while The Camberwell ILEA Collection was identified as intending to influence consumer behaviour of future generations by indicating the essentialism of “beautiful” things-that is, commoditising its objects through teaching and design principles for the purpose of profitability; this is not explicitly stated. The reader is left to draw these conclusions on their own. Pavitt informs on the history and object content of The Camberwell ILEA Collection and sheds light on its relevance today as an academic resource. An in-depth discussion about the impact of The Camberwell ILEA Collection on British society’s social and economic fabric after the World Wars as is exhibited in Playtime.Commodity, falls beyond the scope of Pavitt’s article. However, a more nuanced description surrounding the context and time in which The Camberwell ILEA Collection was created may have positioned this paper to reach a wider audience and generated a richer discussion about it. In particular, identifying that The Camberwell ILEA Collection’s emergence after the World Wars was deliberate with the function of shaping British society’s social and economic systems would have supported a better understanding of the purpose, application, and historical relevance of The Camberwell ILEA Collection. Pavitt’s article provides a compact, “bare bones” account of the history and modern application of The Camberwell ILEA Collection. More importantly, it generates additional discussion through inquiry and a desire for further investigation. For these reasons, Pavitt’s article is recommended to those who wish to gain a foundational understanding of The Camberwell ILEA Collection.


Pavitt, Jane. “The Camberwell Collection of Applied Arts, Camberwell College of Arts, The London Institute.” Journal of Design History 10, no. 2 (1997): 225–29.

Review 2

Literature Review for Chapter 3 – Promoting Play: A Consistent Message for 100 Years, from They Came to Play: 100 Years of the Toy Industry Association by Christopher Byrne.

By Ellie Honeyman

In 1916, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) was founded, its intentions being to provide educational and industry resources for its toy manufacturing members, the number of which now exceeds 800. In the midst of World War I, local economies suffered, and toy companies on the brink of collapse began to market their products with an emphasis on their education and pedagogical value of play. However, given the urgency of profit generation, little scientific research was taking place to support the claims toy producers were making. In response, the TIA was formed to ensure that toy producers were stimulating profits, whilst maintaining their academic and ethical integrity.

The text at hand recalls the history of the TIA, as well as its implications for toy producers and the wider economy. Most interestingly, Byrne investigates the extent to which toy producers brand their products as educational, seeking the attention of mothers, the most frequent consumer of toys. Whilst childhood was once a stage of life to be rushed through quickly so children could join the labour market, promotion of play from toy manufacturers emphasised the vital nature of play for a child’s development, an idea that appealed to caring mothers. Throughout the early 20th century, many toys were advertised in ‘women’s columns’ of magazines, retailers were trained to recall the educational value of their products, and later TV adverts emphasised the importance of toys until playtime and education were accepted as inextricably linked components of childhood. 

The necessary introduction of an external entity to the toy industry raises questions in regard to the true intentions of toy producers. If no scientific research is taking place internally in regard to the educational benefits of play, yet companies are happy to make these claims, we can question the extent to which companies truly care about the ethical intentions they claim to have. We can also question what type of education toys of this nature provide for children. Whether play itself is in fact vital to development is irrelevant when we consider the consumerist norms this system introduces to children. From an early age, this system assures children that in order to learn/be educated, one must consume. The objects and artworks within the Playtime.Commodity exhibition investigate these questions further, challenging the extent to which toy companies care for educating children, or whether their ethical aims have been corrupted by the prospect of profit maximisation. 


Byrne, Christopher, and Byrne, Christopher. They Came to Play: 100 Years of the Toy Industry Association. United States, Toph Welch Graphic Design.

