All posts filed under: Research


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 …


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 …


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 …


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.


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 …


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.


In the News: Steve Jobs Didn’t Let His Kids Use iPads

Here’s Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Let His Kids Use iPads And Why You Shouldn’t Either Yesterday my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with links to this article, which tells me that something about it really resonated with people…even people without kids. Steve Jobs allegedly restricted his kids’s use of tech and apparently that means we should to. Seems like some kind of reverse psychology marketing ploy. I think there’s some merit to this article. For example, I would agree that we need to carefully evaluate our voracious appetite for technology. I’m of the opinion that both adults and young people need to consider the impact an over reliance on all sorts of technology has on our lives, our relationships, and our ability to support ourselves. For example, our current food system in North America is dependent on a number of technologies that, should they be disrupted or no longer viable because of a natural disaster or economic collapse, render us disturbingly vulnerable. Play outside with [your kids] and surround them with nature; they might hate you, …


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 …