Mandy Andrews


Title: Landscapes of Play: An exploration and illumination of children’s unsupervised play close to home and a researcher’s journey to becoming posthuman. Author: Mandy Jo Andrews This thesis explores children’s play experiences and engagements out of doors close to home. Adopting a Deleuzian informed posthumanism the researcher’s journey towards immanence prompts re-thinking about play, childhood-nature entanglements, and play-space-place-player generation. Children’s unsupervised play outside of organised settings such as school or adventure playgrounds is less researched than that of organised settings. This thesis puts to work Deleuze’s process philosophy and Barad’s agential realism, together with Haraway’s biology informed multispecies manifesto, Bennett’s focus on vibrant agential matter and the literature of Virginia Woolf, to experiment with and illuminate some molar and molecular play adventures, constraints, escapes, intra-actions and entanglements experienced by and with small groups of children aged between 3 and 12 in their ‘playing-out’ in 6 housing areas in South West England. Each location chosen had access to a range of man-made and natural, mineral and biological play opportunities, cues, affordances and potentiality. The research questions initially focused on where children choose to play, what they do in the favoured play places, and how they materially experience play spaces and places. As the human focus was decentred during the study it became post-qualitative research of assemblages, haecceities and entanglements of the becoming players illuminating the molecular richness of the play events. The questions progressed from where does this happen and how does it feel, to how does this work, and what does this do? A range of new methods were introduced into the research doings, including clay plaques prompted by the materiality of play spaces and collage ‘merzboards’3, sound and visual recording, and thinking with the agents and acts of playing and diffractively through other writings. Putting to work these intra-actions prompts a re-turning to re-thinking of a children’s play engagement model, ‘the play cycle’ and together with a new conceptualisation of topoludic4 agency in landscapes for play acknowledges it as a creative and vital process. Further new knowledge emerged from this entanglement with landscapes of play and players as it offers an illumination and exemplification of some children’s outdoor play as intra-active, interpellating events, a consideration of ‘topoludic’ potentialities of the contextual landscapes, and play as a vital ‘wobble’ a challenge to the expected, that sets new lines of flight running, offering new intensities and events. Finally, it offers insight into the tensions experienced between traditional academic expectation and researcher ‘becoming posthuman’ over the period of research, as I let go of the constraints of the academy to explore in immanence and fluid creativity.

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