Since the 1980s, talking dolls embedded with computer microprocessors and microchips have been marketed to young girls, representing an important intersection between technology and girls’ play. By analyzing the mechanisms and technological processes that determine how computer talking dolls function, as well as design documents, promotional materials, critical reception, and fantastic representations of their use, this essay argues that these dolls constitute a cybernetic approach to voice and in turn prompt girls to rehearse fantasies of command and control over their toys and their own voices in a manner characteristic of computer-mediated and networked domestic space. Computer talking dolls are part of a longer history of doll play in which dolls have been utilized as technologies for the management of girls’ socialization, but the cybernetic mobilization of voice that they foster highlights the highly technical process through which girlhood is constructed. At the same time, the management of voice enacted by these toys is vulnerable to noise and malfunctions, and their complex designs and technologies actually enable unexpected opportunities for girls’ play.


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pp. 4-21
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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