This chapter will present and analyse the data of this inquiry. There are different ways of structuring the presentation and analysis of data within an inquiry. Some separate out these two facets. For instance, Malinowski (2009) provides transcripts of the language related to the interweaving of magic in the agricultural rites in the Trobriand Islands and discusses the necessity of and difficulties involved in such separation (p.vii). However, within any organisational configuration, as soon as data is selected for display (Miles and Huberman 1999, p.162), in the very process of arriving at a structure for this display and of placing the data within that structure there begins the act of analysis (Sanjek 1990; Wolf 1992); if indeed it could ever be truly separate from the data gathering and recording process (van Manen 1990; Denzin and Lincoln 2005).
As expressed within the preceding methodology chapter, and discussed and shown in detail within the forthcoming chapter, the data of this inquiry has been re-presented on a fine silk quilt, via text, colour, stitches, appliqué, and little things found and made. The way in which the quilt was conceived can, in the act of perceiving and imagining, already be seen as one of working with the data and of meaning making. However, as will be discussed, in the nature of the process, the data was presentable in a way closer to the atmosphere of its occurrences, than could have been communicated through words alone. Furthermore the extent of the data entered on the quilt and the interactions between these play instances, availed the possibility of working from the sense of far more material than could otherwise practically be included. Therefore the quilt and the similarly responsive structure for presenting the data within the text of the chapter, constitute the presentation element within this inquiry. Yet, in the interaction between this presentation and the development of analysis, the separation of one from another was deemed impractical and inauthentic. Thus both in the structure and the discursive content of the chapter, presentation and analysis are accepted to overlap.
When exploring the meaning of analysis, resonance was found in facets of the dictionary definition, paralleled in more than one source, that described it as to “unloose, release, (and) set free” the parts of something (The shorter Oxford English dictionary 1980b; Modern Language Association 2011). By these defining words the process of analysis could be understood to be at one with the subject and ethic of this inquiry. However such an easy interpretation disregards the issues around explicating meaning that can be seen to arise within the qualitative research arena (Christians 2005; Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Greenwood 2005; Lincoln 2005; Richardson and St. Pierre 2005). The literature indicates that, rather than being easily predicated by an inherent quality of analysis, or by the inquiry’s conceptual framework, a way of unloosing releasing and setting free, must be reflexively constructed in order for analysis to achieve its necessarily subject orientated meaning. Such a semantic conundrum would arguably apply to whichever definition of analysis was appropriated. For instance, Ely (1997) draws on different elements of a definition of analysis from the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (2nd edn.1987) “the separating of material into its constituent elements…studying the nature of something or of its essential feature and their relations” (Ely 1997, p.162). Her subsequent discussion both illustrates and recognises a definition’s dependence on the content and form of each inquiry for its actualised meaning (ibid.).
Meaning can be seen to be given to the description of analysis as unloosing, releasing and setting free, in Kamberelis’ and Dimitiadis’ (2005) discussion of research focus groups. Kamberelis and Dimitiadis refer to the work of Freire (1970) and of Kozol (1985) who builds on Freire’s work. This work, which can be understood as reflecting the intent of action research (Lewin 1946; McIntosh 2010), concerns the use of generative words to enable people in situations of oppression to analyse and develop their political awareness. These words are generated by the research participants and then used to analyse their own situation and those of others. Kamberelis and Dimitiadis (2005, p.892) illustrate Kozol’s reflective analysis of the potential of generative words themselves, with a quote of his deconstruction of the word ‘revolutionary’. They discuss Kozol’s proposition of the greater value of complex generative words, due to their increased possibility to be read into. In these two (Freire 1970; Kozol 1985) works as explored by Kamberelis and Dimitiadis (2005) analysis seems integral to the process of inquiry. Unloosing, releasing and freeing the parts, is visibly given contextual meaning through the intent towards political praxis, as visible both in the analytical process with participants and the analytical criteria for hermeneutic deconstruction.
Thus, is it possible to see that while the unloosing, releasing and setting free of parts may seem descriptively apt to the subject and structure of this inquiry, such concepts also seem tailor made to the endeavours of Freire (1970) and Kozol (1985) as discussed by Kamberelis and Dimitiadis (2005). Therefore while there may be a sense of affinity between this inquiry and the way that analysis can be defined, it seems that in order for those words to have meaning, this data presentationand analysis chapter must communicate the how and why of its processes as well as the what.
The previous methodology chapters can be seen to have created a situational context for the inquiry’s data presentation and analysis process. However, as will be shown, it is the data itself that has played the greatest hand in indicating the means for its presentation and analysis. Throughout this inquiry, there has been substantive meshing between subject, namely the possibility of played-with-ness, the reflective practice as a playworker and a researcher, and the development of processes and consciousness towards the data. Within this chapter, such interweaving is inescapably materialised in the interplay between the data and the evolution and application of means for its presentation and analysis. The structure and content of this chapter, while being somewhat unusual, reflects the ethic of being directed by, rather than directing what might be understood of, the play instances in the data. Such reflection of experience in the communication of this inquiry is essential to its integrity. In order for this inquiry to have meaning, and value, the internal movement brought about in me by the data must be perceptible. This necessity is indicated in the intent of the inquiry towards comprehending in response to the realities of play; it is also indicated within the praxis of playwork and of phenomenology.
Section 1 - The first part of the chapter will describe how a way of presenting and handling the data was drawn from the data and research process. The data will then be presented within that frame. The presentation comprises of photographs of the research quilt described in the ‘creative forms of data’ section of ‘methodology 2’ and in more detail below. The presentation also comprises of written extracts grouped by a structure developed from the data, as will be explained.
Section 2 - The second part of the chapter will justify and contextualise the approach taken. Because the way of working with the data was developed in response to the data, a critical rationale for such an approach and the techniques that arose within it was not developed before the event. However, retrospective reflective exploration fulfilled the crucial function of providing a certain distance by which this approach and its actualisation could be orientated. This critical endeavour was undertaken through biographical explication; by juxtaposition with others’ inquiries that bear certain similarities to the approach of this study; and through the lens of recognised phenomenological techniques for data analysis that concurred with the ways of working that had been drawn from this inquiry’s data.
Section 3 - The third part of the chapter will take the analysis begun with the process of data presentation further. This will not be undertaken by using established theoretical perspectives regarding play with objects in childhood, for to do so would be contra to the approach of the study. Rather insight gained from the data will be used to illuminate writings concerned with human interactions with things. The writings are descriptive, as befits phenomenological enquiry (van Manen 1990; Cobb 1993; Bachelard 1994; Merleau-Ponty 2002; 2005; Finlay 2009). They are selected in relation to facets of experience as identified and presented within the phenomenon of played-with-ness, in Section 1.
In viewing these writings through the lens of insight gained from the data, new meaning can be found. The process highlights the possibility which play might bring to the way things are experienced, and thereby illuminates the possibilities which truths instigated in play have to affect understanding of the world. Furthermore in bringing the insights gleaned from the data to bear on these descriptions by others, further connections within the data are brought forth. The congruity between these descriptions by others and the data of this inquiry offers interesting considerations regarding the possibility of the child’s voice, through play, impacting and creating understanding of the world. In the context of the analysis process, such impact can be seen, in its first instance, via the very seeking of these examples of descriptive writing by others. For it is only through the changes wrought in my consciousness by the playing that I have observed, that I have sought to seek and find phenomenological descriptions that might conjoin, through reinterpretation, with the world as I have been moved to know it. Though different in terms of process and extent, similar impact of children’s play on the perspective of the researcher, as manifest in the analysis process and findings, can be seen in the previously cited work of Silvers (1986) Cobb (1993) Goldman (1998). Such work by others can be understood of evidential of a shared urge towards an approach of being moved to new comprehensions of the world, by children’s expressions, and offers ratification of the potential efficacy of the endeavour of this inquiry.
Data presentation - a play responsive approach
The answer to the task of presenting and analyzing the data of this inquiry arose from the data and the data gathering process. As I observed, my way of noticing seemed to become cumulatively reflective of what I was observing. The detail of that process has been discussed within the second methodology chapter and will be further explored within this chapter. The means of presenting and of analysing the data came about as a continuation of that sensitization by the data. The experience of this responsive way of working was that the sense of the data was being carried forth.
Such means of working were not accepted simply for the wonder of what started to unfold, but in recognition for the delicacy of the data. It was perceived that it would be very possible for the words and actions of the children to become disconnected words and actions, or words and actions woven together in a meaning disbanded from the particular play in which they arose. Though it may seem dichotomous to the meaning of analysis, such disbanding would, in the context of this inquiry, be counter to the task of unloosing, releasing setting free, for the meaning would be removed rather than communicated.
Therefore the frame of this inquiry’s data presentation and analysis can be expressed as necessarily situated between two guideposts. On the one hand the proposition as expressed by Bachelard that it is only in the naïve, immediate awe that the phenomenological reverberation of poesis can be known, and that through the position of analysis we remove ourselves from the wonder of reverberation (Bachelard 1994, pp.xvi-xxxix ). On the hand, van Manen’s iterance that, within phenomenological inquiry, it is not enough to simply let the data speak for itself (van Manen 1990, p.167). This later point being visible as the impulse towards both the inquiry of phenomenology’s philosophers (Heidegger 1962; Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Husserl and Koestenbaum 1975; Husserl 1980; Heidegger 1996; Merleau-Ponty 2002) and the urge toward the very poesis of which Bachelard writes (Bachelard 1971; Bachelard 1994).
Though crudely recognizable as unavoidable, it seems that my position in the transmission of the discrete subtle meanings of the data, and therefore of any meaning generated by the data is crucial. Writing about the phenomenological inquiry of poetry, Bachelard proposes that the “phenomenological doublet of resonances and repercussions must be sensitized”(1994, p.xxii). He describes this thus, “The resonances are dispersed on the different planes of our life in the world, while the repercussions invite us to give greater depth to our own existence. In the resonances we hear the poem, in the reverberations we speak it, it is our own. The reverberations bring about a change of being” (ibid.). Though Bachelard is writing about the nature of phenomenological inquiry of and via poetry, these words seem equally instructive and expressive with regard to meaning making within this PhD. It is only in allowing myself to be moved by the realities expressed in the children’s play that I have a chance of expressing their possible meanings in the presentation and analysis of this data.
This inquiry questions the possibility of played-with-ness. I know, both logically and by experience, that though this question was lightly held (van Manen 1990) it naturally influenced the selection of data, what was seen and how it was seen. It is, however, possible for me to have then experienced, how the question became opened up and expanded, by what I observed. It is thereafter possible for me to say, that I let the research process and data change me, change my ideas and in this way make more visible, than I could have conceived of as an idea at the outset of the research. The intent is that the following presentation of data, and therein the beginning of its analysis, goes some way towards communicating both this process and the meanings as they reverberated “bringing about a change of being” (Bachelard 1994, p.xxii).
An actual research quilt, presentation of data through creative mediums
As touched on in discussion of creative mediums within the methodology chapter my data presentation and analysis process has unfurled on and through a fine, translucent, reversible silk quilt. The quilt, which began as one metre square, has grown organically to four times the size through the placement of ‘patches’ of data and reflections in words, cloth, stitches, drawing and painting. The size and form of the quilt, as well as its content, was created by the data, it was not pre-envisioned. The attempt here will be to communicate the way in which the idea of the quilt arose and evolved and to justify its use as the means of working with the data.
To give a feel of the quilt, a large quarter-scale, unfolding photograph of both sides of the quilt was presented here in the bound thesis, before the written description of its occurrence. The photograph had been cut for practical reasons. Yet this necessary cutting also allowed for the feel of the actual quilt to be communicated, by mounting these segments onto the same kind of silk as that of which the quilt is made. The intent with this visual and tactile insert was to give as close a feeling of the quilt as a whole, as was possible within the constraints of the PhD format. The quilt itself was presented at Viva. Within this web publishing of the thesis the unfolding photograph has been replaced with a video:
The silk quilt itself measures approximately 2m X 2m - Photographed details of parts of the quilt are given as part of the presentation of different aspects of the data in the later part of this section.
How the quilt came about, a conjunction
It is not possible to express a sequence to events, which rather than having a defined chronology seemed to merge together into an idea, both in one moment and gradually. Therefore rather than suggest a false progression, I will simply describe each occurrence, which together inspired the beginning of the research quilt. These happenings are; an encounter with an observation in my research notes, resonance with a qualitative research metaphor, submersion in phenomenological description of the senses. The detail and materialization of these three concurrent events into the inspiration for, and beginnings of, the quilt can be given through three vignettes.
One day my eldest daughter came into my room and saw my day’s observation notes. That day I had observed a young girl’s interactions with her blue cat. My daughter cannot read my joined up writing, but within the observation I had written the word CAT in capital letters. She asked me if I was writing about her cat. Her cat, which I had hand sewn, and which had been lost, and which she had told me would survive because it was filled up with her love. By her asking I suddenly realized the similarities between her cat and the blue cat, both in their shape and in the quality surrounding the interactions between each cat and their girl. Furthermore the blue cat had had a mend, a mend that had indicated a previous life. With all this came an urge to represent both cats and their interactions in my awareness, with more than words, with something tangible.
I had been reading about metaphoric quilt-making as a mixed-methods qualitative research approach (Denzin and Lincoln 2005). The creation of an actual research quilt was born as a response to the image created in me by the metaphor. This image was made of the sense of quilting, but also the sense of metaphor. The play filled impulse was to make an actual quilt of the data of this study. The idea of the quilt was experienced, itself, as a metaphoric representation of play experience being equally real and true to any other experience. Many months later I discovered Gadamer’s (2004) phenomenological exploration of the way in which play is brought to the realm of reality when it is caught in an artistic medium. As I thought about making the quilt and as, going with the impulse, I started gathering pieces, musing as to what to use, leafing through cloths and ideas, I began to feel that the fingering over, the discovery of just what was needed even though I didn’t know it was needed, had a shared quality to the children’s playing with things, bits and pieces, that I had been observing.
I had also been reading Merleau-Ponty’s (1968, pp.134-138) writing on reversibility and touch. Here he explores the way in which when you touch something, you are also being touched by it. Reading this I had experienced its meaning, not only in terms of corporeal perception, but also, as expressive of the way in which I was being touched by the process of observing in the play settings. I sensed that I was being touched by what I was observing and also from the inside as I felt myself ever so subtly changing, my capacity to notice becoming sensitized in response to atmosphere of what I was observing. When I started making the quilt and touching the cloth Merleau-Ponty’s writing came to mind. I chose fine translucent silk so as to make the quilt see-through and reversible. One side was given mostly to the observations and other data, while the reverse side was given to my musings, thoughts and ideas, and also to other writings. However, as the quilt became it was accepted that the content of each side of the quilt would leak into the other as appropriate. In this way I conceived myself to be creating a tangible representation of the process and subject of this inquiry. The quilt started to provide a space and holding and therefore the possibility for expansion and freeing up of the data’s potential to touch and affect and create change. This silk arena allowed the instances of observations to commune with each other, making their meaning more visible, in all its facets, than if they had only been approached as something static, in the past, by me.
