Mary Flanagan, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, creates artworks, situations, and games that seek transformative social encounters. Her work has been featured in the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, and the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. She is the recipient of an American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship and commissions from the British Arts Council, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the National Academy of Sciences. For twenty years, Flanagan has directed the social impact design laboratory Tiltfactor, creating and studying games from web-based games to virtual reality escape rooms, from board games to role-playing sports. Flanagan has spoken about biases and stereo- types in the digital arts in diverse communities from the Museum of Modern Art to the Tate Museum in London, from the Sorbonne to Oxford University, from the World Economic Forum to K–12 teachers’ groups. Key words: art; board games; colonialism; critical play; Dada; Fluxus; game design; Grow-a-Game; Tiltfactor; video games
Volume 15, Number 2
We begin this issue of the American Journal of Play with an interview in which the distinguished scholar, artist, and game designer, Mary Flanagan discusses her research on art and play, the critical play game design model, and her most recent work—coauthored with Mikael Jakobsson—about colonialist board games. Then, Myae Han, Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Jason T. Hustedt, Deborah Drain, Rubie Eubanks, Christina Joe, Imani Lawson, and Annette Pic measure at-home reading and teaching practices to examine the relationships between play and learning in low-income families, including those with mental health issues. Then follows an article, based on a year-long study, in which Sandra Chang-Kredl, Dan Mamlok, and Vivek Venkatesh explore the symbolic play of children and how it can help them work safely through their fears and anxieties. Next, Pete King expands our understanding of the play cycle by focusing on the importance of flow in established play cycles and how it enables children to share their inner and outer worlds with others during play. In our last article, Nils Falk Hansen deploys Erving Goffman’s concept of territories of the self to analyze the unique institutional play habitat of a childcare facility. And we end the issue with a remembrance of the celebrated play scholar and educator Doris Bergen.
The authors examine the relationships between home play and learning—measured by reading and teaching practices at home—among low-income families, including those with mental health issues. Based on a large database from the Family Map Inventory, a screening tool for home visiting programs, the authors’ findings revealed that play-related concerns such as play mate- rials, home play, and the variety of play away from home had significant impact. They conclude that care givers who provide children with more play opportunities both at home and away from home tend to read books with children more frequently and to teach them more basic academic skills. This suggests that early play interactions can contribute to early learning and implies that intervention programs such as Early Head Start and home-visiting programs focusing on play may boost a family’s resilience and add value to existing services. Key words: infant and toddler play; learning and play; mental health and play; play in low-income families
The authors explore children’s symbolic play that involves themes of fear and darkness, and they investigate the nature of children’s binary oppositions, particularly between self and other. Their account is based on a year-long qualitative study they conducted with seven children, four to ten years of age. They observed the children engage with play materials, including toys and dolls, at home and on virtual sites such as Roblox. The play episodes they analyze highlight children’s dyadic roles and scenarios and the pleasure of their play involving themes of fear. The authors also address the media and cultural representations that provide roles and narratives for the children to extend this dark play. Key words: binary oppositions; cultural narratives; dark play; self and other; symbolic play
Flow and the Play Cycle: A Theoretical Consideration of the Importance of Flow in Established Play Cycles
The author discusses the process of play in terms of six elements in the play cycle first introduced by Sturrock and Else in 1998 and revised by King and Newstead in 2020—precue, play cue, play return, play frame, flow, and annihilation—and their relation to Winnicott’s concepts of “potential space” or the “third area,” which Sturrock referred to as the “ludic third.” Claiming that, although four of the six elements can be observed in actual play, two—flow and precue—cannot, the author focuses on the importance of flow in established play cycles enabling the sharing of children’s inner and outer worlds with other children and adults during their play. He also considers the implications of such play cycle flow in both therapeutic and learning contexts. Key words: collaborative play; flow; ludic third; play cycle; potential space; third area
Children’s Play Territories: Hideouts and Play Domains as Protective Spaces in Childcare Play Culture
In this article, the author deploys Erving Goffman’s concept of territories of the self as an analytical tool to understand the challenges and opportunities a childcare setting presents for children engaged in social fantasy play. He uses this concept to unpack the unique institutional play habitat of a childcare facility and shows how Goffman’s territories form a constant concern for children in their engagements, orientations, and creative projects in social fantasy play. Through an in-depth analysis of emblematic play in an ethnographically inspired observational study, the author illustrates how the need for play domains and social alliances in childcare helps create both the demanding obstacles and inspirational possibilities of children’s social fantasy play. Key words: early childhood education and care (ECEC); peer-group; play territories; social fantasy play; symbolic interaction
Doris Bergen, Lena Lee, Cynthia DiCarlo, and Gail Bernett, Enhancing Brain Development in Infants and Young Children: Strategies for Caregivers and Educators
Doris Pronin Fromberg
Tim Spofford, What the Children Told Us: The Untold Story of the Famous “Doll Test” and the Black Psychologists Who Changed the World
Sabrina Lynette Thomas
Sandra Chang-Kredl is Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada, specializing in early childhood and elementary education. Her research covers children’s popular culture, media literacy, curriculum studies, and teacher education. Dan Mamlok is Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel. His subjects include philosophy of education, sociocultural studies of education, technology of education, and aesthetic education. Vivek Venkatesh is Professor of Inclusive Practices in Visual Arts in the Department of Art Education at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. He holds the UNESCO cochair in Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism, and serves as codirector of the Center for the Study of Learning and Performance.
Myae Han is Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. She is a past president of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP) and a past chair of Early Education and Child Development SIG at the American Educational Research Association (AERA). She is a coeditor of two volumes in the Play & Culture Studies series, Play and Curriculum and Play and Literacy. Her areas include a play-based intervention, early language and literacy, and professional development. The late Leanne Whiteside-Mansell was Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine (DFPM) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She was the director of the DFPM research and evaluation division and the developer of the Family Map Inventories screening tool. Jason T. Hustedt is Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. An applied child development scholar who focuses on early childhood policy and practice, he is a research director at the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC). Deborah Drain is working on a doctoral degree at the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. Rubie Eubanks works as a researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Christina Joe is a research associate with the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) at the University of Delaware. Imani Lawson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. Annette Pic holds a doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Delaware and works as a researcher at the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood. She helped lead work on an environmental scan methodology for a research team at the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center Research and Knowledge Development and has been involved in projects centered on improving early care and education quality and access. Her interests also include child-initiated learning through play, peer conflict resolution, and language and literacy development.
Pete King is a Senior Lecturer at Swansea University in the Department for Education and Childhood Studies. He is the Program Director for the MA Developmental and Therapeutic Play course. His books include Researching Play from a Playwork Perspective; Further Researching Play from a Playwork Perspective: Process, Playfulness, Rights-Based and Critical Reflection; Play Across Childhood: International Perspectives on Diverse Contexts of Play; and The Play Cycle: Theory, Research and Application.
Nils Falk Hansen is working on a doctorate at the Danish School of Education, Department of Educational Psychology, Aarhus University. He is a former lecturer at the University College of Copenhagen and an author of several books and articles on play, creativity, and esthetics as driving forces in child pedagogy and education.