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Modification Ethics

Jul 6, 2010

    1. Being a die-hard DIY nerd and modder myself, I thought this might make an interesting discussion:

      What do you think crosses the line of ethical modding? Given that these dolls are meant to be customized, people will do lots of unusual things to them.

      There are two parts to modding to consider: Asthetics, and mechanics.

      Asthetics: Some of us buy a doll and do simple mods like adding elf ears or horns, but the doll itself still basically looks the same. Others of us buy a doll to match a character, but the sculpt isn't exactly right and it needs a bit off the eyes here, a bit off the cheek there, so that the modded head doesn't really look like the original sculpt anymore. What about sanding down the bust that an artist carefully sculpted? Do you feel this is disrespectful to the creative vision of the sculpting artist, or do you see the doll as a blank canvas and make it your own? (I'm not talking about zombie/gore mods... there are other threads about that.)

      Mechanics: Sanding a neck or neck opening to fit a hybrid head and body is basic. How about improving mobility in joints? Not just sueding, but carving and sanding? Removing an adam's apple to a head can look down, carving out locking steps in the resin so a joint doesn't slide, and so on. A critisim of the sculptor's engineering skills, or not?

      Keep it friendly, and no slamming other people's dolls!
    2. From my own experiance:

      Asthetics: I try to pick out sculpts that match what I want as closely as possible. Usually, when I have to open up the eyes sand a bit off the chin, it's because IRL the head doesn't look the same as it did in the company photos. There are so many things I love about a sculpt (that's why I buy it), I just want what I saw.

      Mechanics: Not everyone is a doll engineering genious. Companies are always improving the mobility of their bodies. I have done a lot of work on my dolls to make them more flexible. For example, I changed a 2-part torso Crobi M-Line into a 3-part torso on one of my dolls recently because, mechanically, it makes it move better. I know the same body works well for others just as it is, it's just not what I personally want in a body. But even while modding it, I tried to maintain the visual beauty that it originally had.

      I think as long as a person has the view of just "tweaking" here and there what is otherwise a lovely sculpt, it isn't disrespectful, such as: "I really like the shape of the nose and the nostrils, but the profile is a bit too long for my character. Just a bit off the tip should do it!". As opposed to someone who says "The nose is terrible! What was this sculpter using, Playdoh? I'm sanding it off."
    3. I really don't see how any of this is unethical. They are made to be customized, and considering the number of companies that advertise on DoA, they have to be aware of what it is people are doing. Also, when the doll is sold, it is no longer property of the company, so it's entirely up to the owner.

      I don't think modding is disrespectful when it's what these dolls were made for -- I suppose a sculptor could feel differently, but it's a fact of life in this hobby. I've seen people make posts wondering why someone would mod a head to the extent that it didn't look anything like the original -- 'why not buy a different head?' they ask -- well, in some cases the head that was heavily modded was still the best base to work from. I've been lucky that I haven't needed to do major modifications to my dolls. I've been able to find sculpts that make good bases for their characters -- faceups and sometimes making hybrids (which has in one instance required the alteration of a head to better fit a neck) usually takes care of any issues. However, I'm all for more permanently altering a doll if doing so makes them more suitable representations of the characters they are supposed to portray.

      But then, I don't see modding as being a negative critique of an artist's work. Owners buy their dolls for different reasons and have different needs, sometimes those needs are not entirely in line with what the original sculptor created. It doesn't mean the sculptor necessarily did a bad job -- it's just impossible to make a product that will 100% suit everybody's various needs.