Together these three happenings brought about the beginnings of the research quilt. Once begun it cumulatively became, exceeding the possibilities of its instigation, simply by the representation and handling of data and reflection. Reading through these three inspirational instances, it is possible to see the way in which the data of this inquiry gave life and meaning to parts of the conceptual framework within qualitative research and within phenomenology with which I resonated. In this conjunction, the beginnings of data generated movement in my comprehension of the ways of meaning making appropriated for this inquiry are discernable. Herein the definitive terms of analysis as unloosing, releasing and setting free the parts of something begin to actualize their contextual meaning (The shorter Oxford English dictionary 1980b; Modern Language Association 2011). Such analysis begins here, in the way of being moved to present the data, which expands the sense of this inquiry’s conceptual framework and unlooses and releases the data from the written page. Thus the data is set free of limited means of understanding and thereby potentialises further alteration to the structures of meaning by which it might be understood. Though the quilt came about in its spontaneous way, its relevance and significance to this inquiry became increasingly apparent, as can now be described.
Further discussion of the quilt - its foundations in and relevance to the inquiry
Alongside the metaphor of quilt making Denzin and Lincoln (2005) discuss that of bricolage (Lévi-Strauss 1966), the creation of something by that which comes to hand. Though Lévi-Strauss has been cited previously in the second methodology chapter, it is important to state that it was this conjuncture of the word bricolage with the metaphor of quilt making that drew my attention to his writing and offered context to working through a creative method.
In describing the bricoleur Lévi-Strauss writes, “In its old sense the verb ‘bricoleur’ applied to ball games and billiards, to hunting, shooting and riding. It was however always used with reference to some extraneous movement: a ball rebounding, a dog straying or a horse swerving from its direct course to avoid an obstacle. And in our own time the ‘bricoleur’ is still someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of a craftman” (Lévi-Strauss 1966, pp.16-17). The word devious here communicates the unplanned and flexible partnership between the material and the bricoleur. As such the bricoleur’s way seems reflective of what, with the quilt, I sensed to emulate, of the child’s way with things in their play, as this altered the course of my perception.
The creative way of working was one that I had begun to explore with my supervisory team’s encouragement towards multi-media reflection. I had first created a paper paint and pencil exploration ‘Tasting slices of sky’, which merged observations, musings, theoretical and other writings. In this work I placed bits of writing and illustration without premeditation in a collage on the page. “The intermittent fashion for ‘collages’, originating when craftsmanship was dying, would not for its part be anything but the transposition of ‘bricolage’ into the realm of contemplation” (Lévi-Strauss 1966, p.30). I found that the position of different aspects in relation to each other, called forth or indicated where subsequent aspects should go, cumulatively. As well as this process happening on the paper, I found that it drew-forth relevant experiences, observations and awarenesses in my day as I lived it. This was a process of becoming aware of how I become aware and also of the experience of synchronicity.
The form of exploration begun with ‘tasting slices of sky’ was furthered through a different reflective project, which involved un-searching selection of a stone from the beach where I walk. The idea was to experientially explore my sense of the way in which the children I had been observing seemed to select things and incorporate these into their play. On six different occasions a stone was taken from the beach, by letting it come to me without my thinking about what it would be. The stone was then brought home and explored on a paper surface; the exploration involved making a little bag, housing, wrapping, out of various cloth which seemed to fit with the stone, or the situation. This process was videoed. Here again there was an experience of what Levi-Strauss discusses as “dialogue with the materials and means of execution” (Lévi-Strauss 1926, p29) by which he defines ‘bricolage’.
As with the previous two explorations, through the quilt, the data presented itself to me in greater depth than the written word. This can be seen as a process akin to phenomenological re-writing (van Manen 1990; Chandler 1992; Danaher and Briod 2005), which encompasses creative means and mediums (Lévi-Strauss 1966; van Manen 1990; Gadamer et al. 2004). The potential that the process within the quilt held to communicate subtlety, detail and depth of meaning, as do different processes of re-writing within other inquiries (Bachelard 1971; Silvers 1986), is perhaps a reflection of the fit of a phenomenological frame to the requirements of this study. Interwoven in what is visibly brought about by handling the data within the quilt is a quality seemingly similar to that of the children’s playing with things and of a playworker’s negative capability (Fisher 2008). Both the children’s play with things and the playworker’s stance towards children’s play implicate an openness to something they did not preconceive. That was also the experienced essence of creating the quilt by letting the spectrum of the data I was handling becomes apparent to me, and thereby to others. The sense of doing so cannot fully be explained, yet in expressing this as best I can, I attempt to honour the in the phenomenological intent of saying more than can easily be said (Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Silvers 1986; van Manen 1990). The feeling each time I added to the quilt was something like ‘undetermined knowing’, by this I do not mean careless, but more un-grasping and unthinking, without the effort of trying to understand, letting the data create its own meaning and its own reality.
The placement of data and related matter onto the quilt was intuitive, unpremeditated, yet at the same time careful. Things were not added in date chronology or by any other predefined construct. Rather, the placement of entries was in relation to sensed connections between components such as; the content of the data, the colour of a pen, or material, or thread, the relationship to something on the other side of the quilt, the remembered atmosphere of the observation.
The following happenstance was experienced as indicative of the possibility for the observations to resonate further via the change brought about in my awareness. Incorporate in this, there is a hinting towards the mysterious means known to the worlds of play and magic. How what will be described happened I don’t know, but it is perhaps that unknowing which makes it possible rather than impossible.
At the time when I began making my quilt I received back for scanning the ‘pieces of gold journal’ that I had begun as a separate project—a travelling journal along the lines of 1001journals within which any playworker could put their thoughts. The beginnings of my quilt had been a sewn replication of my daughter’s cat and the blue cat and their sensible interactions, as previously discussed. There had also been several depictions of snail shells, coming from the snail shell bracelet gift by the blue cat and another observation, which combined cats and snail shells. When I opened the ‘pieces of gold journal’ I found that one of the three new entries depicted snail shells and the other a face that looked like a cat (but was actually a bat) together with a spiral. I had had no contact with the people who made those entries for a long time and no discussion at all of either of the entries, what they depicted, or my research or my newly forming quilt. This happening shocked me with a sense of synchronicity and caused be to wonder again at the way in which awareness interacts with reality—a wondering fundamental to the ethic of this inquiry.
That negative capability (Bate 1979; Keats and Forman 2004; Fisher 2008) might be necessary for the realisation of fantastic (Hughes 2006) and of fathomless things (Abram 1996) is reflected in Lévi-Strauss discussion of bricolage in relation to different creative acts, most pertinently myth-making and art. In considering art he says “In so far as early art, primitive art and the ‘primitive’ periods of professional painting are the only ones which do not date, they owe it to this dedication of the accidental to the service of execution and so to the use, which they try and make complete, of the raw datum as the empirical material of something meaningful.” (Lévi-Strauss 1966, p.29). This observation of Lévi-Strauss’ seems to rest in the merging of something with the material of its expression, and furthermore the possibility or space in what is being expressed. As such the expression of playworkers’ personal reflections in ‘pieces of gold’ and the entries onto the quilt would bear the same quality, by their arising out of play. Perhaps it is that conjunction that creates a sense of coincidence to their form, or perhaps there is more to it than that.
Gadamer (2004, pp.102-110) suggests that it is only when play exists, continues to exist beyond the player, transformed into structure, within for example a piece of art or a dramatic play, that it becomes real, as apposed to the rhythmic open ended playing-itself-out of play in the elements, or in children’s play. Yet he recognises that such play, even in this becoming real, is never completely separated from its origin, for though it exists transformed into something in itself, it has to be experienced/enlivened as play for it to really exist. Here it is possible to ascertain, that it is the very quality of the play that allows such a created thing to become real, in the sense that it resonates with the inherent flexibility of what made it, to call forth our response. What Gadamer does not seem to explore is the realness of the patterns left by the rhythmic playing-out of play through water (Schwenk 1996); or in the case of this inquiry, the traces left on things and places by the play of children, traces which themselves seem to hold a palpability for what they are. The invitation to further play or wonder, which such occurrence seem to pull forth could by Gadamer’s rationale be understood as evidence of that realness. Yet as part of this and inherent to the stance of the player, or indeed of the responsive playworker, the very construct of realness can be seen as ambiguous. Such ambiguity can also be seen recognised in Gadamer’s subtitle suggestion of “Play as the clue to ontological explanation” (2004, p.102). It seems that though what is experienced in play is often seen to be comparatively un-real, things may become real by being played. The realness of the data, which the quilt enabled to be communicated, is not only in the detail of the instances of play with things and the interrelation between these instances, but in the sense of qualities such as substantiality and transience, of possibility and materialisation. The quilt became a space that literally moved with the expressions and perceptions of interaction between players and things.
The quilt is included as part of the presentation of data—as described, photographs of the quilt, which will itself be presented at viva, are included within the written PhD transcript. Additionally the way of working with data, which evolved within the quilt, is taken forward into the creation of a structure, by which the data is organized for presentation and therefrom for analysis within the text of this chapter. This structure and its creation will now be presented through photocopied and retyped extracts of my research notebooks, in which it developed. The extracts show the affect of the observational data on the structural form of this inquiry. The process by which the what there is to analyse became the how to analyse it is demonstrated through these following extracts. In this way the particular transmutation between data presentation and analysis within this inquiry can be seen.
A transformative drawing forth of images into a structure for the presentation and analysis of data
The final diagram of the preceding extracts from my research notebooks shows parts of lines created in movement, similarly to those of the overlapping figures of eight. These lines are differentiated by colours, to show the forms in which data presented itself for inclusion in this inquiry. The forms, which will be described in more detail below, can be understood as the situations in which relevant data was most often noticed, for example, in overheard children’s comments. On this diagram there are also thinner interweaving lines which carry the experiential aspects that became repeatedly apparent in the data. As is visible, these thinner lines thread between the coloured ones, depicting the presence of these aspects across all these forms in which the data was noticed. Together the two types of lines create shapes and spaces similar to those created by the intersecting figures of eight. The shapes and spaces can be seen as the instances in the data, which create both its forms and its aspects.
In the presentation of the data the forms and aspects described below will be used as a structure for communicating the instances of the data. The data selected for presentation will be divided by the four prominent aspects that were sensed through the process of representing the data on the quilt. Within the quilt itself, the data seems to be perceptible in more depth, subtlety and qualitative impression, than is possible with the written word. This can, in part, be understood as logical by the involvement of touch as well as sight, of texture and colour and of the movement of the silk and the detail of what the quilt holds. When handling the quilt, it is also possible to remain in sensory contact with more than the one representation on which I may be focused. However the combination of these components create an atmosphere when the quilt is explored. This atmosphere, which cannot be reduced to its generative parts, allows for the feel of the data as a whole to impact on perceptions and comprehension of individual instances. While neither the quilt, nor all its data, could be fully communicated within this PhD format, the organization of data presentation sought to reflect the significance of encountering the data within the quilt. To this end specific detailed photographs of the quilt will illustratively introduce each aspect, the pictures will be followed by aspect orientated written data transcripts. These transcripts of observations as they appear in my notebooks and then on the quilt, will be organized into the identified forms of data. In order to facilitate a sense of the forms across the aspects the colours of their lines in the diagram will be used to differential each segment of text. For example, transcripts of observations of children playing with things will appear in blue within each partitioned aspect.
Forms and Aspects, named and described
Forms - Out of the data and the process of data collection and quilt making the following layers of context where data appeared (the forms of data) became identified as frequent and thereby usable as a means of grouping data situations for understanding. Drawing from the diagrammatic representation, these forms can be named, coloured and here explained.
Children’s direct unsolicited comments – Words that I have heard children saying within a play situation. Some of these things have been said directly to me, some are things that I have overheard.
Observations of children playing with things – When I have seen children playing with things in a way that has struck me as relevant to the bounds of this inquiry.
Observations of atmospheres / spaces – Where the observations relate to the space that the play is filling and the tone or feeling of the play. Naturally this will also be part of the ‘observations of children playing with things’. However this grouping concerns situations where the play affect seems to more noticeably permeate further into the surrounding psychic or physical spaces.
My reflections, creations, play, and the responses of others – Where and how the quality or aspect of the data under discussion has materialized in my creative reflections. This grouping encompasses both the process and the created presentation of the data and thereby often expands further than the specific aspect of data being explored at the time. This grouping may also include responses by others to aspects of this inquiry.
Other forms of data created outside this study by others – This includes written and other material, which has been created by others with no reference to this PhD. This material, most often in the form of stories, has been stumbled across during the time span of the PhD and is included to show the possible experience of the phenomenon under inquiry by others in different contexts.
Aspects—Across the given forms of data the following aspects repeatedly presented themselves, expansively creating a picture of facets of experience that touched on the question of possible experience of played-with-ness.
Love—the affecting of something by love, the residence of love in things.
Merging into—the sense of permeation between substance and player
The transfer of played particulars through space and time—when particular qualities of a play instance give the impression of having impregnated objects, spaces and patterns by reappearing in another instance.
The residue of play is not the play, yet is of the play—when something sensible is left over from play yet is not the play itself, though it seems to hold something palpable of the play. (This aspect seems to exist in partnership with the previous one, and is presented in the juxtapositional form, for instance ‘Its not that the fur looks ruffled its how it has come to be ruffled’ and ‘It isn’t that the flowers are in the box, it’s that the box is eating the flowers’.)
Constraint, difficulties and selectiveness within this display of data
These aspects are by no means exhaustive of what may be visible as significant facets of the data. Particular things such as cats, gold and spirals seemed to reoccur within the data, yet to take these as means of structuring communication seemed to quickly result in a sense of abstraction. Equally aspects such as movement and touch though perceptively fundamental were found to be too non differentiable, and thereby also by any focus seemed to become removed from that of which they were a part. The four aspects that are presented here seemed to make themselves visible rather than having to be sought. While this may be a common effect of data saturation (Morse 1995; Brady 2005), it was a situation of paramount relevance to the ethic of this inquiry. Furthermore rather than having a sense of extraction they seemed as qualitative aspects to have enough capacity to be full-filled by the wholeness of the play instances. By this I mean, each aspect could carry the intricacies of and interactions between the play instances from which it became apparent, due to its dependence on these for its meaning. As such non-exhaustiveness and incompleteness, while being inevitable, can also be understood as fundamental. Phenomenological inquiry can recognize, that though we seek to know the wonder of fathomless things, their very phenomenal quality lies partly in their fathomless-ness (Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Bateson and Bateson 1987; Cobb 1993; Abram 1996; Heidegger 1996). Equally the nature of play to exceed what can be determined of it, seems to be part of its very quality (Huizinga 1955; Heidegger 1996; Sutton-Smith 1997; Gadamer et al. 2004). Therefore this presentation of aspects of data, rather than digging and delving for more and more specified division, enabled a deliberate space for movement and possibility. These aspects were found to hold the balance between retaining the first awe of encounter (Bachelard 1994), while working with the data, rather than letting it simply speak for itself (van Manen 1990).
