Author: Jennesia


Sunday Movie: “The Alderson Murder”

I have a really exciting “dream project” currently in the works. It’s a short film called “The Alderson Murder” based on the short story by Gonzalo Reidel (you can purchase the whole collection of stories here). I first encountered Reidel’s stories on the shelf at Geist Magazine. That night, in bed, I read the whole collection out-loud to my husband/cinematographer (Dale Shippam). Later Geist published my review of the collection in their ‘Endnotes’ column (you can read it for free at and I began the slow process of writing, directing and producing a film in the spare bits of time in between working toward my PhD and working to pay for my PhD, which left me with mostly Sundays (because who needs rest?). Now, after 144 Sundays (48 Sundays per year for 3 years), we’re due for a rough cut from the editor any day now and the film is one more Sunday closer to completion. Stay tuned!


Playful Bodies (Part 2): Toward a Genealogy of Children’s Play

In April I had the extreme pleasure of presenting a paper at the 4th Philosophy at Play Conference at the University of Gloucestershire. Below is a version of the talk I gave, which is a coming-together of old ideas, getting me one move closer what I hope will become the methods chapter of my dissertation. ——— Not long ago a Canadian Elementary School sent a letter home to parents announcing a new zero-tolerance policy on hands-on play; no tag, no hand-clapping, no hugging, no touching. In response to the immediate concerns raised by parents and the negative attention the letter began to receive in the press, the school’s principal defended the policy citing the intent to make play “safer.” There are a number of obvious issues raised by a ban on hands on play, but I use this example because it reveals something about the anxieties and tensions that underlie our attempts to secure children’s play—at the heart of which is the idea that play is an important investment. Today I want think through the …


Playful Bodies: Toward a Genealogy of Children’s Play

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of sharing my doctoral research with a network of researchers from Canada, Australia, the US and UK who gathered for a small research symposium under the theme of ‘Mediated Frictions: Learning, Dwelling and Imaging in Youth Lives” My talk was titled Playful Bodies: Toward a Genealogy of Children’s Play to play off of Foucault’s ‘Docile Bodies’ (to represent the playful body as a target of power). Because I’m at the stage of preparing a detailed proposal for the project, the talk focused on the theoretical and methodological material needed to set up a genealogical inquiry into children’s play, hence the second part of my title. Below is a slightly revised version of my talk. ————— In 2013 the United Nations issued a general comment on the child’s right to play as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reinforcing the obligation of states, private sectors, and parents to implement strategies and programs to secure appropriate opportunities for children to play, expressing a deep concern for …


Review Essay: Where Has All the Good Play Gone?

Below is an excerpt from my review essay in the Special Issue on Mobility of Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. In a recent summary published in the Guardian of new research that connects play to childhood learning, Lucy Ward reports that “[a] lack of understanding of the value of play is prompting parents and schools alike to reduce it as a priority.” If there is a lack of understanding, it is certainly not due to a lack of awareness. Parents and teachers in the global North are reminded regularly of a so-called play deficit: journalists report repeatedly on the threats posed to children’s quality playtime, the authors of popular parenting and education literature paint bleak images of children’s futures without play, and the advocates of play movements promise to reconnect young people with the right kinds of play (see Frost; Gill; Gray; Kang; Louv). In these accounts, play is essential to children’s learning and development, whereas a decline in quality play spells disaster for children and society. Researchers are also responding to the idea of …


Reading Guide

I read How to Read a Book a year ago in preparation for one the greatest reading events of a graduate student’s life: comprehensive exams. I rarely recommend books because what I find useful, might not resonate with you and reading is an investment that you may not have the time or space for and then what good is the recommendation. Instead I’ll share the list of reading questions I generated from the words of Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.


Jamaica On Ice

I brought Marlon James’s novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books) on vacation to Mexico, although it is a bit hefty for a carry-on bag let alone a beach bag; I only made it through 314 pages of the novel before returning to Vancouver and putting it into the freezer: according Internet research, it takes a minimum of five days at minus five degrees Celsius (the temperature of the average household freezer) to kill potential bed bugs and their eggs or depending on where you live in Canada, it might still be cold enough in March that leaving your luggage outside for a day or two would do it. I kept my copy of Seven Killings in the freezer for one full week and have now returned, worry-free, to the partly fictionalized ghettos of 1970s Jamaica where at the centre of the story Bob Marley has just survived a shooting four days before he’s to play the Smile Jamaica concert and less than a week away from a national election that has everyone …


