Doctoral Study

My doctoral study explores ways of applying interactive and wearable technologies to scenography and costume in early years theatre (EYT) with the aim of making performances more playful, participatory and interactive.  Children are ‘social actors’ with a unique perspective and insight into their own reality no matter how young Shaw et al [1]. Considering  agency is central in designing an active and significant theatre experience for very young children. However, children are often described for what they ‘cannot do’ rather than, what they ’can do’ Athey [2].  Children are competent beings that display complex thinking while engaging in spontaneous play. Research with children should not only be concerned with participation but attempt to understand what constitutes ‘genuine’ participation that can ensure the rights and respects the child’s voice. UNICEF recommends the  researcher ask the following questions:

  • ‘Is the activity in the best interests of the child?
  • Is any form of discrimination present?
  • Do the most disadvantaged and marginalised children have opportunities to participate and are their voices heard?
  • Are children ‘genuinely’ participating?
  • Can children make a difference in decision-making processes?’ [3]

 

Research & practice 

Performance Study1
A walk in the woods my first experimental performance in 2015 at Lakeside Art centre. 20 children and their grown-ups attended.

Interactive spaces and digital objects can offer children new experiences that can promote curiosity, surprise and exploration. My first initial exploratory prototypes and performance study( 2015) examined, what children were interested in, how they played, manipulated and interacted with different materials and objects. It involved the design of tactile objects that used schemas as a design framework.

Schemas are the patterns of behaviour that children repeatedly display during play to forge a connection with the world around them. Schemes are identified as transporting, rotation, enclosure, connection, enveloping, trajectory, orientation, positioning. For example, a trajectory schema is noticed when a child draws a vertical line on paper as well as repeatedly moves toys up and down or building and knocking down. When early years practitioners notice these behaviours they strengthen it by providing activities that extend the schema.  I have used the schemas as a design paradigm when developing the scenography and dramaturgy because they lend themselves to physical and pretend play.

Current Work

meadowmaze
The singing meadows,  sketch  forThe Runaway Hare

Following on from my first experimental installation/ performance, I am  currently working on the second  performance  exploring  interactive scenography.  The Runaway Hare draws from the research findings of my first performance study in 2015 and is inspired by children’s hide and seek adventure stories. It takes place in January 2017 at the Lakeside Arts Centre and you can see  a  Gallery of my work in progress.

This research is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/G037574/1) and by the RCUK’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (RCUK Grant No. EP/G065802/1)

 

 

 

 

 

References:

[1] Shaw, C., Brady, L. & Davey C.  ‘Guidelines for Research with Children and Young People’ (London: National Children’s Bureau Research Centre, 2011) (Accessed: 07 March 2015)

[2] Athey, C. ( 2007) Extending Thought in Young Children,  A Parent – Teacher Partnership,  4th edition, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

[3] Harper, S. “Schemas in Areas of Play” 18 and 19 in the Playcentre Journal Issue 121: Spring 2004.

[4]UNICEF, (2014) FACT SHEET: The Right to Participation [online] Available at: http://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Right-to-Participation.pdf [Assessed1 December, 2014].

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