As embodied in the research quilt, the places that the data have been found interweave with each other. It would be possible to take any observation and find most of the aspects and qualities named above within it; this is how the aspects came to be seen. A method of annotating each observation was considered. But that was deemed to be too time consuming and not to offer the same strength of communication as the chosen method of putting forth the data by the most perceptible aspects. However, because much of the data illuminates more than one aspect, there will be some repetition of observation within the presentation, and there will be instances where data is not repeated even though it is relevant to more than one area. For the sake of space and clarity, the attempt has been to present the data within its predominant aspect(s) though I am well aware of the challenging delicacy of the following endeavour.
Love – the affecting of something by love, the residence of love in things
Children’s direct unsolicited comments
1.“In the land of love furruffled means love.”
2.An overheard conversation between the children of
“You bought my cat in a charity shop?”
“Good, that means somebody else had it before me doesn’t it?”
“Good, means its got lots of love”
3.“Bunny’s feeding the field of hugs—pause—feel Bunny’s hand, now feel bunny’s ear, can you feel the difference? Bunny’s arm has the love feeling, and now Bunny’s whole body does too”.
4.She tells me that she knows her cat will survive because it is full up of her love. (Guilbaud 2008)
5.On his Sunday morning radio show Aled Jones (2008) was discussing how children had been asked to hold Pudsey bears, as part of a music video, and then told to put them down in a pile. The children were reticent, fearing that they would not get their own bear back. The organisers tried to reassure them by saying that all the bears were the same, but one boy explained they had each given their bear their different love and so now each bear was different.
Observations of children playing with things
1. She snuggles her very dirty puppy close to her face, a drifty look in her eyes, like she is taking nourishment. Then the puppy gets thrown down, it seems to have given what it needed to give, served its purpose. It is beautiful, despite or because of the dirt (beautiful to me)
2.She picks up the cat from the windowsill. She sits on a
chair against the wall. I sense her drifting, dreaming, finding rest, calm.
I know when I see her take it that it belongs to her (I am at the other side of the room).
She tells me Cat has lunch in her bag too. She gets out Cat’s lunchbox. A box (originally for craft sorting, with small compartments). She tries to open two, they are stiff, I offer and help. She tells me about all the food for Cat in each compartment, the food is not visible to me. She feeds Cat crisps and has some too, and gently says to Cat not to eat her fingers.
She tells me about Cat. He has a name, but when she talks about him she calls him “Cat” I ask her how long she has had Cat, she holds up two fingers. The girl sitting next to her says ‘two? Two weeks?” I guess two years. It is two days. I’m very surprised. The wear and attachment and affection to the cat suggests longer. I spy a tiny mend on the cat’s neck. I ask where Cat came from? “My friend” she says.
She shows me a string with a shell on it around her wrist “Cat gave this to me.”
At one point she is hugging Cat and she pushes Cat to me onto my chest. I hug Cat and then she takes him back.
3.They have a cloth fight, throwing the other cloths in the bag and over each other. The boy is still stroking and moving the ferret (made of a scrap of sheepskin and belonging to his friend) around in his hands. He has it close to his face.
4.A picture becomes, from drawing round metal rings. The shape of a cloth, just touched, gets drawn onto the paper. She finds the stamper has no ink so uses a nearby piece of chalk. A napkin with a picture of a cat on it is found, in a box. It seems to appeal. It is touched and folded. I am looked at, permission? I suggest that she glues it to her picture. She takes the glue. It’s too stiff, I motion opening it for her, she gives it to me. I give it back to her open. She sticks on cloth while looking at the napkin. I hand her the napkin, she sticks it to the picture. She owns it, and holding it to her, she takes it to her bag.
Observations of atmospheres / spaces
1. This observation is of the same child and puppy as
observation 1 in the previous section. There is nearly a year between
The puppy gets taken from place to place, like an appendage. Held while she drinks, then given to me with her lunch to look after. Later it is held, then put down on the table when she’s playing cards. Just left or just held, not overtly precious, but part of her. It is lent on repeatedly, brushed over with her sleeve, almost merging with the grey of her sleeve. She doesn’t seem to notice her hand rub over its nose. At one point her hand goes to her drink bottle, which is lying next to puppy in a plastic bag and she holds it, with the same feeling, as if mistaking it for puppy. It is as if the sense of puppy has extended.
2. She is scooting with crutches (play crutches) and then
goes and picks up her puppy (as above) who is wearing a nappy, and brings it to
A different girl has a toy husky on a lead in her arms. It has a patch of cloth tied on its rear. The husky looks newer than the puppy. It is not put down, and when she is on the climbing frame it becomes like an extension of her arm. The husky seems almost an inconvenience, encumbering her, yet she stops climbing now and again to play with it. When she comes back from climbing with her friend, her friend is holding the husky under her arm in the same way that she was. The husky remains in the friend’s arms while the two girls run a race. After the race the husky is handed back to its owner, who brings it to her face in a similar feel of movements and recognition as the other girl with her puppy. The string holding on the nappy-like cloth has come untied. The cloth is gathered from where it has dropped, the undone ties give me a different impression of the husky.
Later the two girls are in the house made of willow with a third girl. The third girl goes out to get a drink. Then the husky owner hands her drink to her friend and sets the husky down, purposefully with seeming emphasis in the putting down and placement. Then she goes out of the house. The friend holds the two glasses of drink, the third girl comes back, the two chat, the third girl is handed the two glasses of juice, she has not come back with one of her own and so her hands are free. The friend repositions the husky closer to the third girl with the same deliberateness and feel as the owner’s initial placement, then she leaves.
My reflections, creation, play
1. The first time I showed my research quilt to a group of
playworkers during a workshop, nearly all of them came up to me and talked to me
about it afterwards. Much of the comments related to understanding with the
H – talked about knowing on a feeling level and how refreshing it was.
E – held her hand to her heart as she looked at it and talked about it as a missing piece to the way of knowing and in terms of ‘of course’ and how she got it on a feeling level.
T – talked about how it all made sense and suggested putting the piece that I was having difficulty placing going upwards, something that I had considered but not mentioned.
S – talked about how all the pieces were falling into place and how she got it on an intuitive level, while making movements from her heart and talking about knowing from the heart.
J (who wasn’t in the session but who I told about the quilt later) – touched her heart and talked about how she understood it on that level and how it had lifted her to hear about it. (Guilbaud 2010b)
Other forms of data, created outside this study by others
1. “Raggy lived in Milo’s bed. She was older than anyone
could remember, older even than Grandma.
No one knew what sort of thing Raggy was. She had short, limp legs, two blue eyes and a knotted black nose. Her ears were gone and her tail was only a piece of hanging thread. Long ago, she might have been as white as the moon, but now she was the colour of hugging” (McAllister and Blythe 2004, p.2)
2.“’What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, when they were
lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’
‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’” (Williams and Nicholson 2004, p.12, first published 1922)
3.(Sophie is a spider)
“strands of moonlight fell into the room. Excellent! She thought. I’ll weave those strands into the baby’s blanket. Some starlight, too.
Sophie began. As she spun, new ideas came to her. She worked them into the blanket …snippets of fragrant pine…wisps of night…old lullabies…playful snowflakes….
Sophie spun without blinking.
She was never more exhausted. Or determined.
On an on she spun.
She was down to the farthest corner of the blanket when she heard the cry of the young woman’s newborn baby. And there, on that farthest corner, is where Sophie wove into the blanket her very own heart” (Spinelli and Dyer 2004, pp.22-24, original italics and …)
(Matthew is a toy
maker, Mary is his child)
“Mary was not strong. She could not go out to play with the other children. She stayed inside and watched them through the shop window. Sometimes she was lonely.
Matthew wanted to make her happy so he made her special toys. They were dolls. He made them very carefully, so that each doll looked like one of the children who played outside the shop window.
Mary played with the dolls. She called them Max and Lily and Bertie, after the children outside. They made her happy. Because she was happy, she grew stronger. At last she was able to go outside to play.
She played and she played and she played. The dolls sat in the shop window, watching. Mathew watched too, as he worked. He smiled when she laughed because he loved her.” (Waddell and Milne 1999, pp.4-6)
(Then the story changes to a grandmother taking her granddaughter Jane, back to the shop and them finding the dolls and the grandmother giving them to the elderly people who the dolls are)
“’But they are us!’ Max said.
‘You’ve got to sell them to us, Mary.
‘I can’t sell them to you,’ the old lady said.
‘They belong to you already’
And she gave her old friends the dolls that were themselves, the way they used to be.
The old people were pleased, but Jane wasn’t. All the dolls were gone and she had none left to play with.
‘I’ll make you a doll,’ the old lady said. ‘Just like the ones your great grandpa made for me!’
And she did
She tap-tap-tapped and stitch-stitch-stitched very carefully until the doll was made.
She made it with love, for she had not forgotten” (The doll in the picture looks like the toymaker) (ibid. pp.17-21)
Merging into - the sense of permeation between substance and player
Children’s direct unsolicited comments
All the comments in the aspect of love of would also be relevant here.
1. I am playing cards with a group of boys, a girl has been waiting for a particular playworker to play a particular game of cards with her. When the playworker is ready we are still playing with the cards, so a new pack is found. The girl takes them out of the pack in ceremonious delight, with a lot of exclamation, “new cards” she strokes them across her face, “mmm look at these.” A boy in the group who are playing with the old cards says “I like these old fashioned cards, these are the ones Henry the Eighth played with”.
2. On the slightly rounded seat of the plastic chair she builds a tower out of the little upturned pots and balances a tiny shiny ball on the top of the top one, it roles a little, right to the rim. She stands back, I sense her satisfaction. A boy who has been playing blow football with two others comes over. “that’s really cool, I would hate to see something bad happen”. She makes Nooo-ish noises and moves her arms protectively around the tower at a distance without touching it. The tower falls down. He says “Hey I just said, I would hate to see something bad happen and it fell down.” He seems impressed
3. She is holding an oval of clay between her hands, patting it from one hand to the other, flattening it as she does so. She comes to me and tells me “this is a pebblely and then the pebblely will come off on things and get less and less and then can be thrown away”. She is interested in the residue in her hands, the way this is increasing and the pebblely lessening.
Observations of children playing with things
1. There are two girls at the table of bits and bobs, they
are picking things up, fiddling, handling, putting them back in their boxes,
making combinations of them—such as a candle in a plastic pot with an elastic
band round it to hold it in place. There is a headband decorated with a zip and
pipe cleaner horns, the older girls picks this up after zipping and unzipping
the other zips in their tub. We look at and comment on the headband, she sais
that if she had one she would decorate it like this… and takes an unused
headband and puts plastic pots that are like tiny jam jars on it. Then she
starts building a tower, staking the plastic pots of different sizes inside
The younger girl says “I’m going to do that”. She collects clear plastic pots about 3” high from the tub and starts building with them on the floor. “I do this at home with cups” she says. She rolls a gold lid at them, it doesn’t reach the tower, she looks at the table and takes a little rolling pin. “I’ll use this”. She tries rolling it at her tower, it knocks into it but doesn’t topple the pots. She throws it in a rolling motion at her tower, it topples, she looks at me smiles, satisfaction, I cheer. She changes her building position and builds again. She removes one from the bottom row with the word “ssstay” it comes out without the top row falling down. Throughout this there are little looks to me, my presences and noticing is wanted.
Then she says something about how she should be able to take all of these off, but when she starts taking them from the end of the row the pots fall down. She counts pots as she places them. The next build is counted, the sss of “six” in her voice, sounds instructive and recalls for me the earlier sss of “stay”.
She stands and goes to the table for something. She is looking around, my sense is that she hasn’t decided what she is looking for but is looking to find what she needs. She sees and goes for a black thick card box with a diagram of a figure on it. Does she know what’s inside it? She opens it, does the satisfaction with what is there happen before or after she finds the contents? —Geomag magnet sticks and silver balls. She tips out the box, and balances the silver balls on the tower. She also grabs a handful of Geomag sticks and goes to throw them in the air, but looks at me and doesn’t. After building the tower and balancing all the little silver balls on tops of the pots she says “I want to take this home”. Photo? I think to myself. She calls the playworker in-charge to look (this feels like a noticing, a recognising of the event).
She blows at the tower, some falls down, then she flicks at a bit, then she stands and twirls and kicks the rest down. The Geomag gets linked up, she is bringing the opposite ends together, repelling, then she picks up a strand and swings it, some flies off the end.
2. A of the playworkers has made a little furry creature for
one the boys. It is made of a piece of long haired sheepskin, approximately 2”
x 6”. It has paper eyes and a string tied onto one end. It is “a ferret thing”.
Another boy has decided that it is his. He wants it and his friend, who it
belongs to, says he can have it for ten minutes. In this ten minutes the boy
goes with the ferret thing to the playworker and they look for more material to
make him his own one. There is none of the right material left and the
playworker says he will bring some more from home. The boy and the playworker
have a cloth fight, throwing the other cloths that they have taken out of the
big bag, back into the bag and at each other, I am laughing with them. The boy
is still holding and stroking and moving the ferret around in his hands. He has
it close to his face. “It smells” he tells me and holds it out to me. I can’t
smell anything specific. “Of what?” I ask. “It smells of cat”, and as soon as
he tells me I smell it too. He and the playworker then joke about a cat having
A girl is drawing on a very thin open brown plastic box. The box I later see is made from two wavy edged small thin airplane food trays, sellotaped together, but when I see her with it I see the box that she has made. She is drawing a face, using a semi circle metal ring to draw round to make the mouth (in the same way as they were used by the child with the drawing and the cat napkin). The sellotape rim is used to draw round. The metal rings are put on the box in a pile and then taken off, then the box is shut, a blue cup is put on too, then taken off, it feels like a completion. The box is taken to the bag in the same feel as the other girl’s napkin cat picture.
Then the pile of plastic people on the floor (largely action types) is stared at, permeated, drifted into, then left. She goes back to the table of ice cream tubs full of bits and pieces. A cloth is lifted, absentmindedly, a chess piece discovered, she colours the bottom with pink pen, presses her finger on it and makes a print with her finger on paper.
She is sharpening a pencil, I know at first look that it is the sharpening that matters. When she picks up the sharpening I feel “yes I know,” she carefully unrolls it, it breaks in two, she throws both pieces ahead of her like they are distasteful. She starts again, again throws it the same way, this time to the floor. She tries to break the lead by pressing it sideways into the table, it doesn’t break. Then the other end is sharpened, the pencil is cut at with scissors. I am tempted to help her break the nib, but then she would be faced with my noticing. The pink pen gets picked up again.
She leaves the table and picks little horses and mats from the edge of the action figure pile. She returns to the table and uses the pink pen to draw round plastic triangles. She looks at me now, something passes between us, I smile, she smiles.
Back to the pile of figures. The characters are now investigated in the same way as the bits and bobs in the ice cream tubs. A character is picked up and turned over in her hands, she looks at it in a gazey way, seeming to look at it but also past and through it, she then drops it back into the pile. A dolphin is selected and taken back to the horses at the ends of the table. The cloths (that were covering the chess piece) are returned to and pulled apart from each other. A stamper is picked up again (this had also been drawn on with pink pen) a brown zip is unzipped whilst gazing round the room, a piece of wire is held while she writes and then she unwinds it.