They Came to Play

Review 3

Virtual Consumerism

By Tianyi Zhu

In the history of economic policy and behavior research, the crisis in the real economy will lead to changes in economic theory. For example, in the Great Depression of the 1930s, neoclassical dogma was replaced by Keynesian economics. The oil crisis in the 1970s led to the replacement of Keynesian system by monetary economics. The latest global recession has highlighted the need for psychological and social awareness of economic behavior. Over the past 15 years, the widespread use of ICT in everyday life has opened up new areas of participation. People using these technologies increasingly identify with online peer groups and seek their advice and support. The existing social relations are also increasingly managed on the Internet, and the research on media use shows that even in countries with high electronic media, the proportion of time spent on electronic media continues to increase (lehdonvirta, 2010). Virtual world is also called digital, analog or super world, in which distortion will affect the theme and object of experience. It changes a person’s sense of self-identity. It is worth noting that the media of our power technology era is “reshaping and reorganizing the mode of social interdependence and all aspects of our personal life”. It forces us to reconsider and reassess every thought, action and system we took for granted before, because everything is changing dramatically (anggraheni, Rosaria and kariadi, 2022). Modern theories of consumption suggest that use-value, or the ability of a good to fulfill a need, has been overridden by exchange-value (Jhally, 1987) as well as sign- and symbolic- value (Baudrillard, 2019). It is no longer the tool utility value but the psychological utility value that affects the decision to buy goods. The psychological utility value may have different functions for consumers. People can find “commodity identity” (i.e. formed by non personal identity of commodity intermediary) and generate consumption impulse (zepf, 2010). In recent years, in the virtual social world such as second life and the economies resulting from this practice, commodity consumption has increased significantly. Therefore, they are purchased entirely on the basis of their exchange and symbolic value. For virtual goods, traditional use value is no longer a necessary feature of consumer goods. Its role as a symbol of identity, personality and belonging is enough to include use value and consumption promotion (Martin, 2008).


Anggraheni, D., Rosaria, S.D. and Kariadi, M.T. (2022). Cyber-Traveler, Welcome to Hyperreality: Where Consumerism, Capitalism and Identity Design in Virtual Worlds. [online] doi:10.4108/eai.19-10-2021.2316568.

Baudrillard, J. (2019). For a critique of the political economy of the sign. London ; Brooklyn, Ny: Verso.

Jhally, S. (1987). The Codes of Advertising: Fetishism and the Political Economy of Meaning in the Consumer Society. London: F. Pinter.

Lehdonvirta, V. (2010). Online spaces have material culture: goodbye to digital post- materialism and hello to virtual consumption. Media, Culture & Society, 32(5), pp.883–889. doi:10.1177/016344371037855

Martin, J. (2008). Consuming Code: Use-Value, Exchange-Value, and the Role of Virtual Goods in Second Life. Journal For Virtual Worlds Research, 1(2). doi:10.4101/jvwr.v1i2.300. 6.Zepf, S. (2010). Consumerism and identity: Some psychoanalytical considerations. International Forum of Psychoanalysis,19(3), pp.144–154. doi: 10.1080/08037060903143992.

Review 4

Literature Review for Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto by Legacy Russell

By Qi Qi

Although many consider the Web has a neutral context, curator and writer Legacy Russell has argued that the online, digital space, and the offline world are deeply intertwined – that the online realm is as real as the AFK (away from keyboard) reality.

In Glitch Feminism, Russell uses the digital glitch as a metaphor to propose a productive refusal to the existing dualistic norms and data surveillance in capitalist society. By embracing the ‘glitch’, Russell envisions a feminist, queer, and anti-racist cyberspace where definitions of embodiment can be expanded and the existing binary, heteropatriarchal norms can be re-constructed.

Russell exposes the neoliberal and capitalist thinking associated with the binary of gender, which enables a person to be marketed based on embodiment. She continues to question the surveillance of capitalist society, and the danger of such scrutiny towards the non-normative or non-conforming individuals. As such, neoliberal and capitalistic values have gradually expanded into the virtual space, the lines between reality and the Web are not defined but rather dissolving. Hence, digital and online cultures are never neutral but rather political. 

To challenge the restrictions of embodiment, which in this case is the physical ‘identity’ one has in the offline world, is to dismiss the dualistic binary gender social constructs imposed upon bodies. Despite the fact that excessive consumption and surveillance have been broached within the online space, Russell suggests that the complexity of Internet technology and its malfunction allow other ways of being and ‘worlding’ beyond the status quo: one can choose the body/embodiment, rearranging in the spaces of the so-called in-between – a queer futurity and subversion of heteropatriarchal norms. Russell sees the potential of the Internet to liberate one from physical restrictions and to act beyond physical, social, and technological limits. 

Russell’s understanding of the great potential between digital technology, intersectionality, and data capitalism inspires curators of the exhibition Playtime.Commodity to consider how curating online can challenge the various social constructs of the contemporary capitalist society. 



Russell, L., 2020. Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto. London: Verso.

Russell, L., 2022.#GLITCHFEMINISM – Legacy Russell.[online]> [Accessed 15 June 2022].

