Playing with Toys: the animated geographies of children's material culture

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

 



The purpose of this postdoctoral fellowship is to disseminate research findings to academic, practitioner and policy audiences. The research in question examined children’s embodied relations and practices with toys within the context of a commercialised space of childhood, presenting a critical response to less grounded cultural commentaries on the demoralised character of contemporary childhoods and children. This research involved the development of an innovative multi-strand methodology to examine sensory practices and non-cognitive knowledges, and advanced an ecumenical framework for the study of children and childhood.The fieldwork element of the research involved domestic ethnographies of three households in South-east England, collaborating with eight to twelve year olds.



 



The programme of work for the fellowship includes:






  • preparing papers for publication in academic journals


  • submitting articles to practitioner and policy publications


  • participating in and convening a number of thematic sessions at national and international conferences


  • participating in an overseas institutional visit in the US


  • organising a workshop in Exeter


  • constructing an interactive website


  • preparing and submitting research grant proposals.




 

 
Description ESRC Standard Grant
Amount £492,509 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/L001926/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 11/2013 
End 05/2016
 
Description Faculty funds
Amount £8,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Portsmouth 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2016 
End 07/2016
 
Description Guest passes for Royal Geographical Society with Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference
Amount £570 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Geographical Society 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 08/2015 
End 09/2015
 
Description Open Innovation Platform Link Fund
Amount £1,972 (GBP)
Organisation University of Exeter 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2012 
End 07/2013
 
Description Research and Innovation Services Fund
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Portsmouth 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2015 
End 07/2015
 
Description University of Portsmouth New Staff Research Award
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Portsmouth 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 06/2012 
End 07/2014
 
Description British Academy bid: Ludic Geopolitics: children's play, war toys and re-enchantment with the British military 
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Lead author on British Academy Funding Bid
Collaborator Contribution Institutional support for British Academy Funding Bid
Impact A bid for funding was submitted, but later withdrawn due to a change in employment making the applicant ineligible for the funding scheme.
Start Year 2011
 
Description CLES fund bid: Ludic Geopolitics 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative writing of a funding bid for a series of meetings with personnel at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, designed to lead to an ESRC Standard Grant funding bid with the University of Exeter and the Museum of Childhood named as a project partners.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative writing of a funding bid for a series of meetings with personnel at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, designed to lead to an ESRC Standard Grant funding bid with the University of Exeter and the Museum of Childhood named as a project partners.
Impact We were asked to resubmit the application to a different funding scheme.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Leverhulme bid: Ludic Geopolitics: children's play, war toys and re-enchantment with the British military 
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Lead author on bid for Leverhulme funds
Collaborator Contribution Institutional support for a bid for Leverhulme funds
Impact A bid for funding was submitted, but later withdrawn due to a change in employment making the applicant ineligible for the funding scheme.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Ludic Geopolitics: children's play, war toys and re-enchantment with the British military 
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Lead author on a collaborative bid for RCUK funding
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to, and institutional support for a collaborative bid for RCUK funding
Impact Funds were secured for a multi-institution project involving the listed universities and the museum as named project partners. Outputs from this collaboration are detailed as part of a separate ESRC award: ES/L001926/1
Start Year 2011
 
Description Ludic Geopolitics: children's play, war toys and re-enchantment with the British military 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Lead author on a collaborative bid for RCUK funding
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to, and institutional support for a collaborative bid for RCUK funding
Impact Funds were secured for a multi-institution project involving the listed universities and the museum as named project partners. Outputs from this collaboration are detailed as part of a separate ESRC award: ES/L001926/1
Start Year 2011
 
Description Ludic Geopolitics: children's play, war toys and re-enchantment with the British military 
Organisation Victoria and Albert Museum
Department V&A Museum of Childhood
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Lead author on a collaborative bid for RCUK funding
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to, and institutional support for a collaborative bid for RCUK funding
Impact Funds were secured for a multi-institution project involving the listed universities and the museum as named project partners. Outputs from this collaboration are detailed as part of a separate ESRC award: ES/L001926/1
Start Year 2011
 
Description Open Innovation Platform Link Fund bid: Ludic Geopolitics 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative writing of a bid for institutional funds to develop a partnership with Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood which would lead to an ESRC Standard Grant funding bid with the University of Exeter and the Museum of Childhood named as a project partners.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative writing of funding bid
Impact Funding for a series of meetings with personnel at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, leading to an ESRC Standard Grant funding bid with the University of Exeter and the Museum of Childhood named as a project partners. The researcher was also involved in an Action Man Study Day along with retired toy industry personnel, museum curators and collectors.
Start Year 2011
 