All the while I have been observing I have been sat across the table fiddling with bits of Lego, picking up and putting down, building towers, finding pieces, echoing her bits and pieces interactions, very haphazardly not creating much but still creating something true by what came to my hand, this giving me a gazing focus.
My building has attracted the attention of others, comments, those who delight in chopping it down, those who ask if it is mine, and if I made it, those who make suggestions and add to it. At one point a boy adds a turning bit to the tower, it falls off when I add something else and I start turning it with my finger. After a while I notice that she has found something, a little piece of black plastic with a turning bit that she is turning. Where did it come from? Though I have been observing, the correlation did not strike me for a while, I have been incorporated.
After a while she starts edging round the table and stands fiddling with a piece of Lego at the edge. If find a little Lego flower stuck in a little red Lego hat, I put it near her, she gives me a lowered smile. From that side of the table she is attracted to the biscuits in the kitchen, I help her secure one without orange icing. Then a friend asks her to play.
Observations of atmospheres / spaces
1. This observation follows on from the one above, it
happened 3 weeks later. It is entered here but also pertains to the subsequent
aspect The transfer of played particulars
through space and time.
Amazing I look over the table and see the white sharpening nestled unbroken in the ice cream tub of different size lids, together with two plastic shapes, a horse and a dog. The event that drew me to the table was the same girl drawing a picture. I look at it once, then as I walk back the fact of what it is dawns on me – a flower with a tiny head, drawn on paper as she stands at the same corner of the table in the same position, as where she was when I put the tiny Lego flower in the red Lego hat on that corner of the table for her 3 weeks ago.
Later a repeated figure of 8 is scribbled over the flower to make it appropriate to give to the boys, who she and her friend are attacking by painting their faces with dry paintbrushes as blusher, doing make-overs. The pink pen is used to attack, to draw on the boy’s jumper after they draw on her friend’s.
When I enter the observations into my notebook the figure of 8 scribbling that she did this day reminds me of the pink pen drawing that I had done around the pencil sharpenings in my reflections after the first observation.
2. The movement of a large inflatable 1 metre ball on a
field between groups of playing children.
This observation is presented in the form that it was entered into my research notebook, because the pictorial representations would become incomplete and cumbersome if translated into words alone.
This picture can be seen and explored in greater detail here
My reflections, creation, play – the responses of others to these
1. In my research notes I reflect on the above observations 2 and 1. The expanding patterns of interactions between the girl and the bits and bobs that become part of the play seem to have a similar quality to the whole of the research study itself, my drawing below is a musing with that. When I take these observations in my research notes to my supervisory team, Phil says that this last scribble (below) is my study really. It seems that its metaphor shines through to others too.
2. Much later I am trying to work out the interweaving of layers in which the data has presented itself in this study, the diagram I draw reminds me of this scribbling. As shown and described in the beginning of this chapter, that diagram became the structure for the presentation and analysis of the inquiry’s data.
Other forms of data, created outside this study by others
1. “Going to bed was the very best part of the day, because
of the magic patchwork quilt.
There were no flowers on it which came to life, it did not make you invisible, and certainly it never performed any useful kind of magic, like whisking you off to the furthest star in the sky, or granting your dearest wish. Nevertheless, it was enchanted, and I loved to lie in the high, narrow bed, listening to Aunt Pinny’s voice unroll the magic of the patchwork, as it covered me from my chin, down a long way past my toes and right off the bed.
Aunt Pinny had started making it as soon as she was old enough to hold a needle. Every little six-sided shape had a story to go with it, and all through her life, Aunt Pinny had added more patches and more stories. The quilt was an endless pattern, coloured all the colours in the world: all the flowers, all the rainbows, all the days and nights. Each night, when I was in bed, Aunt Pinny would come in with a cup of cocoa on a tray, and tell me one of the stories from the quilt. She would point at a piece of the patchwork and say: ‘that’s an interesting one,’ or ‘I remember that one well,’ and then she would begin. . .
‘Look at that,’ she said one night. ‘that’s where the quilt began.’ She pointed to the very heart of the patchwork, to seven shapes stitched together in a flower-pattern, like this:
‘If you look closely, you will see large, childish stitches still in the material. I’ve never taken them out, though I have sewn them finely to keep them in place after all these years.’
‘It’s like a little garden,’ I said. ‘Every shape has a different kind of flower on it, although it’s hard to see what some of them are supposed to be.’
‘It is a garden. The flowers have faded. Real flowers always do’
“Were these real flowers? I asked. “Honestly?”
‘They were the real-est flowers in the whole world to me, when I was little.’” (Geras and Caldwell 1994, pp.13,14)
Aunt Pinny tells the story of how when she was little she
had wanted a garden and how they were poor but her mother had bought her bulbs
to plant and how she had waited and waited for her garden to grow and while
waiting had got ill and how her mother, a dressmaker had taught her to sew by
making the heart of the quilt, a garden.
‘I spent a long time sewing my garden together. Mama helped me, of course. It’s difficult to reach the corners. But I enjoyed it more than anything I had every done before. Round the green felt lawn I arranged my chintz and cotton flowerbeds: roses, apple-blossom, hollyhocks, lilies, pansies, and carnations. When I finished it, it looked beautiful. I could almost smell the flowers, and I stroked my finger over the green felt, feeling the embroidered daisy in the summer grass. I had a garden. I had made it myself. It lived on the table near my bed, where I could see it every morning when I woke up, and every night when I went to bed. In my dreams, it grew and spread, the stitches turned to flagstones, and I walked on them between the flowerbeds, sniffing a rose here, picking a pansy there.
When the spring came, my real flowers bloomed at last. I was very proud of them, and of myself for planting them, and of Mama, for knowing they would grow. But they were never as sweet-smelling, nor as pretty, nor as real to me, as my own little patchwork garden.’” (ibid. pp.20, 21)
The transfer of played particulars through space and time
The transfer of played particulars through space and time - when particular qualities of a play instance give the impression of having impregnated objects, spaces, patterns by reappearing in another instance.
Children’s direct unsolicited comments
1. In the kitchen getting louder and louder, two girls are
layering stories about what a playworker has said about washing hands and
wiping bums. They are drawing other people in and telling and retelling the
story with exuberance and laughter. The playworker has her hair in a ponytail.
Her hair and hair-bands have been part of an excited game with other children
earlier. With a link to the playworker’s perceived seriousness regarding the
hand washing, which they are teasing her about, the girls move into the next
story. It goes something like this: “Ponies have tails, unicorns are ponies but
the horn means they’re happy, H (playworker) has a ponytail but she says she’s
serious, but she’s happy because it’s a ponytail and unicorns have tails and
unicorns are like ponies and if you take the uni and tail, but unicorns have
horns and it means they’re happy…..”
This story evolves with each telling. The girls come out of the kitchen and accost everyone, including playworkers, to tell the story to, jumping up and down in front of the person to tell it, layering their stories into and on top of each other, finding it so funny that they often loose their places and have to start again – louder and louder, the story seems at its loudest point to evaporate out of shear excited effort.
2. She is shelling broad beans and talking about bunnies “I want a bunny”, she says. One of the broad beans hops out of the pod and across the table, landing in one of the holes in the slotted breadboard “Oh look it hopped,” she sais, “Must have been because I was talking about bunnies.” She smiles.
Observations of children playing with things
The observations presented here are grouped with one title for more than one ‘dated’ observation. This is because the observations relate to each other in their demonstrating of the aspect of the transfer of played particulars through space and time.
1. “That’s mine”
When I sat
down at the table the girl had been talking to the playworker, trying
successfully to convince him to let her take the pretty paper bear shapes home,
in a red opening box, also from club. The bear shapes are from of a collection
of many different shapes, which had been pre-cut from various patterned and
coloured papers with paper shape cutters. The shapes are in an ice cream tub,
there are lots of other ice cream tubs with many different bits and bobs in
them. My sense is that the girl very much wants the red box, as much if not
more than the bear shapes, which are providing the reason for the box to be
She asks for my help in making a magazine. The magazine is to incorporate a printed advert of a singer, which she has found on the back of scrap paper. She wants to put her train tickets in and initially I think that she means as adverts for selling train tickets, but she wants them detachable so they can be taken out and used.
As part of the magazine we are making a paper chick moving in an egg and she is telling me “I have a feeling that everything comes alive, cause when I go to sleep I put them in one place and when I wake up they’re in a different place, so everything comes alive.” “I put my things by my books and then when I wake up they’re by my bed and I ask my mum why and she says maybe they’re alive.” She is telling me this in relation to the chick, and she is telling me how she will move it down inside the egg at night and get it up in the morning, only maybe it would already be up when she checks in the morning, there a feeling of ‘then we’ll know’ about this. We find an old cereal box to cut out food for the chick and she says “and the day before yesterday I flattened this down.” She shows me how the box is now not flat.
In making the magazine we use lots of the pre-cut paper shapes, rows of dresses, bears, Scotty dogs. At one point a younger girl wants to join us and make a magazine too. Initially the first girl doesn’t want to be copied, but I explain how good ideas are always copied, and she agrees. At this point we are making the pages with the rows of paper shapes on them, so the second girl starts making her magazine also using the paper shapes. At first both girls say “that’s mine” to all the shapes that I find for them in the ice cream tub. Then they start spotting the gaps in each other’s rows and patterns and are happy to give duplicates to each other, and ones that they think fit with each other’s rows and patterns.
that the cut out paper shapes are out of their ice cream tub, mixed up with
various lids on the table. I like those paper shapes, they featured in the
magazines that the girls made with me on April 9th. I fiddle with
the shapes and notice that different ones seem to have been added.
I go outside for about 20min
I come back in and a girl asks me my name, I tell her and she asks me to repeat. Then I ask her ,her name, she answers and I don’t quite catch it so I ask her to repeat.
I am leaning over the table, where the shapes are, towards her, she is standing on a comfy chair on the other side. More shapes have been added to the pile. I look at the pattern of the shapes and lids and ponder it. I start picking up the shapes to put them back in the empty ice cream tub, I feel I don’t want them to get thrown out, a certain proprietary feeling. She says emphatically “D (playworker) put those there for us to play with.” I stop putting them away.
She is now on the same side of the table as me, she picks up a shape and holds it on to a stone that is in the pile. I pick up a little Scottie dog shape. ‘That’s mine” she says, I sense no anxiety or grabbyness but a full expectation that I will hand it over, which I do. I pick up a cat shape “And that’s mine” she says, I give it. “That’s pretty”, I say moving a shape from under another which is next to her hand, it turns out to be a bear, “that’s mine” she says and picks it up. I pick up a white cat, I am curious as to whether it is white on the other side. “Look a white cat”, I say holding it out to her. “That’s mine” she says and she takes it. She picks up a hand shape “And this is mine.”
I hold a different dog shape onto the stone, echoing her earlier move and say something like “and this is the stone for them to sit on.” She picks it up, “that’s mine” she also picks up a shell, “this is mine too”, she takes them all away.
2. Powerful tent poles and hockey sticks
The children are putting tent poles inside hockey sticks and shooting them out.
A girl is using a tent pole as a magic wand, saying “pow pow pow” as she moves it side to side. I haven’t seen these used for some time and in previous times they have been used as arrows or other weapons and also as a kind of jutting forwards wand. Now the movement is side to side but the affect is “pow pow”.
They are playing with the hockey sticks, a kind of staged fighting. Two boys repeatedly throw up their hockey sticks into the air together, the sticks cross in the air and land. The movement of the sticks through the air and their landing seems relevant to what happens next. Later one of the boys is walking up towards the pavilion, throwing his hockey stick like a javelin, he is letting the stick direct his steps and this becomes the form of the play, where the stick happens to land determines where he walks.
3. Spaces of chalk spills and snails
Thursday 10th June
A boy and a girl have a large plastic jar full of water. They are pouring in coloured chalks by the handful, until the girl tells the boy to stop or they won’t have any left. They have a stick in the jar and are moving it up and down, like churning butter. They have it on the table-top, where all the bits and pieces are. “Maybe you could” I start “Lets take it outside in case it spills” she says to him.
On the desk close by, two boys and a girl, are laughing and climbing and pushing lightly at each other and chatting and shouting. They start singing “1 2 3 4 5, once I caught a fish alive, 6 7 8 9 10” they pause. Hen I think as I’m picking up papers of the floor. “Then it was a little hen” one boy continues, and laughs, his comrades laugh.
Part of what they are doing on the desk is looking at their snails, (huge African snails, sea snails, garden snails) which they have brought in today after a school project. At their feet, between the desk and the table with the tubs of bits on it, I start picking up a load of paper clips and yellow paper fasteners. In amongst the pile I fine a tiny sea snail shell. “Look” I say, handing it to the girl with the jar of sea snails. “Is it alive?” she asks, we look, it’s empty. She takes it and adds it to her collection. How did it get there I wonder to myself, why was it amongst all the paper clips?
I look around on the table, there are no tubs of shells, I remember some stones and a bigger shell from another time, then on the floor amongst the last paperclips I find a tiny flat shell that looks like a crumb.
I go outside and notice that there is chalky water, with lumps of various sized chalk, spilt down part of the steps, paving and tarmac outside the door. For a long time people walk past it without comment. Then a child comes out with her food plate “Yuck what’s that?” she says about the spilt chalk, and sits down on the steps. Then another child comes up from playing a way off on the grass with the huge inflatable ring. “Who did that?” he says as he walks past to go and get food. This kind of comment is repeated, with various degrees of drama, by every child who goes past the spillage, for quite some time.
Then nothing is said about it anymore and after a while a boy looks around after putting down his empty plate, and with no one watching tiptoes sock footed through the slightly drying but still very wet puddle. He picks up a lump of chalk, looks at it, puts it down again and tiptoes out. The next two children, one in shoes, one is socks who come up/down the steps walk without obvious notice through the puddle. Neither of these two had been there or near when the first boy walked through. A parent who had been helping his daughter get ready to go home also walks through. Then there is a long pause while I watch the puddle. After that children revert to walking around or just cutting the corner of the puddle.
While I am clearing up a spill (of drink), a boy comes in with a piece of blue chalk, stuck onto a straw in a plastic cup of liquid – I think it is water and salt because he negotiated with a playworker earlier to have some salt for his “medicine”. The other children there say; “You turned it blue” “Yeah it was pink” “You turned it blue”. He says “Yeah I turned it blue, I did.”
Then from where I go into the kitchen I over hear them talking about snails, how one has been left in a box for 2 weeks and had been thought dead and then had started eating again. One of them asks if it was one of the big snails, (From June 10th ).
Three boys are making chalk gunk, bashing different coloured chalks with a wooden mallet and mixing in water. One of the boys is fetching different colours and asking what the other two want. I remember the different qualities of the different chalk colours in mine and my sister’s childhood chalk mixtures.
