When Olympia Ohanian – the daughter of tennis player Serena Williams and internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian – was an infant, her parents gave her a plastic doll. Then they got the doll’s Instagram account.
Kai Kai, as the doll’s name was, emerged on the platform in 2018 in a series of enigmatic photographs. Although the doll’s feed sounded like crime-scene photography – kai kai could be thrown informally into a sandbox or played lifelessly on a single stretch of asphalt – it also had a pleasantly nostalgic quality. These images embody the comic dark side of a young child’s obsession with a favorite object: when a new game appears, the object can be mercilessly discarded. Every photo of Kai Kai’s casual neglect seemed to be influenced by Olympia’s own boundless spirit.
However, as the doll’s followers gathered, she accepted the demands of various online platforms. She soon transformed into a computer-generated cartoon figure with a curl of hair over her eyes and head. This new, seemingly sensitive Kai Kai can lip-sync with viral videos like the TikTok Star and is as convertible as a mini influencer from the FAO Schwarz toy. Eventually the original kai kai doll disappeared from social media, replaced by a new doll after the cartoon version and is available for purchase on Amazon. Last week, Kai Kai released her first NFT collection.
Kai Kai is part of a movement to move children’s entertainment into the digital future. She was animated by tech company Invisible Universe, which develops an internet-native cartoon-character intellectual property linked to celebrity. (Invisible Universe has also created the character of the long-lost teddy bear for the TikTok-famous D’Amelio family and turned Jennifer Aniston’s dog Clyde into the cartoon food influencer, Clydio.) Bursting has given birth to a highly speculative marketplace – released on Zigazoo, an app for children under the age of 3 that calls itself “the world’s largest social network for children and NFT platform”.
doing Your Does a toddler need NFT? Zigazu says yes. The app’s mission is to “empower children to shape the landscape and infrastructure of NFTs and Web3,” helping them “express themselves through art and learn the necessary financial literacy skills” and allow them to become “digital citizens of tomorrow.” As Rebecca Jennings recently reported on Vox, efforts to bring children into the world of cryptocurrencies, NFTs and blockchain technology are being touted as “preparing future workers for lucrative jobs in tech.” Traditional children’s entertainment has long tended to get maximum cash from its younger consumers (soon Pixar will release a sharp-edged film featuring “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear), but clever language suggests kids should spend money. making Money seems new. Platforms like Zigazu are building a hype bubble for children and pitching it as a creative outlet, educational opportunity and civic duty to join.
Recently I studied my own essential financial literacy skills by getting a set of images of Kai Kai dancing in Tutu. First I had to download Zigazoo, a kind of junior TikTok designed to be run by an adult caregiver. Once inside, the app anodine demands videos made around “challenges”, such as “Can you sing in another language?” And “What should your favorite shoe wear?” There are no ultra-personal questions like that. Content seems less important than app design, which, like any adult social network, encourages users to gather followers, increase likes, and become zigzag-popular in general. In Zigazoo-ese, this can be translated as “Essential Meditation Economy Skills Practice”.
Many users of the app look glamorously unpolished, posting shaky videos that cut off their faces on their foreheads or chins as they distribute temporary monologues without breathing. And yet their disposition is mingled with the language of the influencers; A simple video “Hey Zigazu friends!” Starts from And “Like and Subscribe!” Ends with! Along the way apologizes for not posting recently, promises to post more soon, and offers to boom the user’s busiest followers in the next post, even if those followers don’t exist. Occasionally this weird and tender feed will be interrupted by a weirdly glossy video – like a big-on-zigazu child artist who can see through the lens meaningfully and implement his challenges while tickling the piano outside the frame. (When I signed up, Zigazu suggested that I follow him, along with the account associated with the movie “Pa Patrol” and the teenage “Ninja Warrior” champion.) Occasionally, adults will appear. Usually they sell something, like a toy subscription box or a podcast for kids.
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that rates the age adequacy of media and technology, gives Zigazu high marks for its violence, drugs and lack of images of “sexy stuff”. There are no comments on the app, only positive-reinforcement methods, and each video is handled by one man. Although a common sense review states that consumerism is “not present” on the app, it is everywhere. Every time I opened Zigazu, I found that I had earned the platform’s in-app currency “Zigabox” for visiting every day. Also, I was constantly instructed to take care of Zigazoo’s latest NFT drop: Images featuring JJ, CoComelon’s cartoon infant star.
CoComelon is a very popular YouTube channel featuring crudely rendered CGI videos and repetitive nursery rhymes, such as “Dentist Song” and “Pasta Song.” Although it has no conceivable value beyond its ability to hypnotize toddlers in the long run, it has occupied the world; The brand recently partnered with the Saudi government to build a physical cocomelon village in Riyadh, perhaps as part of a larger public relations effort to become known for something other than harassing Saudi dissidents. (Let’s call it “the study of essential geopolitical skills.”)
Either way, the kids like it: CoComelon NFTs were sold out before I could strip one, so I waited for the release of Kai Kai NFTs, looking at the countdown clock on the Zigazoo app for my moment to “invest”. Kai Kai’s NFTs were selling at $ 5.99 to $ 49.99 a pack, with more cash you are more likely to receive not only the “normal” NFT but also the “rare” or “legendary” one, which is unclear. (Although each Zigazoo is connected to a unique digital record on the NFT flow blockchain, the app does not specify how many of these records it is assigning to each kai kai image, making it more difficult to guess how useless it might be in the future. .) I chose the “rare” pack of the Kai Kai collection for 19.99, replied “Only parents!” The problem of multiple-choice multiplication to prove I’m an adult (although I knew my multiplication tables better when I was a kid), and was eventually rewarded with four still images of Kai Kai and a “rare” repetitive video of Kai Kai. . Heel toe dance. “
Over the next few days, I was invited to trade my NFT with other users and participate in NFT-related challenges such as “#QaiQaiDrop: What new toy do you hope to get?” And “Cocomelon: Can you show us your favorite pajamas?” The “winners” of each challenge were rewarded with even more NFTs. The real challenge in this case seems to be to “express yourself by helping young class consumers hype up new technological tricks”. This ended my NFT education on Zigazu.
My kai kai nft is good. Like many children dancing on the Internet before her, she is beautiful, and buying digital assets also supports a broader project: Serena Williams developed kai kai to ensure her daughter’s generation had access to black dolls, which Williams himself lacked as a child. . . (I have nothing great to say about Cocomelon NFTs.) Dolls offer endless opportunities for creative play, as exemplified by Kai Kai’s friendly start. Her initial Instagram account exemplified the Internet’s generating power, the ability to spin a fantastic creative project and share it with the world – not just to help “teach” you how to invest in cryptocurrency, but just to make you feel. Is. .
In its in-app Explanner, “Why should kids have NFTs?”, Zigazu laments that “a lot about the Internet is about consumption,” but states that “the future of the Internet is what you can build.” Right now, though, it’s about what you can buy using Zigabucks.