Description REACT Play Sandbox application 
Organisation Coney
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Together with Coney (an interactive theatre company) we made an application to the AHRC REACT Play sandbox. Through discussion with Coney we devised a proposal for an interactive 'world-making' game for use in schools, that drew upon our expertise in Political and Ludic Geographies.
Collaborator Contribution Together with Coney (an interactive theatre company) we made an application to the AHRC REACT Play sandbox. Through discussion with Coney we devised a proposal for an interactive 'world-making' game for use in schools, that drew upon their expertise in interactive game design and working with schools.
Impact The initial output of this collaboration was a joint pitch that was made to the AHRC REACT Play Sandbox. We were unsuccessful in this application, but we remain in contact with Coney about future possibilities of working together.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Visualising mental health funding bid 
Organisation University of Brighton
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Contributions to a collaborative research funding bid based on the innovative methodology developed through this award
Collaborator Contribution Contributions to a collaborative research funding bid
Impact As a result of contributions to collaborative writing, funds are being sought for the formation of an international network and a two-day event, which is designed to lead to further collaborative funding bids
Start Year 2014
 
Description Website 
Organisation Starboard Media Ltd
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Academic content for public-facing website.
Collaborator Contribution Web design expertise for public-facing website.
Impact A public-facing website is currently under construction.
Start Year 2016
 
Description AAG session: Ludic Geopolitics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Organised a session at Annual Meeting of Association of American Geographers, which sparked questions and discussions.

Audience members tweeted about the session and requests were made for further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Action Man Study Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participation in knowledge exchange event with toy industry representatives, collectors and museum practitioners, which sparked questions and discussion, helped build a relationship with a non-academic partner, and led to requests about participation in a new project

Following participation a formal partnership was established with the museum hosting the event, and other attendees are involved in a new ESRC funded research project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description BFBS radio interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two radio interviews for the British Forces Broadcasting Service as part of different programmes.

The project team received a number of requests for further information and about participation as a result of the press coverage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Children's Play Information Service Database 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Inclusion of project details and links to findings in National Children's Bureau Children's Play Information Service Database, which led to requests for information

Requests for further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Conversation article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In response to a request for an expert commentary on a report about Lego becoming more violent I wrote a piece for The Conversation, an online independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. Response to the article TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://theconversation.com/are-toys-becoming-more-violent-and-should-we-be-worried-60394
 
Description Cultures of play, culture of war 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion. It was commented by international experts in the field that the methodology used in the research was 'potentially groundbreaking'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Discover Geography Day: Ludic Geopolitics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Organised a session for the Discover Geography Day, a widening participation event for sixth form students, which sparked questions and discussion

Teachers reported that they would not have considered the issues addressed and the methods used without the sessions. Pupils said they enjoyed the session and that they had a greater appreciation of the range of topics addressed within he geography curriculum at degree level, and this may influence their decision about whether to go to university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Doing Ludic Geopolitics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions, discussion and encouragement to recognise the 'potentially valuable connections to be made' to other disciplinary fields. Comments from experts in the field included:

'This is a fascinating project, and as someone who tends toward a sweeping treatment of militarism I'm grateful for her nuanced discussion....the paper was wonderfully provocative.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Enthusiasm Futures 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Activity led by Tara Woodyer sparked questions and discussion.

Contributed to discussions about how to take the concept of 'enthusiasm' further, with subsequent to co-author work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description History Today article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An article in the popular history magazine, History Today. The magazine has a readership of over 50,000 and the article will also be archived on the magazine's website. The article contextualises contemporary war toys by positioning them within a historical trajectory that looks back to the Boer War and looks forward, considering how new developments in war toys might change the nature of children's war play.

Impacts are as yet unknown, the article will be published in late November 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description International Summer School: Ludic Geopolitics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Organised a session for the International Summer School hosted by the University of Exeter designed to encourage college students to think about the importance of play and games in understanding some of the pressing issues facing contemporary society. This sessions sparked questions and discussion.

Similar activities have formed a part of subsequent summer schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Lego Lab 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Participation in University of Exeter's Lego Lab. My published work on play and participation in play during a day's visit to the lab sparked questions and discussion

Following the event I was invited to participate in a larger outreach event targeted at school teachers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Lego Lab at GA conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Participation in the Lego Lab run as part of the Geographical Association Conference's Ideas Lab introduced school teachers to the possibilities of using play and games to tech children about commodity geographies. This sparked questions, discussion, Twitter traffic, and the sharing of learning resources.

School teachers showed great enthusiasm for the method and talked about how they could implement it in their own classrooms. The Geographical Association has asked that the lab is run again as part of the conference in the following year
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Ludic Geopolitics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation in response to a series of talks assembled as a conference session. Presentations sparked questions and comments and further discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Material sensibilities blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The blog has received over 9,000 hits, spanning the UK, USA, Central and South America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Australasia, Asia and Africa.