They are using little white and green aeroplane food desert tubs, they are talking about experiments “this is my practice experiment” “are you going to do your real experiment?” “This is just my practice experiment, I’m going to do my real one later”
The gunk gets put into film canisters, different variation of chalk and water in each. The canisters are thrown around, in the areas of the den and the fire (that are not there today). There is a system to the throwing/filling experiments. It is apparent as a transmitted system in the “this is how we do it” type of tone of the boys, but the form of the system is not understandable to me.
At one point one of the boys with a full canister stops at the place where the other two chalk spillages happened, puts the canister down, spills some, and then picks it up and moves on. This place is out of the way of the rest of the play and this journey that this boy took across this space was not one that was taken by the other boys or repeated by this boy in this play. Shortly after this, playing seems to peak in ‘real experiments’ and as part of the real experiments playing dissolves in thrown and abandoned canisters.
4. Bashing poles
A boy is hitting a while metal pole onto the pavilion stone steps, the end that he keeps hitting is battered. There are children and playworkers around. At one point he is jokingly offered a square card tube to hit instead. He is un-distracted. Eventually the end of the metal pole falls off, he cheers, I cheer. “How long did that take you?” a playworker asks, there is respect for the dedication in his tone. “25 hits” the boy says. “You counted every one?” the playworker sounds impressed.
The boy throws the piece he has been holding onto the grass across the path and starts again. A few strong hits and another bit of the end is bendable back and forth. He hits it over and over. He feels the end and sides for sharpness with his finger. He bangs and feels and bangs and feels for sharpness.
“It’s a story” he says, to himself out-loud, to everyone, to no one in particular. He continues until this piece breaks off, it is looked at and then thrown to the other piece of the grass. He then starts hitting the pavilion wooden post. The playworker says gently “you see if you put dents in the post the school won’t be happy, is there something else you could hit it on?” “then I’ll hit this (the steps) as usual”, which he does a few more times, but the moment is gone.
I am leaning against the wooden post outside the door of the pavilion. A boy who is friends with the boy who bashed the metal pole, comes up behind with without me knowing and bangs the post with one of the long cardboard tubes. He then bangs the tube on the step, looks at the dent in it and says “not a good idea”. Somehow (I watched but am not sure how it happened) the cardboard tube travels down to the end of the pavilion where it is taken by the boy who bashed the metal pole, he then bashes it on the steps a few times.
Observations of atmospheres / spaces
1. Today is all about wheels. The children build a bike course, have skates, build a go-cart. At one point I walk outside and see a round piece of black foam rolling at top speed propelled by the wind. It is going along the tarmac, then it swerves just before an upturned yoghurt pot, heads straight for it, jumps on it and of the other side and continues rolling. I am stunned
I get asked/told to get on the back of the trike by the metal pole bashing boy, and the wheel walking girl pushes us and then glides behind us on her “wheelies” (shoes with wheels in the soles).
A boy comes out with a purple cardboard tube and roles it along the ground, having a planning discussion with himself. Then he brings out an older boy and holds the tube to his chest, talking of making him into (skate)board, rolling the tube up and down the boys front, the boy laughs. These two boys have been playing together on and off for some time, since before I got there. There is quite a big age gap between them. The younger is the director, the elder gives a feeling of dreaminess and indulgence. The atmosphere that they have been carrying around with them seems special, almost like a dialog/a crown/ a mantle of playful dandelion fluff, even when they are not obviously, see-ably, hear-ably doing much, but more just wondering about.
The children have been making a go-cart, using an electric drill as needed. At one point when they have paused and the drill is lying on the ground, a slice of cardboard tube is sent flying over the area. They try out the go-cart and find that it only goes left. They work out a steering system using the handlebars of an old scooter, then they need to make a hole in the wood to put the handle bars in. Someone drops a little bit of something into the hole that the drill is making. It goes to pieces and they look to see where the pieces have gone. This is repeated. Then little things (including hamma beads) are stuck on the end of the drill. They do not fly off.
I have been watching a boy playing with a long piece of pipe. I am on the steps outside the pavilion, he comes over to me seemingly suddenly, because I haven’t noticed him coming, and plonks the heavy end of the pipe at me/on me. He communicates that he wants to talk down the tube to me, this communication is through doing it, as part of doing it. He makes tunes and sounds down the pipe, I make nearly the same tunes back, it feels presumptuous somehow to imitate precisely at this point. Then we have a “hello”, “hello” echo.
Then he says, “What are you saying?”
I say, “I’m saying what you’re saying”
He, “Are you copying me?”
Then he makes a more complex tune, which I copy back up the tube precisely.
This interchange carries on for some time. When I sense he has come to the end of his sounds and words inspiration I spy a yellow lid on the ground. I manoeuvre the pipe and myself so I can pick it up and post it down. He then gives some old bits of rubber tire a ride down in the lid. He wants more bits so we go inside, he gets pencils, and I get more lids. We post things and send things flying out the other end, the pencils work particularly well even with the curve, the lids go round the curve well.
My reflections, creation, play
1. The un-premeditated placement and depiction of observations allows me to see the repeated occurrence of qualities across the observations and the things that extend from one observation to the next thus creating phenomenological understanding. The following is an example of this process which reflects this aspect of The transfer of played particulars through space and time:
Before I start making the entry about puppies the empty silk panel that I was about to add to the quilt falls onto the floor of my room. When I pick it up a tiny butterfly sticker has attached itself to a fly away thread at the edge of the panel. This butterfly sticker must have been left over from something else I had been making with my daughter. The butterfly didn’t seem to be relevant to these observations but I left it there with a thought of chaos theory and the butterfly effect.
The butterfly was to prove very important.
When it came to making the willow house, having the butterfly there drew my attention to piece of cloth also happened to be on the floor and which had similar butterflies on it. This cloth was a Barbie dress bought from a charity shop. As I cut and sewed the cloth I noticed that as well as butterflies it also had dandelion puffs printed on it. This brought to mind the unusual amount of dandelion puffs this year.
As I continued to sew the cloth I was reminded of another observation in a different place on the quilt, which I had entered a long time ago, in which I sensed and wrote about the atmosphere of the playing of two boys as a mantle or crown of playful dandelion puffs. The connection to this observation made me realize the prevalence of extending and enveloping atmosphere in many of these observations.
As I made white soft dandelion puffs to join these two observations together on my quilt, the gold thread, that I had haphazardly picked up to tie them with, made me think of a song from my childhood.
Dandelion yellow as gold what do you do all day?
I sit and I wait in the long green grass till the children come and play.
Dandelion yellow as gold what do you do all night?
I sit and I wait in the long green grass till my hair grows soft and white.
What do you do when your hair grows white and the children come and play?
They pick me up in their dimpled hands, and blow my hair away.
Sewing on the puffs made an awareness in me of my use of gold spots in the very beginning of the quilt, in the writing on of dates and reminded me how this had related in my mind to Chawla’s (2002) writing about play in the contexts of Wordsworth’s spots of time.
About a month later I am writing on the observation about ponytails, ponies, unicorn happiness and seriousness and near to it I notice the watch hand, which I have stitched into the middle of a butterfly many months before. The connections of butterflies to moments in time and Chawla’s (2002) writing about play and Wordsworth’s spots of time comes to mind as does the butterfly’s transformative nature and metaphoric wealth. I also notice how butterflies have featured in two recent entries onto the quilt.
Other forms of data, created outside this study by others
1. The Silk Brocade
“One day, as she made her way to the market-place to sell one of her brocades, the old woman passed by a small shop. Inside the shop, she caught sight of the most enchanting picture she had ever seen. It depicted a grand house set in a beautiful garden, with fruit trees and beds of brightly coloured flowers. There was a small fishpond and a vegetable plot, with chickens and ducks pecking the ground. As the old woman looked at the picture, she felt a great sense of peace settle on her.
That night, as the family sat eating their meal, the old woman told her sons of the beautiful picture she had seen.
‘Imagine living in a place like that,’ she sighed. ‘How happy I would be!’
The two older sons smiled. ‘Perhaps, Mother, when we die, we shall be reborn in such a place.’
But the youngest son felt only joy at seeing his mother so happy. ‘Mother why don’t you weave the picture yourself?’ he said. ‘Then you would have it always to look upon.’ . . .
Slowly, under the skilful hand of the old woman, a picture began to take shape in the brocade. In the first year, tears fell from the old woman’s eyes on to the brocade, forming a crystal-clear pool where golden fish swam and lotus flowers tripped across the surface. In the second year, a grey hair from her head formed a wisp of smoke that curled from the chimney on the tiled roof of the grand house. And in the third year, drops of blood fell from her hard-worn fingers and formed a brilliant red sun that shone down upon the beds of nodding flowers, so lifelike you could almost smell them.
Finally the brocade was finished. It was so detailed and beautifully woven that it seemed like a doorway framing the entrance to another world.
The three sons carried the brocade to an open window so that they could admire the colours in the sunlight, when, all of a sudden, a gust of wind snatched the cloth from their hands and whipped it out of the window and into the sky, where it disappeared from sight. The old woman dashed outside and stared hopelessly into the sky. Her sons rushed to comfort her. But the old woman could say nothing: her eyes glazed over with tears.” (Batt and Griffin 2000, pp. 30,31)
Each boy in turn goes searching for the brocade, the eldest two are turned from their search by purses of gold and the fear of having to knock out their two front teeth and place them into the mouth of a stone horse, to bring him to life. The youngest is undeterred. Finally after a gruelling journey he reaches the Sun Mountain.
“On the slopes of the Sun Mountain lay a grand palace. As the horse drew nearer, the youngest son thought he could hear tinkling laughter and musical voices. He dismounted and stepped inside the palace, where his eyes fell at once upon a group of sun maidens. They were the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. Like shafts of light they danced about the hall, their gentle laughter echoing sweetly.
Then he saw something hanging on the far wall that caused a wave of joy to sweep over him. It was none other than his old mother’s brocade!
‘I have come to fetch the brocade’, he explained to the sun maidens, who were surprised by the boy’s sudden appearance. ‘It belongs to my mother from whom it was stolen. At this very moment she lies wrapped in a grief that eats away at her for the loss of her brocade. Once it brought her such joy, but now, without it, she will surely die.’
‘You may return the brocade to your mother very soon, for our work is almost completed,’ said one of the maidens. ‘We never meant to keep the brocade, only to copy it. We, too, were spellbound by its beauty.’
The youngest son looked about the room again and noticed for the first time a silver loom standing in the middle of the hall. On it was stretched a copy of his mother’s brocade. . . .
While the boy slept, the maidens continued to work on into the night. A large pearl hung form the ceiling and they worked by its pale glow.
One of the maidens worked more quickly that the others. She completed her part of the brocade and stood back to admire it. But as her eye moved from the copy to the original brocade, her heart sank. For it was clear that the old woman’s handiwork was far superior.
How wonderful it would be if she could live in a place like the one in the brocade, the maiden thought to herself. Picking up a needle and thread, she quietly approached the old woman’s brocade. Then, while no one was looking, she embroidered a figure standing by the pong – a girl just like her, with a bright pink dress and long black hair.” (ibid, pp.35-37)
The boy wakes in the night and snatches up the brocade and takes it back to his mother. He stops on the way to return the horse and as soon as his teeth are removed from the horse and put back in his mouth the horse turns back to stone.
“ ‘Mother,’ he whispered, holding her hand. ‘Mother, I have your brocade.’
The old woman’s eyes slowly opened and in them the boy caught a glimmer of joy. He placed the fabric in her hand. ‘Here, Mother, let me carry you into the sunlight so that you may see it better,’ he said as he lifted her gently and carried her through the door.
Outside, he carefully laid his mother down and held up the brocade for her to see. But as he did so a wind suddenly caught the cloth, but gently this time. Instead of blowing away, the fabric merely billowed and grew. It doubled, it tripled in size. It wrapped itself around the youth and the old woman and, lo and behold, the two of them found themselves standing in the most beautiful garden. All around them were fruit tress, richly laden, and flowers grew like a carpet beneath their feet. There in the distance was a beautiful house and standing near the pool was a young woman.
Greetings,’ she said, her voice like shimmering silver. ‘I am one of the sun maidens. Forgive me, but I so loved your fine work and this beautiful place you have created that I knew I could not be happy unless I lived here myself. Please may I stay with you in this fine house and garden?’” (ibid. p.38)
The residue of play is not the play, yet is of the play
The residue of play is not the play, yet is of the play—when something sensible is left over from play yet is not the play itself, though it seems to hold something palpable of the play
This aspect necessitates a slightly different structure. While being a presentation of data this theme with its quality of negation, ifs and buts, and qualification can be seen to be further along the road towards data analysis. The italicized titles at the top of each instance draw attention to the particular situation that suggest the significance of the residue or result of play, which would be different if achieved by other means.
Children’s direct unsolicited comments
1. Its not that the fur looks ruffled its how it has come to be ruffled
Bun, Hun and Pip are three toy rabbits of the same type but of varying size and age.
She is cuddling Pip and tells me about her fur, saying, “In the land of love furruffled means love.” Then she picks up Hun, and starts telling me how even though Hun and not the others were taken to London that time, Hun is still not right. She starts talking about how Hun’s fur is still not ruffled enough and strokes it backwards in a ruffling way, she then gives Hun a big hug, but there is a frustration. Despite her best efforts she can’t make Hun be as loved as Bun and Pip. She is talking about the way that having ruffled fur means love but it shows it (love) rather than is it on its own, it has to come from somewhere, it can’t be made just by ruffling the fur.
2.The change has taken place but there has not been time for material alterations to occur?
On his Sunday morning radio show Aled Jones (2008) was discussing how children had been asked to hold Pudsey bears as part of a music video and then told to put them down in a pile. The children were reticent, fearing that they would not get their own bear back. The organizers tried to reassure them by saying that all the bears were the same, but one boy explained they had each given their bear their different love and so now each bear was different.
3.The clay dust that will be left around won’t just be clay dust it will be from the pebblely
She was holding an oval of clay between her hands, patting it from one hand to the other, flattening it as she did so. She comes to me and tells me ‘this is a pebblely and then the pebblely will come off on things and get less and less and then can be thrown away”. She is interested in the residue in her hands, the way this is increasing and the pebblely lessening.
Observations of children playing with things
1. The scrapes could have been made in another way but would they have been the same?
A boy twisting, spinning, flipping a small plank under his feet, which looks to me like a skateboard. I am standing nearby – “You need some wheels” I say gently. - I wish I hadn’t said anything, but then again it seems from his response that he experienced this as my recognition of what he was doing.
He tells me about his little skateboard at home. He starts doing things on the board in a showing me type of way,
Him “I did it”
Me “Oh I missed it”
Me “Do it again”
His dad who has come out with his sibling ready to leave asks, “What are you doing with that board”. The boy replies, “Playing.”
He carries the board with him as he leaves, scraping it against steps and against walls, swigging it as he leaves, continuing the movement and making his taking visible. When he gets to the car he turns and slips the board in by his feet, unnoticed by his dad.
