Author: Jennesia

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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 …

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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 …

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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.

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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 …

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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

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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

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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 …

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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.    

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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)!  

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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 …

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In the News: From Virtual to Reality

Fortune announced today that Backyard Sports, a video game series for children, has launched a new business model for the mobile games market. What makes the model ‘new’? The mobile game is now literally a platform for ‘real’ live sports-play, which is not only a new way of monetizing play, but also has the added benefit of circumventing parental fears of sedentary ‘screen’ play. Read the article here; share your thoughts below: Like Rock Band, new Backyard Sports mobile games let kids play with real equipment – Fortune.

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Risk vs. Safety

Last year I pitched a story to a mid-size BC news source that questioned the old adage that ‘you can never be too safe.’ I wanted to show how the overemphasis on safety in an online game for children ages 6-14, while well intended, has lead to types of surveillance that ultimately take away from the value that play provides. The editor rejected the story with a simple question: “How is “less safe” play beneficial to kids?” I emailed back to clarify: no response. Now an article written by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit (BCIRPU) asks, “can we go too far when it comes to child injury prevention?” and their answer is “yes”–but as it turns out, my editor wasn’t the only one to reject the idea that safer isn’t always better. Brussoni et al. make a strong case for the problem with over-emphasizing safety on playground surfaces, but the comments section clearly reflects the polarizing effect that the topic of children and risk has on adults. One commenter asserts that “to oppose …