In Review: Play, Performance, and Identity

Below is an excerpt from my review of Play, Performance, and Identity: How Institutions Structure Ludic Spaces (Matt Omasta and Drew Chappell, Eds) in  Vol. 8 No. 2 of the American Journal of Play. A recent addition to the Routledge Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies Series, Play, Performance, and Identity: How Institutions Structure Ludic Spaces, brings play and performance studies together in an edited collection of thirteen essays that explore the boundaries of playful performances ranging from the massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft to shark diving. As the title suggests, the editors’ objective is to investigate the often elusive question of who is responsible for structuring the experiences of play. A central tenant among the anthology’s authors is that institutions such as corporations, governments, and religious organizations are increasingly involved in defining the possibilities for play and that the player’s experience is thus shaped in significant ways by institutional ideologies that are worth examining. … Read the whole review here


Fast & Effective Feedback Template

One of the biggest challenges of being a TA or instructor is giving feedback. It took me years and a lot of training to be able to give students the feedback they require to improve without exceeding the number of paid hours I worked. By working with a customizable template, I discovered a way to balance my students and my time. Download it, adapt it, and give it a try. Leave a comment to let others know how it worked! Download the Sample Feedback Template


In Review: Towards a Better Internet for Children?

Below is an excerpt from my review of Toward a Better Internet for Children? Policy Pillars, Players and Paradoxes, which appeared in Vol 40 No. 3 of The Canadian Journal of Communication. Towards a Better Internet for Children? Policy Pillars, Players and Paradoxes, edited by Brian O’Neill, Elisabeth Staksrud, and Sharon McLaughlin, offers 16 chapters that contribute evidence-based insights into ongoing European policy debates regarding Internet regulation and child online safety. Smartly divided into three complementary parts (policy pillars, players, and paradoxes), the collection provides a timely discussion of the efficacy of current European policy initiatives; the evolving roles of regulators, educators, non-governmental organizations, and parents in implementing Internet safety; and the contradictions that result from efforts to make the Internet safer. The collection’s 27 contributors are all members of the EU Kids Online network, a research network of 33 countries supported by the European Union’s Safer Internet Programme. The discussions found in the collection are largely based on data from the most current EU Kids Online Project (2009–2011), to date the largest study of …


When a Girl Plays With Barbie

Mattel’s latest commercial for Barbie draws on a powerful rhetoric of play (the one I’m always harping on about) and childhood imagination to address parental anxieties about gender stereotypes. In this ad, the ‘scripts’ Barbie invites girls to act out are carefully chosen to reflect a specific and limited kind of female subjectivity where empowerment essentially amounts to one’s future profession as professor, coach of a men’s sport team, veterinarian, and business woman. The ad conveys the message that the ‘right’ kinds of play, with the right toys (ie. Barbie), can lead to the right kind of future you (adult) want for your daughter. Things we might consider in this ad are the ways in which it (and we) take at face-value the correlation between play and normal child development; how the play rhetoric enables the ad to so convincingly foreclose alternative ways of playing; and how the play rhetoric fosters a particular definition of normal and adequate female childhood as well as notions of ‘success’ in the case of this ad.    


In the News: ‘Fresh Air’ Parenting

Timely and interesting  research coming from the University of Toronto linking parental perceptions of child supervision to physical activity in children. Only 36% of parents allow their children to explore their neighborhoods unsupervised, one of the many factors limiting young people’s mobility. The Meitiv’s are a recent example of the minority few who risk investigation by legal authorities by allowing their children some autonomy. One article online calls for ‘fresh air’ vs. the negatively coined ‘free range’ parenting. Can we find a middle ground? An even more pressing question is this: what does it say about the status of and spaces available for children in our society when our instinct is to call 911 when we see children out-and-about? I’ll say more about this later.

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How To: Start Your Research Paper

The Student Learning Commons at Simon Fraser University invited me to propose an independent project related to my work as a writing facilitator. So…I went in search of a way to communicate about academic writing that combined both my interests in teaching and video production. I envisioned three possible applications for the vid 1) an intro to undergraduate writing workshops facilitated by the SLC 2) a tool for instructors or TAs to show or share their students and 3) a stand alone resource on the library’s site for students to access along with the university’s many other excellent research/writing resources. I animated the video using Keynote, Mac’s Presentation Software–a simple program that lets you take the average slideshow to the next level. Feel free to share or adapt (and if you’d like the source file, get in touch)!  


Mapping the Landscapes of Childhood

This week I’ll be sharing my doctoral research at the Mapping the Landscapes of Childhood II conference in Lethbridge, Alberta. One of the conference themes asks whether play is the opposite of work and how the distinction between the two has contributed to how we define healthy, normal or adequate childhood–both of these are important questions underlying my research project. Because play is commonly understood to be the opposite of work and freedom from work is taken to be one of the basic tenants of proper childhood (fostering the view that play is the child’s ‘work’), the child who works is then at best viewed as deprived of a proper childhood and at worst subject to potentially unhelpful forms of intervention that risk further limiting the autonomy of the child. This view of work and play depends on a predominantly western view of childhood as a period of innocence, dependence and vulnerability, a view that scholars have argued is essentialist and dismissive of the globally diverse number of childhood experiences. It isn’t hard to see …