Before the digital era there was only way to be poor and that was not to have access to things. But now there´s a new kind of poverty and that is digital poverty. Not only can you be poor because you have no access to the information society as we like to call it in Europe but even inside the Internet you can be poor. Let me give you a concrete example of digital poverty. It relates to Stardoll. Stardoll is a very simple yet incredibly successful site for little girls to dress up their dolls. I first blogged about Stardoll in April of 2006 both in English and Spanish What happened to me after blogging about Stardoll in Spanish is that because of my Google Ranking when you google Stardoll only in Spanish you come to my blog. But what´s unusual about Stardoll is that even though doll´s are virtually dressed in Stardoll their virtual clothes cost real money. And what I frequently get now is e mails from little girls from Spanish speaking countries who ask me if I can please give them stardollars so they can buy dresses for their little dolls. And I feel so sorry about them that I even contemplated that my foundation could finance some of these but came to the conclusion that that would be absurd. Interestingly, yesterday, I had a chance to see Mattias Miksche from Stardoll again and raise this issue. Since there´s little cost involved in producing these clothes. Couldn´t we start an NGO that actually gave them for free or for practically nothing to poor girls in say Ecuador, Peru, Colombia? And in general, now that wealth is both felt (no food) and perceived (Swedish girls can buy clothes, Peruvian girls can´t), don´t we have an opportunity in the virtual world to do virtual philanthropy and make a lot of little girls, boys, and even grown ups happy? Mattias did not give me a concrete answer but I am sure he is thinking about this. Personally I think that there is a chance of bringing digital justice to this world. Pricing digital property in terms of the average purchasing power of each country would be a good start. Cause as opposed to real property digital property has no cost for an extra copy. Let´s take advantage of this and start the digital fair trade movement!

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Brian on June 17, 2007  · 

Right on brother !

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Jan on June 17, 2007  · 

I think its better for parents to avoid to let there childeren use websites like stardol.

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fede on June 17, 2007  · 

its an interesting subject
the other day i was wondering about a site that should make easy to donate money. just input your credit card or paypal pick the filantropy you like or the thing you are interested and the site channels the money.
also i use ubuntu and dont have a suscription but i would like to give some money to the open source community but there is not an easy way to do that

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bottle on June 17, 2007  · 

a very impressed idea about philanthropy:)

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Demian on June 17, 2007  · 

I agree with Jan.
Stardoll and the like can become very addictive for kids whose minds are still not completely made up. Getting them hooked to these sites and longing to be able afford spending real money on them might not be all too good, don’t you think, Martin?
Many times we create a ‘need’ (i.e. virtually dressing up virtual dolls, in this case) which make many unhappy cause they cannot afford it… I do not see much point in doing that, do you?
I think foundations’ money should primarily address real (much more vital) needs first, and technology (entrepreneurs) keep in mind their social concerns and remember the power they have on children/teens WHEN they are starting their business so there is no need to address this kind of cases later because they can be simply avoided or nipped in the bud.

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Jay on June 18, 2007  · 

Does Mattias own pornography and betting sites too? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Valerie on June 18, 2007  · 

As I said to my little girl, you don’t need money to play with Stardoll – there’s free stuff on there 😉

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John Cutler on June 18, 2007  · 

As a father of 3 pre-school children who cannot navigate beyond Poisson Rouge (a very simple French site of pre-school games), I wonder when will I lose them to the infinite synthetic experience represented by Web 2.0 artifacts like Stardoll. Maybe digital poverty at a young age is an advantage later in life…have we forgotten the value, at a young age, of just being bored and making things up?

However, in a world of climate crisis, energy wars, and an all-encompassing consumer culture of niche-creating and niche-marketing jihadists, maybe our children are better off lost in a synthetic, electronic maze of need-inducing web sites. Train’em early to shop and fly!

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Martin Varsavsky on June 18, 2007  · 

No, he does not! Jay I think u went a bit too far with that one.

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Jay on June 19, 2007  · 

Martin … I agree I was way too sarcastic, but think about it for a minute, as a father.

One thing is to make money selling toys (real physical toys),candy, or even videogames to little girls… but selling “virtual clothes” and make them “superstars” if and only if they spend real money… mmm… I don’t know, it makes me react in a negative way.

Does anybody else feel that way?

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Patrick on July 31, 2007  · 

Jay, i had the simlar thought. i thinks stardoll is a pretty exploitative site aimed at easily fooled unde aged customers. Success however has limited morals and successful people have different moral values and standards, some having the “just me against the rest” attitude. Ya cant stamp it out but you can certainly educate people that are succered by them.

Not sure this has anything to do with philantropy however but more pathos.


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Yani on August 12, 2007  · 


superb idea.
In Korea, the whole thing about cyber money with games is so common even amongst adults that you would not just classify this as a phenomenon but something you have to now live with. in that case, your view is the right direction. GREAT IDEA.