Review 5

A short review of Jean Baudrillard’s the Consumer Society

By Yilin Wang

Baudrillard’s book “Consumer Society” is a great contribution to contemporary sociology, in which he analyzed the phenomenon of the consumption of goods in contemporary Western society, especially the American society. 

Consumption as the new tribal myth, consumption has become the fashion of today’s society, it is destroying the foundation of mankind. His unique insight reveals how large technocratic organizations create new social hierarchies that replace old class distinctions. It is easy to see from the book that his theory was also influenced by other scholars, such as Baudrillard’s mentor Lefebvre’s theory of “bureaucratic society controlled by consumption”. He believed that with the development of capitalism, the ideology of production and the meaning of creative behavior had become the ideology of consumption. Bulgares argues that we live in a “society of plenty”; De Boer, who had a great influence on Baudrillard, believed from a deeper level that consumption created a “society of wireless accumulation of landscape”. Risman, baudrillard’s contemporary theorist, believed that capitalism was undergoing a revolution of “transition from the age of production to the age of consumption”. These theorists from different perspectives on the same social form of discourse baudrillard had a profound impact.

First, understand the problems in consumer society

In the book, Baudrillard points out that the core problems in consumer society are as follows: 1. To explain the code control of consumer relations through the implied meaning chain between consumer goods. 2. Explain the compulsion drive without motive in consumption phenomenon through the deep situational control of advertisement on the desire of others. 3. On the basis of mass media’s interpretation of a large number of symbols in the real society and denial of reality, the consumption relationship has shifted from material to human (that is, the use value has been replaced by the symbolic value), and the production society has been replaced by the consumer society.

Review 6

The Association between Gender Stereotype and Gender-Specific Toy

By Yuejun Li

History of gender specific toy Toys were rarely marketed to different genders at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1940s, manufacturers started to realize that wealthier families would buy completely original clothes, toys, and gadgets if they were marketed differently. This led to the notion of pink for girls and blue for boys. According to Laura Coffey-Glover, senior lecturer in linguistics at Nottingham Trent University, gender stereotypes in toys are more harmful than colour-coding. “You will often find that toys marketed at young girls emphasise domesticity, caring roles or a concern with beauty, whereas toys for boys are more likely to emphasise ‘useful’ roles that involve danger and adventure,” she says. Researchers Naomi Priest and Tania King claim that since the 1970s, toys have become increasingly and rigidly gendered. It is even evident in Lego’s own marketing history: compare the gender-neutral ads from the 1980s to the more recent gender-specific ads with pink bricks and heart shapes. Gender specific toy & children’ social roles Toys marketed to young girls are often associated with domesticity, caring roles, or concern with beauty. In contrast, toys for boys are more likely to be associated with ‘useful’ roles that involve danger and adventure. The message is sent to parents and children about what toys are appropriate for which gender. It also explains what roles in society girls and boys should grow up to play. There is some evidence that children who play with some stereotypical girls’ toys, such as princess toys, exhibit more stereotypical female behavior. Girls who do not play with construction toys may miss out on opportunities to develop spatial and mechanical reasoning skills, which are required for professions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, all of which are fields where women are underrepresented. Men dominate careers focusing on math, spatial awareness, and physical confidence. Are boys born better at these? Is it nature or is it nurture? According to a BBC experiment No more boys and girls, children’s brains change physically within three months of playing spatial awareness games frequently. So the reason could be that the toys that parents choose for boys are useful for their career development in the future. Instead of only aimed to amuse and entertain, toys were also act “as socializing mechanisms, as educational devices, and as scaled-down versions of realities of the larger adult-dominated society.” Yet society has different expectations of boys and girls in terms of their life and career plans, which can be found in the toys they are assigned. We often found that airplane, train, chemistry, and Erector sets are often assigned to boys because “every boy should be trained for leadership”. Girls also have their toys but less varied and “not aimed to help smooth a career path”. Oldenziel indicated that when the whole society “helped socialize boys as technophiles and sought to groom them as technical men ready to take their places as managers or engineers”, girls found themselves excluded as a matter of course. From this, it can be seen that the reason that women often face significant barriers in entering the male domain of science and engineering is because they have not been encouraged to pursue related careers from an early age or have not been trained accordingly.   How early gender stereotyping begins In 2020, A US study by the University of Wyoming and Vanderbilt University revealed just how early gender stereotyping begins. According to the study, preschoolers (especially boys) think men earn more than women. In addition, women were rated more competent than men in stereotypically feminine occupations, and men were rated more competent in stereotypically masculine occupations. Similarly, this view has been supported by others. A person’s awareness of gender as a social category develops early in life, and insight into some gender stereotypes develops early. Preschoolers, for instance, often believe that only boys can be police officers and only girls can be teachers or nurses. Toymakers started to stop gender-stereotype children in the toys In 2019, Mattel, the manufacturer behind the Barbie and GI Joe dolls, announced the launching of Creatable World, its first line of gender-neutral dolls.  Unlike their gendered counterparts, these dolls abandon the typical Barbie waist, full hips, long lashes, and brilliant grin, as well as the broad shoulders and powerful biceps of GI Joes. Lego said in 2021 that it will seek to eliminate gender stereotypes from its brand. It will no longer sell its products to boys or girls, and will instead strive to make all of them gender-neutral. Mr Potato Head’s masculine honorific was dropped in February 2021, making him gender-neutral. The alteration provoked outrage on social media, with many people accusing the toy company of caving in to the “woke brigade” by altering a cultural symbol that has been on store shelves since 1952. Some toy brands – including dolls- are no longer specifically marketed to girls or boys, according to Mattel and Hasbro. Likewise, companies such as Target, Toys “R” Us, and Kmart are replacing gender-specific toy aisles with gender-neutral “kids toy” aisles. While major toy companies still have girls’ and boys’ manufacturing sections, most manufacturers today prefer to talk about play patterns rather than gender.