      The only area where ethics really come into play is selling -- sellers of modded dolls need to be very upfront about any work that was done.
      • x 1
    4. I do as I please with my dolls and think it's fine for other people to do the same. I don't think of these dolls as art dolls, but as dolls to be customized; otherwise, why should their eyes and wigs be removable? I don't consider modification to be an ethical decision, but merely personal taste. If doll artists are upset that their creations are tweaked after they are sold, maybe they need to select a different sort of doll to make; perhaps porcelain or another medium that cannot be altered once made.
      • x 1
    5. It depends on how you bring it. If you go and loudly claim that a doll's design is flawed and you fixed it, that's pretty insulting to the sculptor. If you say you have adjusted the doll so it will suit your tastes and demands, you'd still have done the same thing with the doll, but then it's more about your personal tastes and less about the sculptor's work.
    6. If a doll is modded to the point where it is heavily damaged, I think it's somewhat unethical, and certainly wasteful. It's especially sad to see limited dolls pretty much destroyed because there are probably several others out there that wish they could afford that pretty $1000 doll, but for one reason or another can't. Sure there is the old argument that "it's my money, I can do what I want" but it's also a very spoiled mindset to buy anything expensive and then wreck it or not care about it to the point where it is incredibly damaged. I think this not only for dolls, but many other material items.
    7. It's still not unethical as it's doing no harm to anybody -- the only person who's lost something out of that is the person who spent the $1000 for the LE in the first place. There's almost this attitude where people treat LEs as community property rather than being owned by an individual -- it's like it's the individual's job to keep the doll in it's original condition for the sake of the community and those who would like to buy it. However, that's not the way things are, and really shouldn't be. It would make the community a pretty stifling place to anybody who managed to snag an LE.

      I know that 'it's your doll do whatever you want' is not a very interesting answer to a debate question, and may not be entirely satisfying. However, it's not spoiled to do whatever heavy modifications to the doll you bought. The attitude that places ethical standards on who should buy LEs and what can be done with them is really more bothersome to me, as it's very invasive.

      Now I would hope for the sake of the owner, that they embark on their modding journey with as much good information and tools that they can find, but not for the doll or the community, but simply so the owner can have a better chance at an outcome that will make them happy as their opinion of their doll is the only one that really matters.
    8. Ethics doesn't enter into it, & never has. I'm afraid this re-re-rehashed topic is is yet another question that can actually be answered with the stock answer "your doll, do what you want".

      As Taco points out, these dolls are not community property. All the people who don't own your doll do not get to dictate what you do with your doll. Nobody 'owes' anybody. It doesn't matter how 'harsh' or 'spoilt' one may think this fact sounds; that is always what things boil down to.

      If somebody doesn't do a modification that they wanted & planned to do on a doll, specifically because they think that modification will upset the aesthetics-sense of some stranger on the internet, that's just a sad sad thing. If that's how you happen to operate, power to you, but you'll be living with a collection of dolls you aren't satisfied with.

      What I find even funnier than the age-old My Mods Vs. Your Taste question, is the other prevailing mindset around here-- that if you buy an LE fullset without doing any modifications or repaints, you're somehow "uncreative" and "impersonal". :lol:
      Can't have it both ways, kids! Like trying to be slightly-pregnant!

      But who cares? I mean, why does it matter how you phrase it? In the end, the result is the same = The doll has the same nose job.

      Why is it disrespectful do to the same modification while thinking "this nose is terrible", but not disrespectful to do the same modification while thinking "just a little off the tip"? :? If owner is that freaked-out over what the artist might think, then owner does not give dolly a nose-job.
    9. Something doesn't have to harm another in order to be considered unethical, a term that merely describes wrong conduct in whatever degree an individual believes. I personally find excessively spoiled behavior to be a very poor characteristic in someone, and I am sure that there are others who agree. Certainly it is unethical of a parent to encourage spoiled behavior in their offspring's behavior?

      With dolls, it's really more wasteful than horrifyingly unethical. But in a way, I do find it to be immoral and spoiled to wreck the work of someone else. Suppose someone buys a small house; surely they are customizable and comparable. If someone makes careless or destructive changes on their house, then yes, I do think it's unethical to do this. It's certainly a waste of money that could be put to a variety of better uses.

      I myself have a nice Volks limited edition doll, and I can't imagine how spiteful it would be to wreck it when there are many others who love this sculpt. If I really didn't care about it, I would sell it (or hell, give it away rather than destroy it) because I feel that's the right and nice thing to do. This has nothing to do with others expecting a limited (or any doll for that matter) to be community property, it's about not being an obnoxious, spiteful, and/or spoiled asshole.

      I don't mean to come off as being a moral policeman; I am not against spending money of frivolous things at all if they are actually being used for their purpose, enjoyed, taken care of, and not flaunted as a load of expensive damage on the internet.
    10. No, it's not 'certainly' at all, because it's only opinion-based. "Whatever degree an individual believes" carries no weight for anyone BUT that individual. For example, some parents find Behavior A to be something normal or acceptable; others find Behavior A to be "spoiled". I personally can't believe the Neanderthal behavior that some modern parents let their kids get away with in public-- but, as long as they're not breaking the laws/rules of wherever we are, it's not for me to tell them how to control their kids.

