The world according to Playmobil

Walter De Gruyter & Co
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Semiotica: journal of the international association for semiotic studies, 2009, 2009 (173), pp. 299 - 315
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This article looks at toys for very small children, an object of study that has been pursued in psychoanalysis (by Freud and Erikson, for example), but all too infrequently in semiotics. Specifically, it analyzes the social roles and identities called into play by the highly successful Playmobil figurines. In the Hallidayan tradition, the investigation foregrounds the importance of roles and actors in semiosis, paying close attention to roles/actors that are excluded as well as those that are included. As the essay argues, semiotic systems are always a mixture of affordance and constraint. Playmobil (in contrast to Lego, for example) is shown to be stronger on constraints than affordances, however. As a global brand and genre, the figures of Playmobil have the potential to influence nascent perceptions of the way that social actors operate.
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