Emily Cope, “Lego Is Removing Gender Bias from Toys,”, October 15, 2021,

Naomi Priest and Tania King, “Lego’s Return to Gender Neutral Toys Is Good News for All Kids. Our Research Review Shows Why,” The Conversation, October 13, 2021,

Emily Cope, “Lego Is Removing Gender Bias from Toys,”, October 15, 2021.

Calvin Freiburger, “‘No More Boys and Girls’: BBC Champions ‘Gender Free’ Child Raising in New Documentary,” Life Site News, July 31, 2018,

Donald W. Ball, “Toward a Sociology of Toys: Inanimate Objects, Socialization and the Demography of the Doll World,” Sociological Quarterly 8 (1957): 254

Carroll W. Pursell, “Toys, Technology and Sex Roles in America, 1920-1940,” in Dynamos and Virgins Revisited: Women and Technological Change, ed. Martha Moore Trescott, (Methuen, N.J., 1979): 252-67.

Ruth Oldenziel, “Boys and Their Toys: The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, 1930-1968, and the Making of a Male Technical Domain,” Technology and Culture 38, no. 1 (January 1997): 66, Ibid: 65.

Emily Cope, “Lego Is Removing Gender Bias from Toys,”, October 15, 2021,

Review 7

Literature Review of Barbie: The Bitch Can Buy Anything, Shirley R. Steinberg

By Xihui Wen

This article mainly uses Barbie as an example to share the author’s views on consumerism and gender. As a toy, Barbie has influenced generations of children and adults, and toys provide a paradigm for children’s initial values. Barbie sells and encourages children’s dreams through symbols such as professional clothing, but even the Barbie which is defined as sailor and soldier, still looks elegant and fashion. “Barbie doesn’t have a locomotive, a battleship (although she is a sailor), a rocket (although she is an astronaut), or an Uzi submachine gun (although she is a soldier). ” It seems girls and boys are encouraged to choose the same careers, but in reality, even in career-themed toys, girls are still associated with words like “comfort” and “fashion”, while boys are encouraged to take risks and focus more on technology. Although the Barbie series also has a male character——Ken, he still appears as Barbie’s boyfriend, invisibly, also showing the stereotype of the toy company, Barbie doll is a toy for girls. Girls are predominantly pictured alongside images such as cloth dolls, Barbies, and kitchen appliances (Connor 2021), while boys are predominantly pictured with science experiments, monster trucks, and Hotwheels (Loffredi, 2020). This is still the biggest gender stereotype that exists in the toy market right now.


Critical pedagogies of consumption : living and learning in the shadow of the “shopocalypse”  Barbie: The Bitch Can Buy Anything, Shirley R. Steinberg (P148 )

Samuelson, Connor, “Which Toys are Right for Boys? How Threat and Confirmation of the Gender Hierarchy Impact Purchase Intentions for Stereotypical and Counter Stereotypical Products” (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2247. /etd/2247Loffredi, J. (2020). 20 Popular toys for kids in 2020. Today. Retrieved from