All posts filed under: Recent Research

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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 …

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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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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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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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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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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 …

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Talking ‘Play’ on CBC

In January I had the pleasure of joining radio host Rick Cluff on CBC’s The Early Edition for an interview on the importance of play. The interest in my research was piqued because of a Teen Philosopher’s Cafe I moderated on the topic of ‘play vs. work’ on behalf of Simon Fraser University’s Cafe Series. What interested me most about the interview was that CBC took the time to interview Vancouverites on what they thought play was. The answers, while not necessarily surprising, affirm that play is ambiguous and yet seems to mean similar things to different people–for example that play is the opposite of work. You can listen to the 6 minute interview on The Early Edition at the 1:30:53 mark.

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In Review: The Philosophy of Play

I’m pleased to be able to share this excerpt from my review of The Philosophy of Play, which was recently published in the American Journal Of Play: In April 2011, the inaugural Philosophy at Play conference brought together academics, play-sector workers, policy advocates, and analysts, among others, to make play the subject of philosophical inquiry and practice. The Philosophy of Play, edited by Emily Ryall, Wendy Russell, and Malcolm MacLean, is a collection of essays that arose from that conference. According to the editors, the objective of the collection is “to provide a richer understanding of the concept and nature of play, its relation and value to human life” and to provide “a deeper understanding of philosophical thinking and to open dialogue across these disciplines” (p. 2). Drawing on a range of philosophical traditions including the work of Plato, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Nietzsche, Sartre, Burke and Deleuze, the collection, like the ubiquitous concept of play itself, is vast in scope, made up of sixteen chapters varying slightly in length and depth. No specific overarching questions or themes dominate …