Through the blog I have received invites to not only academic events, but also to schools to give talks to pupils. I have also been invited to contribute to publications and practitioner forums, and provide consultation for toy and games companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015
 
Description Multiple Childhoods/Multidisciplinary Perspectives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact As invited chair of conference sessions, the questions I posed sparked discussion

Participation helped to build a relationship with members of the Centre for the Children and Childhood Studies, leading to a second institutional visit, establishment of an international network and participation of centre staff in a new ESRC funded project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Philadelphia Science Festival: Fading Senses 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participation in this public seminar (which was part of the Philadelphia Science Festival) sparked questions and discussion

Participation helped develop my understanding of different disciplinary approaches to the senses
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Play England Council Meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Through participation in the break out sessions organised as part of these meetings I shared ideas about further Play England priorities and activities with professional practitioners, which sparked discussion and fed into the organisation's action plans

Professional practitioners I met through the meetings were involved in a knowledge exchange event I organised for academics, play practitioners, toy makers and games designers. Outcomes of this event have been reported separately.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012
 
Description Play, Toys, War and Conflict Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussions afterwards, and a network involving academics, and play and museum practitioners has emerged.

A network involving academics, and play and museum practitioners with shared interest in war toys and war play has emerged.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://materialsensibilities.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/play-and-war-key-issues/
 
Description Playability Knowledge Exchange Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Organised a knowledge exchange event for geographers, play practitioners, toy makers and games designers, which sparked questions and discussion, and led to a new connections being made between academics and practitioners. These connections led to: collaborative partnership between academics and Auroch Digital, which resulted in the development of a mobile app game to teach children about the impacts of climate change (2012); a successful collaborative funding bid involving NERC and the British Antarctic Survey to develop the aforementioned app; invitation to speak at seminars (2012; 2013); participation in Play England working group (2015); invitation to join collaborative partnership for AHRC Networking Bid (2016). The aforementioned mobile app is anticipated to have social, cultural and economic benefit. Designed as a game for the general populace, it will also be introduced to schools as a teaching tool and people will be able pay to have additional levels based on their own modelling of the area.

Collaborative partnership between academics and game designers to develop a climate change themed mobile app game.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/iceflowsgame/
 
Description Playability blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blog relating to knowledge exchange event with academics, play practitioners and toy makers. Sparked interest in the event.

The blog generated interest in the event, which resulted in play practitioners and toy makers attending, and expressions of interest in future events of this kind.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Playing War: the action figure's role in the domestic co-constitution of geopolitical cultures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

The journal, Geopolitics, approached the research about compiling a special issue on the subject of Domesticating Geopolitics, which will include publication of an extended version of the conference paper. Members of the research team were also invited to contribute to a reading group at the University of Brighton.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://ludicgeopolitics.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/domesticating-geopolitics-session-report-rgs-with-...
 
Description RGS-IBG sessions: Ludic Geographies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Organised two sessions on Ludic Geographies at the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference, which sparked questions and discussion

Audience members tweeted about the sessions and requests were made for further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Radio Interview - Newstalk (Ireland) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview discussed our shifting social values in relation to children and violence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Re-enchanting childhood through a consensual approach to theories of relationality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Paper presented at workshop involving 16 participants spanning Childhood Studies, Early Childhood Education, Literary Studies, Sociology and Media from UK, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Finland and Canada. Participants were also practitioners. Briefing paper authored by PI was circulated prior to the event. Paper and presentation sparked questions and discussions afterwards, and increased interest in the findings of the research project, the field of children's geographies and UK academia. Plans made for future events, the establishment of a formal, dedicated European network and future funding bids.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Re-imagining Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participation in a knowledge exchange event, which sparked questions and discussion

Following participation, people made requests for further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Reimagining the cartographies of the war play dilemma: play as relational ethic 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Delivered to audience including US military personnel. Talk sparked questions and discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Technologies of play and the child/military/entertainment industry nexus: video technologies as a democratising tool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion, and an invitation to contribute to a publication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description The Ludic Geopolitics of War Toys 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

After the talk, the research team were invited to submit a book chapter proposal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Unloved Collections 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a practitioner workshop co-organised with the Science Museum and the Museum of English Rural Life. Contributions sparked questions and discussion, and shaped activities.

Invited to contribute to practitioner facing conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description War Games, CCANW 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participation in two public War Games recreations, which helped build a relationship with the Class War Games network. This participation formed the basis of the publication 'Class Wargames : Ludic Subversion Against Spectacular Capitalism' by Richard Barbrook. Reviews include: 'Unusual, Fascinating View of Gaming and Its Revolutionary Possibilities...'; 'A new and different perspective'; 'It was striking that - very untypically for wargaming - the players were from both sexes'; 'I have been a wargamer for over 50 years, and thought that I had a fairly well developed understanding of wargaming, but this book certainly gave me some new insights'; 'I don't write book reviews as I'm no intellectual. That said, although this book is fairly lengthy & the topic appears to be somewhat uncool, I found it a pleasure to read & enlightening'.



Inclusion of my activities in Richard Barbrook's (2014) book, Class Wargames: ludic subversion against spectacular capitalism
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Widening Participation Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The talk sparked a number of questions from the pupils in attendance and there was some good discussion during the session.

Generic feedback on the whole event indicated that the sessions was very well received by the schools involved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014