2.It isn’t that four pots next to each other all have fire in them its that he “achieved four-way fire”
They are building fires in pots (saucepans) and round metal chestnut roasting pans, around the fire pit, whilst also making fire in the pit. They are using yellow pages and newspaper, they have a bucket of water with a plastic cup in it. The pages are torn out and the fire is lit from each others’ fire and put in their pot. The ownership of each pot is very unfixed. Everything is very fluid. If the lit paper blows and is judged by one of them, (without direct comment but often with exclamation) to be ‘too much’ one of them throws water on it.
One boy starts lighting bits of paper to drop and stamp on them. He has a running commentary about being a fire survival expert. A girl who copies finds that her shoes get sticky from the fire.
The movement and interchange between the children and over the fire is constant, there is no conflict and no single director.
One boy gradually accumulates four pots of fire, all linked to each other and feeding each other by flame, suddenly he exclaims, “I achieved four-way fire!”
3.The smell and quality of the fur comes from many different situations that the puppy has been in, yet could not be created or experienced outside of the puppy’s played with life
She is scooting with crutches, (play crutches) and then goes and picks up her puppy who is wearing a nappy and brings it to her face
4.It isn’t that the flowers are in the box, it’s that the box is eating the flowers
I watch as a young boy wonders around the field of flowers with a shiny oval silver tin that has a hinged lid, he squats down, holds the tin slightly inclined up to a yellow flower, opens the lid a little, slips the flower head-first into the gap and closes the lid, breaking off the stem. He then repeats the process, sometimes walking between flowers, sometimes taking more than one in close secession, the selection process is not discernable to me. At one point the tin opens a little wider and I get a peep inside, it is full of flowers. Later his mother tells me that he told her that, “the box is eating the flowers”.
Observations of atmospheres / spaces
1. The chalkings would not be this part of this play instance and its atmosphere if they had occurred separately.
The chalk pot gets set down at the top of the steps, it the same place as the water chalk spillage pot had been (June 10). It is left there and the children start drawing on the tarmac at the bottom of the steps.
A boy is writing his name in lettering that looks to me like he is drawing city buildings in 3D. At some point a playworker asks him if he is writing his name, he says “yes” and it is only then that I realise that he is not drawing buildings.
When he’s finished he gestures with his arm to everyone around and says. “ I did my name.” “Do you like my name?” “that’s my name!” Someone walks on his name “Oi! Get off my name” A boy, one of his friends, runs exaggeratedly, smiling across the name, “that’s how much I hate ____” he says the boy’s name.
In the meantime someone else has drawn himself. Also a playworker has suggested drawing round each other like corpses, which two of the children have done. A girl from outside this group does the first corps for one of the boys who is already drawing. Someone else has drawn his brother, and as he puts an X on his chest says, “X means trouble.” Others have written their names, or names of those they know. – The patches of self all over the ground spread.
After a while one boy starts drawing down the steps from the chalk pot, the pink lines follow the previous chalk water ‘spillage’ area (June 10th ). The chalk pot, now moved to the tarmac by the process of drawing down the steps, gets spilt on someone’s name, the dust spreads.
Then as if by sudden consensus, the patch of ground that was full of children, is empty apart from the chalkings.
2.The brick-like shape of the stone is experienced as Roman ruins.
On a beach - The man was building with stones. The others were bringing them to him. A large stone is brought to him, he exclaims at its shape, makes a comment about it being part of Roman ruins, it is shaped like a brick, it seems to please him. He uses it as the foundation on which to it to build a high tower of other stones, fitting them together and removing one or two when he found a better fit. Before the brick stone was found he had been building a rounded shape and maybe the beginnings of a wall. At one point the woman brings him another stone and the wind carried her word zeeebra to me.
My reflections, creation, play
1. The words are not the whole picture
I am representing the conversation about “furruffled” on my quilt. I realise that I could have put observations onto my quilt by some pre-devised order or method rather than the way in which I let the placement and connections and materials used arise out of themselves, often beyond my conscious understanding or reasoning. If I had taken a predetermined approach the quilt would contain the same words of the observations, but not the same meaning or understanding, either in words and materials or in additional quality.
2.The shape of the stone slips is at once created by and perfectly shaped for, the sea turning it over and over, something shaped the same but by another means would be different.
I stand in shallow shifting sea, seeing slips of slate stone, that are at once specifically made by and for turning over in the waves as the waves pull back. It feels wrong to steal, but I do so, for I have an urge to leave myself there, to be one with these slips of stone in the sea, to leave myself to merge, but as I cannot become them, I take a few of them to become part of me. I walk back up the beach, as soon as my fingers touch a stone sliver in my pocket they begin turning it over and over.
Other forms of data, created outside this study by others
1. The layers of experience are perceptible to the photographer and then from the photographs of the things in the rooms left as they were having been played with.
“In Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard, about the latter days of Sicilian prince and his household, there is a curiously sensual sequence during which the prince’s nephew and his young fiancée conduct their passionate courtship secretly in the forgotten rooms of the family palace. The dusty, barely furnished interiors may not have been used for years, but the sense of the lives once lived in such spaces, with their discarded objects and interrupted state of solitude, is potent.
It is this same sense of human story within a house occupied for centuries by the same family that inspired the current Earl of Belmore to commission photographer Patrick Prendergast to record the attic rooms of Castle Coole. . .
‘People in earlier days just didn’t send things off to sales,’ Lord Belmore says, ‘so nothing was really thrown away – from old furniture to bits of string – and here they all ended up in the attics. Curiously the four unmarried sisters were very assiduous in labelling everything, so there are lots of labels with things written on them such as ‘this chest of drawers came from the green bedroom.’ Born in 1951, as a child Lord Belmore was allowed free run of the attic with his sisters and visiting friends. ‘It was considered a safe place, so parents and staff wouldn’t worry if you disappeared up there for hours. We would play in all the rooms and marvel at the old illustrated books, toys and dolls which had belonged to the 13 children of the fourth earl. The attics were an Aladdin’s cave, a storehouse of unimagined treasures.’...
Mounds of Victorian correspondence attracted Lord Belmore’s interest as a boy, as did the dismantled beds, tables and empty frames. To him these things – the odds and ends left by different generations – seemed to capture the story and soul of this family home.
...Lord Belmore admits to feeling emotional about the loss of these rich deposits of past life; which is why he asked Patrick Prendergast to take a series of photographs to record the rooms in their pre-clearance state. . .
Patrick Prendergast took thousands of pictures at Castle Coole. ‘The attics were just extra-ordinary,’ the photographer remembers. ‘They were heavily layered, like a drawing that has been drawn on over and over again.’” (Musson and Prendergast 2010, p.96)
Between presentation and analysis – orientational comments
The preceding presentation of data was given through specific photographs of the silk quilt and via textual extracts structured by the aspects and forms that became apparent through this quilt-held process of representing. What has been presented here is not all the data that the quilt encompasses, and what was represented on the quilt was not all the data within my research notes. The selective process which has resulted in this presentation can be understood within the conceptual framework of this inquiry as phenomenological re-writing (van Manen 1990; Giorgi 1992). Pertinent to this inquiry is van Manen’s (1990) expression of rewriting as a non linear process “reminiscent of the artistic activity of creating an art object that has to be approached again and again, now here and then there, going back and forth between the parts and the whole in order to arrive at a finely crafted piece that often reflects the personal ‘signature’ of the author” (p.131-132). By this framework, what has been presented here, must be understood as overlapping with the beginnings of analysis. Such overlapping is similarly expressed in the wider context of qualitative inquiry by Richardson and St. Pierre (2005) as they discuss writing, not as a means of writing what you know, but as an interactional medium for discovering the unknown. As previously cited(Miles and Huberman 1999, p.162) the overlap between presentation and analysis, as soon as data is structured for display, is recognised in the abstract as a logical occurrence in research across orientational frames.
The decision to follow this data-instigated means of presenting itself was, while having its own momentum, not taken without reflection. The strength of authenticity offered by large volumes of data transcripts was recognised and the possibility of placing all the data in an appendix was considered (Miles and Huberman 1999; Atkinson and Delamont 2005). However had this been done, these transcripts would, through the interaction of the reader, unavoidably have become the source to which data analysis referred. Such a process would have at best interrupted, and at worst undermined, communication of the significance of the process of representing the data on the quilt in enabling its perception in a form more reflective of its quality than could be achieved by words on paper alone. The presentation of the data through the quilt and via the structure drawn from that process can be understood as presenting the form, and also the movement and in this, the process bears my “signature” (van Manen 1990, p.132).
The process of data presentation and therein the beginnings of its analysis was deliberately given space to unfold without recourse to others’ inquiries which would have perhaps exerted an influence. However having followed this process it was important to contextualise it and to reflect on my techniques. Equally the significance of the way in which I handled the data on the quilt suggested the relevance of my biography as a contextualisation for this inquiry. At the juncture between the presentation of data and the beginnings of its analysis, and the forthcoming expansive analysis process, retrospective reflection was undertaken so as better to comprehend and verify the employed approach and techniques. A demonstrative illustration of my critical interaction with the inquiries of others and exploration of my biographical work will now be given. This reflective section also includes an exploration of techniques used in what has just been presented and in the forthcoming analysis.
Within the structure of the presentation of data, there was a subsection entitled Other forms of data created outside this study by others.This came to be included because as I worked with the data, things started to come my way both physically, (for example picking up an old magazine which just happened to contain a relevant article), and also by remembering things that were now newly resonant with reflected meaning. These happenings gave a sense of the relationship of the data and its aspects to the human relationships with things and spaces in other contexts. An illustrative selection of these auxiliary examples has been presented with the research data so as to communicate the visible presence of the identified aspects of played-with-ness in the experiences of others. However in choosing to include this external form of data the intent is additionally to impart to the reader the way that the data moved me towards an appropriate approach to its analysis. In these encounters I also became aware of the way in which the data gave insight and expanded the meanings within external texts. This experience began to give form to a means of analysis which radiated outwards from play rather than applied theoretical constructs of meaning to play. The means of the deepened analysis, which will be undertaken in the third part of this chapter, is thereby born of a meshing of the experience of these encounters and the ethic of applying the realities of play to the meaning of the world. As will be further explained in Section 3, which follows the forthcoming retrospective contextualisation in Section 2, the analysis process involves exploration of meanings within the data and an application of the resulting insight to relevant phenomenological descriptions by other authors. In the preceding data presentation, reflective descriptions by others have been given as they appeared alongside the research data. However the phenomenological examples that will be analysed via the sense offered by the data are selected because they hold the possibility for probing and expansion by these insights.
The attempt here, has been to remind and further orientate the reader to the significance in this inquiry’s actualisation, of the outward ripple from the data into the process into the structure of this chapter.
As previously explained, the form and means of this inquiry’s data presentation and analysis were not pre-decided, but rather unfolded from the content and the sense of the data. The unusual positioning of this reflective contextualisation is deliberate, and considered. To have included such a section within the second methodology chapter, or at the beginning of this data presentation and analysis chapter, would arguably have been contraindicative of the process of being led to methods and techniques by the data. As has been discussed in various ways throughout the study and will be further explored, the integrity of this inquiry rests in the affective communication of the understanding generated by the play instances of the data.
However, though the inquiry’s approach to working with the data has been drawn from the data, the possibility for and the validity of such an approach warrant reflective consideration. Firstly, through the process of exploring the personal ground, which enabled me as a researcher to be led by play, a certain contextualisation can be provided, which may contribute to the value of this inquiry (Wolf 1992; Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Holman Jones 2005; Richardson and St. Pierre 2005). Secondly, critical engagement with others’ inquiries, in which echoes of my approach can retrospectively be found, offers a verification of such responsive, non-predetermined means of working. This critique also provides a frame for identifying and reflecting on the risk and challenges posed by such an approach. Examination of these works of others’ provides a structure to reflect on my own processes and thereby to avoid insularity. While the integrity of this inquiry may rest in affective communication of the realities of the play instances, the reflective contextualisation offered by this section provides an orientating and contemplative frame.
As has been extensively discussed, the very endeavour of the philosophy and practice of phenomenology, which was found to meet the needs of this inquiry, can be understood as born of wonder (Heidegger 1962; Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Stewart and Mickunas 1990; Bachelard 1994; Merleau-Ponty 2002). This wonder can be sensed as the ground from which phenomenology’s founding philosophers (for example, Heidegger 1962; Husserl 1980; Merleau-Ponty 2002; Sartre 2003) worked with the big questions of life, loosening and setting free the parts, as is a proposed facet of analysis (The shorter Oxford English dictionary 1980b; Modern Language Association 2011).
However, as already explored, in the evolving practice of phenomenological inquiry there can be recognised on the one hand the movement towards applied technique (Danaher and Briod 2005; Ryba 2007) and on the other towards more exploratory approaches (Silvers 1986; Titon 2008). This differentiation is subtle, for underpinning the entire phenomenological movement is the impetuous to unveil the layers of experience—whilst the very approach of being informed as to how to proceed by the situation requires a decision, which creates a frame, or a technique.
Van Manen, a well recognised, phenomenological researcher (Woodhams 2004; Danaher and Briod 2005; Finlay 2009) provides a practical book on phenomenological inquiry (van Manen 1990). The text’s orientation towards pedagogy holds certain relevance to this study. Furthermore van Manen’s framing of pedagogy by phenomenology goes some way towards traversing the gap between an educative approach to children and that of playwork, although the tone does remain comfortably with the concerns of the adult for the child. Therefore, while there are discrepancies, in considering the phenomenological importance of fitting the way of understanding to the subject, van Manen’s text provides a useful backdrop against which to situate the approach that I undertook.
Van Manen suggests that phenomenological enquiry can be undertaken in the following ways: Thematically, Analytically, Exemplificatively, Exegetically, Existentially, Inventing an approach (van Manen 1990, p.168-173). Within the explanation of how the method developed for this enquiry (Section 1) aspects of van Manen’s ‘Thematic’ and ‘Analytical’ approach can be seen (ibid.). In the taking forward of what was developed in section one towards further analysis in Section 3, qualities of the descriptions of ‘Exegetically’ must also be considered (ibid.). However, discussion of these will be kept until the end of this section, for they arose as techniques, which bear similarity to these and other descriptions, but were not as such chosen before embarking on the analysis. Rather the last listed method is the one of greatest relevance to this study, for it echoes the overarching frame of the inquiry, within which all other techniques arose. Under the heading of ‘Inventing an approach’ van Manen writes:
“The above five suggestions for textually organising one’s phenomenological writing . . . are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. A combination of the above approaches may be used. Or a different organisation may be invented. One should be mindful, however, that the textual approach one takes in the phenomenological study should largely be decided in terms of the nature of the phenomenon being addressed, and the investigative method that appears appropriate to it” (van Manen 1990, p.173)
Thus, it can be seen that even in the decision to apply one technique over another the phenomenological frame asks by its foundational nature, for that decision to fit that which is being investigating. Therefore the initial appearance of some phenomenological analysis being predicated further towards pre-decision and some further towards in situ exploration is itself perhaps duplicitous. Perhaps what must be demonstrated is, that for a study concerned with the co-creation between player and things, a method that is inventive provides the best fit and thereby is, in phenomenological terms, appropriate.