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Michelle on August 20, 2007  · 

Great idea! But no, he’s not. He doesn’t care about the world, because Stardoll has made even MORE stuff superstar. They want every little girl in the world to pay real money, just so they can play Stardoll. Haven’t you guys seen? Ever since like in the middle of August 2007, Stardoll has been truly unfair. Making almost every dress in Starplaza (the shop), to superstar VIP. That means if a little girl wants to buy a dress, she have to buy stardollars. And it’s not only the dresses, most of the other clothes in the shop, furnitures, GIFTS, pets and accesories has been marked SUPERSTAR VIP. Do you call that thinking about those little girls?! I don’t think so. There’s absolutely no justice in that. Stardoll only want to make more money, and that’s ALL they think of. Even though they already made lots of money before, they wouldn’t just stop there. They are too greedy.

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bill_kaulitzfan on August 25, 2007  · 

mabuhay kayo!
i also agree with you. but it’s not only peruvian girls who cant also buy clothes. most filipina stardoll people can’t also(like me!!).
as a stardoll user myself, stardoll really gives a lot injustices to those “digitally poor” people who uses stardoll like me. but to those users who buy stardollers, stardoll pampers them a lot(e.g by making the cooler clothes and furnishings only for superstars-a.k.a people who buy stardollars). and also using real money for something virtual and you can’t really use anyway?i would rather buy that rico blanco or coco chanel designed pret-a-porter than stardollers!!STARDOLL IS THE MOST GREEDIEST, DISCIMINATIVE WEBSITE EVER!!!I HOPE OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD!!!well to that callie(the editor of stardoll)and to her “voice of stardoll” our voices are not quite being heard by her and her f****ing voice of stardoll!!!EVERYTHING IS A LOT UNFAIR AT STARDOLL!! THEY ARE ALL GREEDY! WHY CANT THEY JUST MAKE REAL PAPERDOLLS OR ALBUMS AND JUST SELL IT IN STORES AND MALLS AND EVEN OUTSIDE SWEDEN???at least they have billions of euros out there!! they’re a lot corrupt than the opposition party here in the philippines!!i hope stardoll will hear our reforms and change for the better.callie’s advices are just futile… and the starplaza is hard to play, and soooo discriminative!!!

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Sexandsa on September 27, 2007  · 

I think stardoll is an unwritten peice of work,and what i mean about that sentence is that comen sence says stardoll only cares are their precious money,not the children when they should think more about the childrens sakes for heavens!!

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ZeMogwaï on October 4, 2007  · 

Warning, the link to your fondation’s website inside the text is wrong (cybersquatter). You should remove the dash to get the right site.

Virtual philantropy ? Funny ! Is it really that funny ? When we see real organizations like entreprises or politics that open offices into virtual worlds … where are we going ?

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Od on October 5, 2007  · 

I’ll just have to forward this to my sociology class, what a wierd post. How about getting in touch with Mr. Stallman and considering taking this idea a bit further, could be applied to e.g. computer software, music and movie distribution…

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mariana on October 17, 2007  · 

Hello all of you,
I just read this article and some of the comments. I really have mix feeling in this issue.
I understand how sad this girls are. I also remember asking my mom when I was a child to get me more barbies, their car, their house, their kitchen, all this stuff. My mom just gave me 2 or 3 dolls, and we made the cloth together, and just got a house, that was not “the barbie house” but was very nice too. I remember having a nice childhood. In my case, my parents could have afforded all this toys, but decided they didnt want to raise a child just giving them all these toys.
My point is then, this is not only about who can buy this things, but what do we want our kids to consider important.
So I would say social justice is something else. I would worry that every girl has the chance to use the internet, can read and write, and is receiving the best education available. There will always be differences on the things we buy, but is that bad? I would like to teach my kids that the value is not given by what you can buy, but by what you are.
What i found interesting is to have a price according the general price level of the country. It could give more equal oportunities to dress your doll. I think the big issue goes further than that but i find it good that each one would have the opportunity to decide what they want for their kids and would able to afford it.

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titistarr7 on February 9, 2008  · 

I think stardoll is a wonderful website because it shows children how to use their sense of style and teaches them how to be responsible and make the right choices when it comes to spending money.

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nitchi on March 11, 2008  · 

well, it depends. i think stardoll is just exhibit A. many other people spent money for lot of expensive yet useless things. let them play. it’s good to get them busy of what they like, for like an hour. they’ll need no longer (the game’s just slightly dull, though).

fyi, i play stardoll for fun (yea i know, right?!). get them to play with free/cheap stuff. (make them manage their finance). later when they broke, tell them to make thing called ‘scenery’. its actually a simply-fun collage art. u showed up in some sort of scene-set, with backgrounds, props, flairs and dresses to match. not to mention u can put your friend to appear. post it, and u’ll get points. those point in somewhat amount could be redeemed with stardollar. so u don’t have to pay anything.

i know, there’s a lot of alternatives to maintain your child’s creativity, this is probably just a mediocre. but why not letting them to play? it has blog too (i would want my daughter to learn to write, of course). and it’s starpointing too!

about the superstar membership (that cost real money), no need to do that, really. but if your daughter insist…make a deal with her. like straight 8 A’s? *wink*

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Mandy on July 1, 2008  · 

I do have a stardoll but i think it is still fun even if you aren’t a superstar! I have been superstar 3 times and i feel the same opnion that I felt then and i feel now! When you are a superstar you pay to become superstar and that is why you can but a few more things and you get more stardollars! It is not necessary that pay to do ALL the things on stardoll is it? Visit my stardoll called yayhay i am sure you will enjoy my suite, doll, album, and of course ME!

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