Ben Burbank

Oxford Brookes University, UK

Multi-modal research tools that enable and inform a posthuman analysis of young children’s museum experiences

This paper begins by outlining methodological insights derived from an ethnographic study designed to explore young children’s (4/5 years) perspectives of their everyday visit experiences within three contrasting museums.

The data collection was participatory (N=21) and multi-modal. The children used hand-held cameras during their visits. Interviews were audio-recorded immediately after their visits using the children’s photographs as prompts. The visits were videoed using chest-mounted GoPros worn by the children during their time in the museums. Children in the correct age bracket were recruited purposively on the door and no contact was made prior to their arrival.

The GoPro video, although not without limitations, provides inti{Barad, 2007, Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning}mate insights into young children’s visits, including privileged access to self-talk, movement, perspectives, social interactions, and intra-actions (Barad, 2007) with the material world, all of which contribute to shaping children’s museum experiences.

The utility of the video captured by the GoPro is particularly apparent when analysed in the context of post-visit interview data. Although the photo-elicitation interviews do shed light on some important details about the children’s experiences, the video footage reveals a more nuanced and rich texture to the children’s time in the museums’ spaces. In addition, it allows fly-on-the-wall access to the intricacies of the children’s photography. The video also highlights how easy it is to misinterpret children when relying on their verbal recollections in an interview situation.

Using these data, the paper critiques the use of a posthuman lens to interpret children’s unfolding and emerging multimodal communicative practices within museum spaces. This is in response to a feeling experienced when viewing these data, echoed by Hackett and Somerville (2017), that a focus on verbal representations provides a partial and skewed understanding of the children’s intra-actions during their visits.

References 

Barad, K. (2007) Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. duke university Press.

Hackett, A. and Somerville, M. (2017) ‘Posthuman literacies: young children moving in time, place and more-than-human worlds’, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

 

Bio

Ben Burbank has spent his working life in education (in the UK and abroad) before beginning a PhD in the School of Education at Oxford Brookes University in 2015. His research seeks to foreground young children’s perspectives of their unique and ephemeral museum visits. He holds a Masters in the Psychology of Education from the University of Bristol, a PGCE from the University of Oxford, and a BSc from the University of Southampton. If not working on his thesis, (or visiting museums!), he is most often found looking after his two young children, on a squash court, or kayaking on the Thames.