Multiple Childhoods / Multidisciplinary Perspectives

This weekend I attended the Multiple Childhoods Multidisciplinary Perspectives conference organized by the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University-Camden. In addition to being very well organized (everything ran on time and there was a nice balance between panels and time for discussion and socialization), the conference convened a fascinating group of of scholars and practitioners that resulted in an enriching program. In addition to scholars of childhood studies from institutions that organize and define a set of research practices by that name (like Rutgers Camden or the department at Linkoping University in Sweden), there were many scholars in attendance (including myself) who have sort of found their way to the realm of childhood studies from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. It was great to engage in discussion with people from areas like English, Art History, Sociology, and Anthropology, and further, to see the array of research methods people employ to study aspects of childhood. Presenters boasted so many interesting visual aids, showcasing empirical research, interview evidence from ethnographic studies, and visual evidence ready for analysis from a more humanities-based perspective. Indeed, it seemed as though most of the panels were intentionally organized to include speakers utilizing different methods and analytical frames. While I initially wondered whether such arrangements would result in panelists talking past one another or speaking in different scholarly languages rather than engaging in meaningful discourse, I was pleasantly surprised that in all of the panels I attended (including the one in which I participated), there were abundant common thematic threads across the papers, and relevant questions and issues that each participant could address in different ways. A special thanks to the conference organizers and stellar attendees!

At the conference, I presented on some of the attributes of movable toy books from the 1880s, based largely on research I conducted this fall as a Jay and Deborah Last Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. I’m always interested in considering ways that older media forms and the modes of engagement they encouraged might relate to elements of the contemporary mediascape. In other words, I’m interested in both “old” and “new” media and the ways they relate to one another. Imagine my delight, then, when I became aware of this fascinating project called Between Page and Screen. Described variously as an “augmented reality” experience and a digital pop-up book, it’s scaling a lot of boundaries that print media are encountering these days. Just as novel ebook formats are introducing all sorts of interactive experiences (some kids’ books on the ipad are absolutely amazing, for example, though that’s a post for another day), this project really has a lot of potential. I haven’t used it yet, but am excited to give it a try! Enjoy the demo video:

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Multiple Childhoods / Multidisciplinary Perspectives

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