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Identity in the millennium: Software, meaning and African-American girls' identity

, The Ohio State University, United States

The Ohio State University . Awarded


In the millennium, computer games have become more sophisticated. Advances in computer technology allow designers to place greater emphasis on creating a new wave of games and characters that children identify quite closely with. Nancy Drew CD-ROM role-playing games are instrumental in this new wave of gaming. In this study, it was observed that influential aspects of the game played a significant role in shaping African-American girls' social and academic identities, causing moments of double shifting to occur. Double shifting asserts that African-American girls' shift when they negotiate race and gender and further explains ways in which they transcend the racial dissonance that exists between them and the Caucasian-like character they play.

Using a qualitative methodology, this study explored African-American girls' and teachers' perspectives about the cultural phenomenon of a Nancy Drew CD-ROM: “Secrets Can Kill” and the dynamics of identity development. A Multidimensional Concept Scale was used to evaluate aspects of identity. Over six months, fifteen African-American girls, ages 11, 12 and 13, from high, middle and low socio-economic statuses and two teachers detailed their experiences with Nancy Drew after playing the game for three weeks. Teachers' evaluations provide illuminating accounts of the game's non-neutrality, an important education observation. It is important for teachers to examine computer games because they can easily be integrated into classrooms and appeals to girls' empirical experiences.

During pre-adolescence, girls desire to express the complexity of their lives. They want the “story” of their lives heard from their social, cultural and economic standpoint; that is how they relate to the world. Ohio teens discuss the relevancy of Nancy Drew to their complex identities. Stories emerged from their experiences, revealing the game's reinforcement of girls' social and cultural identity. Thus, the game became the catalyst for understanding girls' identity while teachers added another dimension based on conflictual and contentious aspects of the game.


Black, E.M.S. Identity in the millennium: Software, meaning and African-American girls' identity. Ph.D. thesis, The Ohio State University. Retrieved August 12, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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