The decision to invent an approach could have been taken from the previously explored literature; by the link between inventiveness and play the phenomena of inquiry, and playwork the field of practice, and perhaps the root of phenomenology itself. Within the realm of play, literature indicative of the best fit of an inventive approach would demonstrate play’s creation, expansion and alteration of meanings and rules across myriad areas of experience, for instance in the work of Huizinga (1955) Sutton-Smith (1997) and Caillois (2001). Within the field of playwork a link with inventiveness can particularly be found in the writing communicating the sectors relationship with adventure playgrounds as explored in the literature review. Inventiveness within the root of phenomenology is as discussed above evidenced in the requirement of best fit. It can also be perceived in the way in which phenomenology’s philosophers write, seeming to fashion the trail of one exploration into the content of the subsequent (for instance, Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Bachelard 1994; Heidegger 1996).
However within this study inventiveness was not directly drawn from the literature, rather inventiveness became cumulatively directed by the data and my stance towards it. The decision to invent phenomenological means of working with the data was not so much taken as given. A context for this possibility in myself as a researcher can be found by exploring my biographical history and my relationship to playwork; the relevance of such an approach can be explored via a critique of other inquiries, which have different similarities to this one. The importance of this may be at the very root of the ethic of this study. This context and relevance will now be reflectively explored, in a bid to contribute to the situational framework of the importance of inventiveness as a responsive means of comprehending the data of this inquiry.
In my memories of my relationship to play as a child, as a teen and there-from my resonance with playwork, it is possible to identify a familiarity with inventiveness as a trust in the possibilities that arise in play. In this attempt to reflectively understand the contextual ground that allowed me to go with the process of following the data and responsively inventing the means for its presentation and analysis, such personal facility with inventiveness seems relevant.
While the positioning of biographical contextualisation within an inquiry varies, inclusion of such material, either interwoven within parts or throughout the study, or in a concentrated section, is not unusual (see for example, van Manen 1990; Cobb 1993; Graue and Walsh 1998; Richardson and St. Pierre 2005; Titon 2008). The relevance of self to the framing and positioning of inquiry can be seen as integral to the qualitative research movement (Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Greenwood 2005; Holman Jones 2005). Within philosophical phenomenology, archaeological unveiling of the situations and events of a philosophers life are given wait in attempts to understand the meaning of their writings (Frangeskou 2010; Thompson 2010). That is not to say that individual biography is itself the concern of phenomenology (van Manen 1990, p.11), but simply that meaning may be understood by the context in which it has been formed.
Therefore, from a substantial amount of exploratory biographical writing, regarding my play experiences and playwork practice, an illustrative selection is given here to demonstrate how who I am enabled me to responsively invent a frame for analysis of this inquiry’s data.
Play as a way of being - My memories of childhood are largely a patchwork of playing. Playing was what I did, it wasn’t a defined part of my life, it was the fabric of my everyday. I remember the feeling of going for an evening walk in the summer in France, slowly up the track, in my nightdress, to the field of golden wheat. I can still feel the way the dust of the ground and the warm air all around me and the sunlight and the wheat mixed together with me in magic. I remember the joy of it being the turn of my friend and I to wash out everyone’s watercolour paint pots after painting class at school. We would create waterfalls of colour and different orders and patterns of doing things. The water was freezing, but we took ages and ages over the task. I remember exactly, the slight disorientation of having to return to the classroom afterwards. In my capacity to remember play as the fundamental tone of my experience of the world as a child, it is perhaps possible to identify my willingness to respond inventively so as to reflect the form of the children’s play that I encountered as a researching playworker in the structure of its analysis.
Retaining a reverence for play - Just as the play of my childhood was my life as a child, the later reverence for the play of children seemed to come about as a natural part of who I was. When I was 14 our class was responsible for creating the children’s activities at our summer fete. I remember having the idea of making a fairy glen in the rhododendron bushes. As I made the glen from soft coloured fine gauze veils the feeling that inspired and directed the creation was that which I sensed I would have felt if I had been entering the glen when I was five or six. When I was 16 I looked after four siblings. I watched with amazement how the second sister, aged five would come home from kindergarten and go straight to her little scene of people and start playing. She would have her hands one each side of her head, on the peripheries of her eyes and would move her fingers opening and closing them as she spoke the little people’s words. I remember deliberately waiting till there were no children around before sharing my sense of wonder with her mother. In these instances there can be seen a recognition of qualities of consciousness in play, and an inclination to be moved by this in my perception and actions so as to avoid dispelling it. The inventiveness of approach for presenting and analysis the data of this inquiry occurred within this same vein of reverence and internal movement. In my experience such listening and flexibility of self remained inherent to the possibility to perceive children’s play.
Playwork and motherhood as adult sensitization towards play - I was in the college careers room when I stumbled across the Playwork Dip HE in a prospectus. I made only one university application, I had found a professional framework for what I wanted to do. Working within playwork allows me to respond to the play of children in the play setting, changing how the play setting is in relation to their play. My children’s home environment is similarly fashioned by their play. Chairs for us to sit down for meals often have to be negotiated from their place in boats and obstacle courses. It is through the daily existence alongside my children’s play that my way of being when I go into a playwork setting has become further sensitized. While the role of mother and playworker are very different, because playwork reflected and extended something inherent in me rather than taught me something conceptually, my willingness to be affected by the playing child remains throughout different contexts. In this conjunction between self and playwork the meshing between the inventiveness, which, as shown in the literature review, is fundamental to playwork praxis, and that of my biographically grounded disposition can be seen. Thus, though the decision to invent an approach was not taken in response to the playwork literature, it is possible to see the role, which the frame of my playwork practice, had on my opportunity and capacity to invent an approach to understanding in response to children’s play.
This exploration of my biographical relationship with play and with playwork has been reflective. It happened after the event of responding to the data by inventing means to present and analyse it. It is arguably only possible to pin point relevance of biographical details after the acts to which they are relevant (Frangeskou 2010; Thompson 2010). These selected aspects of my lived experience retrospectively provide a deducible context for my inclination and capacity to be inventive in the presentation and analysis of the play data of this inquiry. However my self, not as parts, but as a whole responsive human being, was there in the presence of children’s play and was there as I worked with the data. As is visible in the intent by which playwork theories of play have been created (Hughes 2001; Brown 2003a; Else and Sturrock 2006; Hughes 2006) and in the recognition by playworkers of perceiving play through a state of negative capability (Brown 2008; Fisher 2008) or ignorance (Kilvington 2010), the very act of being moved by play seems to cause inventiveness in comprehension. Thereby, though other means of presenting and analysing this data could perhaps have been found, inventing an approach can, given myself and the field of my work, perhaps be seen as the most natural.
Contextualisation through juxtaposition
Having explored the biographical ground that enabled my responsive inventiveness to the data of this inquiry, the intent is now to reflect on the relevance of such an approach of working from the data towards a means of its presentation and analysis. Such relevance first and foremost lies in the actualisation of these processes within this inquiry, and their appropriateness to playwork as the field of practice and phenomenology as the research frame—therein rests the authenticity of this inquiry. However the fact that other researchers in different situations have also been moved to inventive means of presenting and analysing their research data, offers two benefits of juxtaposition. In placing these inquiries side by side with each other and with mine, a frame is constructed through which to reflect on the relevance and risks of such an approach. Though this exploration has, as a retrospective, not directed, influenced or altered the unfolded process of my inquiry, it offers the means to avoid the insularity of verification only from within.
Reflective Critique of first study
Woodhams’ (2004) Doctorate Memories are Not Silence: the trauma of witnessing and art making. A Phenomenological exploration of my lived experience as an artist expresses itself from the start as a personal journey. As such the way that it responds in its direction to her discoveries through her art and reflections is incorporate. Yet her expressions suggest the success of her intention, that the data itself, through her creative handling, illuminates more than she or others would have otherwise known (Woodhams 2004, acknowledgements and p.1). For instance she describes how, whenever she thought of a particular dying baby she painted not the dying baby, but rather waterfalls. Thus through the medium of her painting more was revealed to her, and to others than by logical thinking. Her reflective identification of the quality of waterfalls as at once renting open and filling up, are resonant with phenomenological explication (van Manen 1990; Bachelard 1994). It is as if the very quality of understanding is being enlivened by her work.
Woodhams’ study reflects many of the processes of mine, for example the way in which the themes were given up by the subject as she painted it, reflects my experience with the quilt. Furthermore, congruence can be sensed between the quality of the themes that arose out of Woodhams’ process and those of mine. Explaining her painting process she writes “those times of painting when my hand seems to take over … are times of diffuse boundaries and a different experience of suspended time. On reflection it seems, for a time at least, that there is no separation between me and what I seek to paint. But what is it that I am seeking to paint? Precisely, I think, understanding. And compassion. And helplessness. And Love” (Woodhams 2004, p.106). Here we see how what she is seeking to paint, becomes the tone of how she paints, in the same way as I found myself handling the data on the quilt in an atmosphere that emulated that of the play instances I had observed. Her painting of, and through, love and understanding, specifically seems to reflect the love and unknowingness which I observed in children’s play with things via my position of negative capability, and which came to be reflected in my data presentation and analysis process.
As well as providing reassuring echoes to my way of working Woodhams’ inquiry also brings a requirement to inspect a particular area of mine. Whereas hers was recognized as a process almost of catharsis, my attempt is to use who I am to shed light on an aspect of play. Therefore I must reflect on my need within that. Phenomenology is about need or desire towards knowing something (Heidegger 1962; Stewart and Mickunas 1990; Merleau-Ponty 2002), but my desire as a playworker was for the data to speak through me rather than simply of me. The playworker can be understood as tool, of support and advocacy for children’s play, not there for the fulfilment of their own play needs (Brown 2003a; Macintyre 2007; Brown 2008; Else 2008). This role of the playworker had to be carried through to the work with my research data.
Woodhams uncovering is not void of relevance to more than herself, because it brings sensitive light and thereby enables her subject to touch and move others. This gift to others might be inherent to and requisite of all that may be recognized as art (Heidegger 1962; Lévi-Strauss 1966; Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Bachelard 1994; Heisenberg 2000; Lewty 2008). However Woodhams goes further in that she lays her creative process open thereby explicating with words how she herself has been touched and moved by her experience of working with those who have Aids. In this way she offers a further dimension to those who would encounter the understanding that has grown in her.
It could be suggested that the voices of those from whom Woodhams draws her data are as vulnerable to overshadowing as those of children playing (Angrosino 2005; Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Guba and Lincoln 2005; Hill 2005). However my sense is that the context of play’s slippery recreation and thereby alteration (the way it pulls playfulness of itself) can offer a devious seduction to those who would represent play and their playwork playfully. It was important to examine my process carefully to verify that it was not merely an indulgence in personal play.
In looking inwards I found that my biography clearly indicates the subject of my study, and my process is visibly one of playful exploration. However, this playful exploration is reflective of the subject, and my own musings, play and development of awareness are in response to the research data and to the ethic of playwork. An example of this process can be seen in the insight which entering the conversation about furruffled onto the quilt offered to the difference between words said spontaneously in play and words said in response to an adult’s question. This example is detailed in the second methodology chapter in discussion of the inappropriateness to this inquiry of generating data with children. Further relevant examples form part of the discussion of phenomenological technique within the approach of responsive inventiveness, at the end of this section. Though there can be no escape from the process by with the direction of the study responded to my noticing, the sense of noticing I had at the time and still have reflectively, has a quality of myself as a mirror rather than myself as a well.
Reflective critique of second study
In ‘Found poetry as literature review: Research poems on audience and performance’ Prendergast (2006) explains her attempt to create poetry to express her literature review of “contemporary continental aesthetic philosophy and theatre/performance theory” (p.369). Her poetry is to be used as “chapters and interludes within chapters” (ibid.) within her dissertation. Thence the Poems have titles such as ‘poetry and theatre’ (p.372) ‘defining the problem’ (p.373) ‘the spectator’ (p.376) ‘what comes out’ (p.377) ‘the audience dances’ (p.378). The poems have been written via Prendergast’s reworking of the words of texts concerned with theatre and performance in the tradition of “ekphrastic inquiry” (p.370). She explains how she has used the words of these texts, “I have played with line breaks, patterns on the page, parentheses, and the occasional use of repetition for emphases” (p.372). She notes this “practice of writing descriptively, most often poetically, about works of art” (p.370) as having originated in the “rhetorical schools of ancient Greece” and lists the numerous celebrated poets who have written in response to real or fictional works of art (p.370). She explains her choice of this way of working as a response to the subject of her inquiry: “This aesthetic and intellectual choice is drawn from my belief that the transitory, ephemeral, and affective nature of performance requires a similar form of writing” (p.369)
Prendergast’s work offers several areas of juxtaposition for my approach within this inquiry. Though her use poetry is pre-decided it is clearly in response to the nature of the subject matter. Furthermore it is understood as an act itself akin to that of its subject. “Creating research poetry is a performative act, revealing both researcher and participant(s) as masked and unmasked, costumed and bared, liars and truth tellers, actors and audience, offstage and onstage in the process of research” (p.370). If theatre is considered within by the context of play (Huizinga 1955; Sutton-Smith 1997) it is visible as a form of play which exists within a particular rhythmic interchange. This interchange can indeed, as Prendergast identifies, be seen to be very close to that of poetry (ibid.). In this way, Prendergast’s work might be understood to illuminates at once play’s relevance to itself, and the way in which in a study concerned with children’s play the frame of approach of the researcher might naturally not be pre-decided. The congruence between Prendergast’s subject, method and process can be seen to echo, and thereby validate, the congruence between the subject of play-with-ness and the impulse, born of converging factors in a moment of inspiration, to create an actual research quilt.
However, while providing an illustration of the matching of approach, technique and subject, Prendergast’s work also offers a warning of the dangers of such a way of working. Prendergast’s poems seem to convey the content of her literature review with a simplicity and resonance that would not necessarily be available to most readers within the weight of the reviewed texts. Her poems communicate in few words the essence of the texts and her critique of these. The poems iterate and seem to encompass the possibility that she quotes Ely et al. as noting, “one joyful thing about writing poetry is that, given the same data, different people create differing versions” (Prendergast 2006, p.370). However the sense of oddity in encountering literary review presented in this manner, all be it fitting, brings to the for the demands which my approach and the inclusion of the quilt within this study will make on the reader. The decision to work in ways that are unusual within the context of academic study holds risks of alienation. The feedback from the presentation of my quilt (Guilbaud 2010a) to playworkers and play academic from this country and abroad at the National Play Research Network meeting seems to encapsulate the dichotomy. Responses from the audience included both those which showed a resonance with the subject through my way of working to the point of its incorporation and extension, and those of being lost and bemused due to its unexpectedness and thereby inaccessibility. The balance must be evaluated between the benefits of such a way of working, in that it offers the possibility of communicating more of the subject by drawing itself from the subject; and what might be not be grasped due to a reader’s alienation and lack of fluency with the form of presentation.