      To wit:

      "Their purpose" is the operative phrase, and this is what varies for all users. No matter how hard you try to rationalize it, in the end you still have zero control over other people's purposes and play-styles. The purpose for which YOU buy a doll may be very different than the purpose for which someone else buys a doll. Someone else's purpose for owning that doll may be "so I can turn it into a one-eyed zombie", while your purposes may be "so I can take care of it in NRFB condition".

      Also, it is inadvisable to go around calling people assholes just because they play with their toys differently than you do. It speaks poorly of one's maturity level and ability to countenance other people's viewpoints and rationales.
    11. On the topic of ethics, it depends on what you're reasons in believing what is moral or immoral. There are many different philosophical reasoning in ethics such as the Utilitarian one, the Kantian one, and etc. Granted, I'm talking about Western Philosophy or DWEM, (Dead White European Men). Since these doll companies are mainly Eastern, perhaps they believe in different ethics. If a person believes in Utilitarianism, then whatever maximizes the pleasure of the community or serves as the greatest utility in the community is moral because morality is about pleasure. So for an example, if everyone in the bjd community loved modding their dolls and it maximizes everyone's overall pleasure, it isn't unethical to mod at all. Vice Versa.

      At first I didn't really think modding as an ethical issue because it doesn't concern the overall necessities and well-being of society as a whole. However, I think I can imagine why it's unethical because I believe some companies like Volks regard their artwork very importantly. If a Volks doll is modified very heavily till the point it's unrecognizable, I would think that they would be unhappy because they want their works of art to bring joy to you not another doll that a you have essentially made. I'm basing this opinion on the fact that Volks, themselves don't even allow other doll companies into their dolpas. I don't really recognize the difference between a heavily modified unrecognizable doll from a company from essentially a different doll. The question of heavily modifying is now quite subjective as the company can say this and the person can say that. But I do believe that people know of what "heavily modifying beyond recognizable" a doll is.
    12. I think modifications are great, and ethically there is no problem. People modify other things that are built by others all the time - houses, remixing music, fanart, etc. With dolls especially, you are not changing the original one the artist used to make the cast, and you are not affecting the dolls of others. When something is sold the seller or creator ceases to decide what can be done within copyright laws of course.

      However, I think that there is no problem with people criticizing said mods either. If a mod is not done well, or does not add to a doll, I have no problem in saying so if asked. Of course I would not give an unsolicited opinion about something I do not like, as that is just rude and tactless. I will also not lie and say I like it.
    13. But what constitutes "destructive" can be a simple matter of taste. To use your housing example, if I paint my house neon pink, my neighbours may be horrified - but I'm not destroying the house, I'm just bringing in in line with my taste.

      And at least in the housing example the neighbours could say that I'm effecting them in that it brings down the community property values - with dolls it's the opposite! If you and I have the same LE and I paint mine purple and give him a glittery face-up while you keep your in the original form that gives you the higher value on the resale market both because it's original and because it's more rare since I "ruined" mine. We both win - you have your original (or greater) value, and I have my purple pet!
    14. I don't believe modifying a doll is a question of ethics unless you claim that you sculpted the doll in it's entirety or started selling copies of your modified doll.

      Leenah you believe dolls should be used for their purpose which is enjoyment first and foremost - but what is modification if it is not an activity which the owner enjoys? People should not be buying dolls to amuse the ABJD community but for themselves. No matter how strong your opinion you can not dictate how a doll is "supposed" to be enjoyed.
    15. Did I post in a debate thread, or did I write in a "here's my homogenous opinion that fits in with everyone else" thread? My post was to state my own opinion, not to assume that is what everyone thinks; quite honestly I don't even know why I or anyone else would have to state such a thing in a debate forum.

      Of course there are always going to be mods, face-ups, and so on that not everyone is going to like, that art is subjective, and so on. Does this really need to be said in every other post in threads like this?

      Hervoyel: Painting a house pink is not damaging, as much as that might be of an eyesore to some. If someone decided to punch a hole in the wall, or throw a doll across the room in a fit of anger, then yes, I do think this is spoiled and obnoxious because these are destructive actions.

