Understanding childhood and play in the post-digital age

Nelson, Elizabeth Lucy (2021) Understanding childhood and play in the post-digital age. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This qualitative study utilises novel methodologies that draw on the history of childhood, children’s literature and play to make visible children’s experiences of contemporary childhood. Formulating a hybrid paradigm that draws on the social sciences and the humanities through new materialist perspectives of entanglement and “more-than-human” approaches, the study questions how children are producing and performing play and childlore in the post-digital age, to examine the implications of these children’s play choices for understanding childhood today. Central to the project is the examination of children’s experiences of childhood and their part in produsing (producing and using [Bruns, 2009]) their own experiences and “texts” of childhood in the post-digital age. The approach builds on the work of British folklorists and anthologists of children’s playground games over the past 125 years (Gomme, 1894/8; Opie and Opie, 1959; and Roud, 2011). These field-defining anthologies serve as a both a foundation for the research design and a starting place from which to understand and recognize children’s play in the post-digital age.

Working with 18 children aged 6-13 years old in two schools and one afterschool care centre, I use creative methods of filmmaking to examine how children perform and produce their experiences of childhood in play. The children in the study playfully interacted with introduced digital technologies (digital tablets and cameras) in response to the invitation to “play and make videos”. The resultant children’s video productions, which I term video-play-texts, reveal the multiple, layered meanings and performances illustrated through the creation of these “texts of childhood”. My analysis draws on historical and literary descriptions of play and childhood to read the children’s performances as games, lore and mischief. I take up Bernstein’s (2011) concept of a “scriptive thing” to examine how environment, materials and people prompt performances of play in which children work to agentively rescript their experiences of the “research playgrounds”. My study found that engaging new materialist understandings with a “more than words” approach to the children’s performances of play highlighted the complex and layered literacies and funds of knowledge the children bring to their practice of produsing and rescripting in play. Further, I found that positioning children as both “beings” and “becomings” resulted in shining critical light onto how my participants agentively make meaning and across a multitude of spaces (including “schooled” environments, the playground and digital platforms).

A documentary composed of the participants’ play-video-texts and my observational videos accompanies the thesis and will be an integral part of its dissemination in academic and public forums.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Davis, Professor Robert A. and Perry, Dr. Mia
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82302
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2021 13:35
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 11:50
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82302
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82302

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