      Please note that I used words like "destroy," not "painting and modifications that doesn't suit my taste."
    16. From what I've heard, it's pretty safe to say that Volks is very supportive of people modding their dolls (they are made with the idea that owners will customize their dolls) -- and the fact that they and a lot of other bjd companies sell modding supplies along with their dolls says something, I think. To me the difference between a heavily modded doll and a doll from a different company is that the modded doll was still purchased from Volks (for example), the money went to Volks, and you showed your appreciation of their dolls by deciding to purchase from them.

      If someone bought a doll with their own money, then it's not spoiled of them to do whatever they like with it. They got it fair and square, paid for it, now the decision is in their hands. Personally I find dictating what other people should/shouldn't do with their dolls, because you (general you) weren't fortunate enough to get one suggests poor behavior in itself. I can understand being disappointed that you couldn't get a doll, but there's no fair/unfair or ethical/unethical attached to that -- no one will die because they couldn't get the doll they wanted, and no one gets everything they want.

      You are making a lot of assumptions about people's motives and personalities based on mod jobs gone wrong? You act as if they would be intentionally lashing out at the company and/or community--modding a doll isn't a personal insult to everyone else--it's just something a lot of hobbyists enjoy, and maybe some are better at it than others, but still. Assuming dolls should go to the person that most appreciates it or should be kept nice for resale or your a spiteful jerk is treating it like community property rather than belonging to an individual who should do what they like with it. Don't get me wrong, I do like the community, and I'm happy to see people end up with the dolls they want, but ultimately if a person bases all their decisions on whether or not it will annoy other people in the community or whether or not there are X number of people in line for that particular doll, then they're really robbing themselves of having a full experience as a hobbyist.

      Their purpose is to be enjoyed, and they are made with customization in mind (though it is hardly a requirement to customize your doll as there are many ways to enjoy them) and that's pretty much the extent of it. Modding a doll no matter how heavily (and even if it is inexpertly done) is still staying with in the purpose the doll was created for. These aren't OOAK art dolls that are sold with the assumption that people will keep them in original condition.
    17. Yes, Leenah, I can see that - however my larger point was that there is that what defines the destruction of an item is not always clear-cut. If I paint a historically-recognized house pink, then I might face legal action in (at the least) the form of a fine - painting it pink could be considered destoying it (never mind the property value issue, which again could be considered destruction).

      It's the same with a doll - if I'm using my doll in a performance piece and throw it across the room, that might be different from doing the same thing in a fit of rage, but the action is no different and I might even be angry during the performance. Either way, the doll is broken and in pieces.

      Of course it's a debate, that's why we're having back-and-forth, isn't it?
    18. For the record, I agree with "your doll, your business" sentiment, but for the sake of playing the Devil's advocate: if someone bought a very rare, very expensive and extremely desirable doll (say, a Bermann full set) with an explicit purpose of recording its mutilation and eventual destruction (say, as an extreme art project), thus inflicting unspeakable pain on all those who would love to own said doll - would that be ethical? Let's throw in the artist's publicly declared intent to inflict the emotional damage on the community as an art statement?
    19. I agree with what JennyNemesis has said. Once you buy something it’s yours,
      it doesn’t matter how anyone else feels about it (even the original artist/creator).
      I don’t see what “ethics” have to do with modifying your own property,
      or how would those actions affect the artist?

      I once saw a TV show where the hosts completely demolished a PS3, a Wii
      and an XBox 360, back when the former two had just been released (the PS3 was still $700+) –
      it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but I can’t see it as unethical
      (violent destructive behavior, yes, but not unethical). Even if these were Rembrandts’
      we were talking about and the owners wanted to submerge them in acid just for fun,
      it wouldn’t be unethical of them to do so – if they paid for the piece, it’s theirs to do with
      as they please.

      I can see how ethics would relate if this was about a customizer not performing
      the quality of work he/she was paid to do. It would be unethical of the customizer
      to request any pay if the work done was not his/her usual quality. But other than
      that, I can’t see how modifying your own doll would make you an unethical person,
      regardless of the price or rareness of the doll – if you paid for it, it’s yours.

      - Enzyme
    20. See, I think it's a very American attitude. I believe in most European and especially Asian cultures destruction of something that qualifies as a national treasure would be considered unethical. But then again, there is the issue of who decides what's a national treasure and what's a regular piece of consumer merchandise.