Though Prendergast's (2006) poems require willingness on the part of the reader they speak simply. When I read the poems I am certain that they do indeed communicate more than a conventional literature review could have and that they do so in a much more immediate thereby performance orientated manner. I am convinced that there was no better way of doing what she did. Prendergast’s work illustrates how integrity of unusual methodology rests in its integrity. In other words while work within a conventional academic frame must adhere to the conventions of that frame, an inventive frame can only be validated if it provides that which could not be achieved otherwise both in terms of attempt and by its execution. There have been times when I have looked at my research quilt and questioned its relevance. That sense of uncertainty however seems part of the creation of a space inside myself to be filled with new insight. In this way the intersubjectivity that van Manen (1990) sees phenomenological research relying on, seems to be available to the researcher in relation to their own work, as well as being an essential confirmation of phenomenological description when others encounter the work. It seems to me that Prendergast’s poems must have been formed through her own intersubjective interactions with them. Certainly reading her work has made me aware of this process in my own. Through the dual means, firstly of re-encountering the data in uncertainty via my quilt and secondly of presenting my quilt to others, I have been able to test the sufficiency of phenomenological representation—inherent within this being my capacity as a researcher undertaking this work.
Reflective critique of third study
This last work exemplifies an attempt that to me doesn’t quite deliver and thereby offers further insight. This work, like the two previous, has relevance to this study because it is an attempt to communicate meaning via a method that contains possibility for many interpretations and calls forth something of the very subject and method of the study from the person who encounters it. Working within a post-structuralist frame Koro-Ljungberg (2004) critiques the conventional use of metaphor. She identifies the way in which by its incorporation of simile, metaphor is vulnerable to a close down process of generalized understanding of the world. Koro-Ljungberg interest is in the open up possibilities of metaphor. She shows this in her discussion of the fact that though metaphor contains simile, simile does not contain the full potential of metaphor. Her approach is to work with the metaphors she identifies within the transcripts of her interviews with successful international scientists. She works first with what she understands as her natural culturally derived metaphoric interpretations and then against these initial interpretations of metaphor, looking for alternative meanings. Here she brings in other intuitions derived from her communications with these people and from her own life experience.
Koro-Ljungberg (2004) aims to use the very possibilities inherent to metaphor in her handling of it. However, although the preamble before and discussion after the analysis are convincing of the validity of this approach, the way that the analysis is given seems to me not to translate the sense of resonance that is part of encountering or using a metaphor. Though her intent with working for and against the metaphors in her interviews seems to be to respond to the unlimited potential within the metaphor, her delivery does not draw me into the meaning that she is finding. The meanings which she identifies both in working with her initial interpretations and against these seem in the main plausible, yet they seem to have lost the very quality of opening up, which metaphor contains and which she seems to endeavour to exploit. It is hard to identify exactly why this is, for it is hard to know what could be there when it is not. However perhaps in this is part of the answer. Though Koro-Ljungberg discusses her interpretations of metaphor there does not seem to be quite enough of the original data, or quite enough expressive detail to take the reader with her in her meaning making.
For instance Koro-Ljungberg explores the metaphor used by one of the interviewees in response to being asked to describe what success is to them. The interviewee names persistence, which she says, is like knitting a pullover, a process that she then describes (p.348). To me Koro-Ljungberg is dry in her response to the potential of this, using a style, which though logical fails to translate nuance. Later in the evaluative part of the article Koro-Ljungberg writes, “good metaphors, in a poststructural sense, open up the endless chain of meanings and focus on different, confusing, unrelated contextual connections. For example, Sari’s ‘knitting the pullover’ metaphor referred to failure and investment, presenting seemingly unrelated contextual connections with handcraft and the knitting process.” (p.356). To me within the provided extract of interview there is much more possibility than Koro-Ljungberg shows that she sees. That said, the publishing of this article by the Sage journal Qualitative research suggests that my unease is not shared by everyone. Perhaps Koro-Ljungberg’s way of expressing her work could be argued to be in tune to the field of science and thereby itself metaphorical of the tone of the data. However such a perspective could be suggested to illuminate more unexplored aspects than it resolves. For instance where is the recognition of the metaphor of the scientist working with a new idea within conventional objectivist structures and of the method of working with and against metaphor with a poststructuralist frame?
In examining this work I am brought to realize the dangers of making at once too little and too much of something. Somehow in not using enough of the words of the interviewee and not expressing enough subtlety in her analysis Koro-Ljungberg seems to make too much of what she does use. The result to me is something that is more about the technique that she used rather than the data. Though convinced by the proposal of approach I am left with a sense of ‘so what?’ in relation to the scientists’ metaphoric expressions around their success. My sense is the same points could have been made using data from any other situation without fundamentally affecting the content of the study. In terms of my own work I am cautioned to head the possibility that something that the researcher believed in may end up overshadowing their data resulting in something which does not bear the sufficiency of richness (Christians 2005) to which it aspires. This consideration brings interesting depth to what I have attempted in terms of having enough of the children’s expressions in my data balanced against the phenomenological requisite of engaging with the data rather than letting is simply speak for itself (van Manen 1990; Bachelard 1994; Woodhams 2004; Danaher and Briod 2005).
Synthesizing the reflective insight offered via the critique of these three studies
Together these three studies give texture to the areas of risk inherent in the inventive approach as identified above. Through critical engagement with these works, I have been able to see the complexity of the issues of researcher skill and sufficiency of data as they may pertain to my inquiry. The journey of creating a method that communicates at once the data and the researcher’s illumination of the data’s qualities, so as to bring them to the notice of others, seems dependent on openness, humility, flexibility and lightness of touch. In order for the appropriate means to be found the researcher must allow the interest that they have, which is gained through their own position of noticing, to be only a beginning. Within that acceptance there seems to be the likelihood that at some points understanding of why the process is happening the way it is, may be lost. In the space that Woodhams (2004) allows herself over the waterfall and the dead baby there is the possibility for insight. With Prendergast’s work (2006) the order of the poems seems to have at least in some part directed itself and that which thereby became the study. This is for example notable in the placement of the poem ‘grain’ between ‘poetics’ and ‘the spectator’ (p.376). If such an approach is to be taken then it must be accepted that the capacity of the researcher may run out before the potential of the data. Furthermore that somehow the very task of the researcher is to enable continuity of the meaning of the data, beyond their own capacity, by its resonance through sufficient communication of its true to life richness and simplicity (Lévi-Strauss 1966; Bachelard 1971; Silvers 1986; van Manen 1990; Bachelard 1994; Christians 2005).
It is not possible to stand very far back from ones own work, however it is possible, by looking via the work of others, to become conscious of areas to reflect on. When considering the quilt, the way it came about and what it became, I recognized that the impetus to create something of cloth was linked to my own skill level. It must be accepted that it might have been possible to express the data through a different medium, and that as proposed by Lévi-Strauss (1966) that medium would have yielded slightly differently formed data. Yet in reflecting through the perspective gained by the process of critiquing other studies, the appropriateness of this particular medium for this study can be seen to remain. It remains in the interweaving of the way in which pieces of cloth were patched together carrying the thread of their past as they spoke of the sensible affect of play on matter. It remains, in the freedom, which my ease in creating with cloth allowed for. This ease made the act of my creation, not heavy with attempt, but rather, free to express what came from the data in a process described as flow by Csikszentmihalyi (2002; 2004). It remains, in the possibility which these two factors enabled for the expression of the data in a way which was unconstrained (Maxwell 2006). This quality of unconstraint will, in the third section of this chapter, be visible as fundamental within the written analysis of the data.
The presentation of phenomenological technique within the approach of responsive inventiveness
This orientating reflection can be completed with description and assessment of the techniques that arose inventively. It is important to recognize that the means of presenting and analyzing the data that were created, are not themselves of a unique type. These techniques, which are shown to have taken form in the way that the data seemed to require, can be seen reflected in the phenomenological analysis methods identified by van Manen (1990) and also in those discussed by Finlay (2008; 2009). Furthermore they are not exclusive to phenomenology (Wertz 2005). At this point, having considered the context of using techniques within an inventive approach, it is important to dwell on these parts of the method that developed. As well as having come about in this study in response to the data, the techniques, by their particular nature, arguably contribute to the form of what might be shown in the data analysis.
The process of noticing and naming the prominent threads (for instance love and merging into) that seem to weave through the data can be understood as one akin to ‘thematic analysis’. The division of experiences, situations and qualities into their constituent parts, can yield great awareness through the sensitive noticing that is required within the phenomenological act of encountering afresh (Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Bachelard 1994; Heidegger 1996). For example in his exploration of the theme of pedagogic tact, under the subheading of ‘How does pedagogic tact manifest itself?’ van Manen lists, ‘tact shows itself as improvisational gift’ (van Manen 1990, p.168-169). Such a reflection would arguably not be immediately available, but rather requires a process that seems to be at once an unveiling and an allowing for what can be, to rise up of itself. Woodhams seems to indicate such a process when she explains that themes “in phenomenology, are conceived of as active rather than passive. They areboth our ardent desire to understand a phenomenon and the vehicle by which we come to an understanding of it” (Woodhams 2004, p.3).
Thematic analysis as a phenomenological method can be employed in a highly structured way, as is shown by Fereday and Muir-Cochrane (2006). Indeed van Manen (1990, p.78-79) recognizes the continuum of thematic analysis to the creation of computer programs, which aid the researcher in the task of thematic analysis. However he suggests that themes are merely a tool for getting at something “Making something of a text or of a lived experience by interpreting its meaning is more accurately a process of insightful invention, discovery or disclosure – grasping and formulating a thematic understanding is not a rule-bound process but a free act of ‘seeing’ something” (ibid. p.79, original emphasis). By this understanding thematic analysis can be seen to run through phenomenology and to be inherent to its duel process of questioning and creating (Lévi-Strauss 1966; Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Silvers 1986).
In the context of this study the quality of phenomenological thematic analysis that can be seen as, at once separating out and creating, is particularly relevant. Through his way of reflecting on the themes of his experience of music and then of the practice and definitions of ethnomusicology Titon (2008) can be seen to use the experience of played music to alter the sense of his professional practice. In exploring the touching points of art and research Elo (2009) refers to Heidegger’s differentiation of science from philosophy in that “science cannot question its own assumptions, the sensibility of its aspirations, without fundamentally changing itself, whereas philosophical questioning, or ‘thinking’, must constantly reflect upon every grounding gesture, its own sensibility and sense, and the very boundaries of sense itself ” (Elo 2009, p.5). The manifestation of thematic analysis as a process created by the form of the data, in my research log and the research quilt seems to reflect this very situation of thinking about thinking.
For example, in remembering the texture of the puppy and the atmosphere with which the girl was brushing over it with her sleeve as she played cards, as I responsively found and handled the piece of brown felt to represent it on the quilt, the merging between sleeve and puppy became known to me. The sense of merging directed me to cut the puppy out of the sleeve material and leave it there as part of the sleeve, but in doing so—in cutting and looking and seeing the puppy still joined into the cloth of the sleeve and feeling the correctness of this—I discovered more about the aspect (the theme) of merging and about this way of discovering. In this atmospheric way of remembering and comprehending, the aspect and qualities of merging were at once identifiable and creative of my awareness of the means of my perception of the data—I became aware that I discovered about merging by merging. The opportunity and requirement that has arisen, via the interweaving that developed between the data and the process, can be understood as the possibility of discovering the themes in the phenomenon in question and also the possibility of reforming the realities that might define the meaning of the data. This later possibility is the foundation upon which the in depth data analysis contained in the subsequent and final part of the chapter takes place.
In the application of the thematic insight given by the data and my creative noticing of it, to a search for concurrent thematic expressions in realities at large, the particular affect of the data on the sense of reality must remain evident. In this attempt, a pivotal factor can be expressed as a reinterpretation of what van Manen (1990) suggest as the somewhat unnaturally forced nature of carrying out thematic analysis. Under the subheading of doing phenomenological analysis ‘thematically’ van Manen writes, “Every phenomenological description has in some sense a forced quality to it ” (p.168). This can be understood in terms of revealing more than is immediate and also in terms of being disciplined and rigorous as a phenomenological researcher (see also Gadamer et al. 2004; Finlay 2008; 2009). However for this study the word forced highlights a dichotomous task—how to maintain the context of play, while carrying through the affect of the data in the expansive act of thematic analysis, how to express what is beyond ordinary expression without dis-spelling its essence? In the context of this inquiry an experienced quality expressible as long gazing into seems to be an apt reinvention of the described forcing. Such long gazing was found to occur as part of the degree of time that representing the data on the quilt took. I existed within the sense of the data as I sewed or drew or carefully wrote it onto the quilt. In this process I was not actively seeking, not forcing, and thereby not dispelling understanding, but rather almost incidentally coming to know and subtly with stitches or colour or positioning divulging that which was indeed beyond ordinary expression. Later, when meanings ascertained from the data were applied expansively to phenomenological descriptions by others, this way of long gazing was continued. The movement in myself which enabled me to perceive these new meanings in others’ descriptions could not have been found by forcing my perception of the data to give me greater understanding, for the only tools for such a forceful endeavour that I would have had at my disposal would have been ones that I could accumulate as I was. Rather, in order to perceive the meanings in this inquiry’s data and then in others’ phenomenological descriptions, I had to use eyes that had been cumulatively changed by gazing long into something that was previously only partly perceived.
As well as thematic analysis two further techniques of the five described by van Manen (1990) warrant discussion in relation to the way of working that has arisen within the inventive approach of this inquiry. As with the way that thematic analysis was identified, the first of these other techniques, can be named by its reflection in van Manen’s descriptions of analysis done analytically (p.170). The technique, however evolved within the process of data presentation and analysis, rather than having been directed by that described way of working. Therefore its form in this inquiry parallels qualities rather than attempting to actualize technique.
The process of re-presenting the observational anecdotes on the research quilt can be seen as one of expanding the meaning of the data by reworking it, simply in its placement and textured depiction. For example the use of various ribbons to attach the miniature copy of the big inflatable ball to the quilt, enabled this little representational ball to be rolled between them and in it’s rollings to become wrapped in different combinations of qualities offered by the ribbons. In playing with the ball in this way I came to realize more deeply that, just as each journey of the ball on the quilt enveloped it in the ribbons in different ways, the way that the atmosphere of play around the ball seemed to accumulate as it moved between the groups of children could never be deconstructed to its parts for it was created by their specific detailed layering combinations. This could be seen to reflect aspects of what van Manen describes as phenomenological analysis done analytically (p.170).
Within this inquiry the “ever-widening search for ground” which van Manen (1990, p.170) discusses as a component of working analytically, can be interpreted as the application of the thematic insight gained from the data to external phenomenological descriptions. In this process it is arguably important to be mindful of the interface between description and interpretation so as not to loose the sense of the data as this becomes applied. Finlay (2009, p.5) discusses the slightly uncomfortable fusion of description and interpretation in phenomenology, citing Heidegger’s view that everything we are conscious of has already been interpreted. It must be recognized that interpretation has occurred simply in noticing within the play environment and within myself as researcher. Interpretation has evolved with the representation on the quilt and the identification of aspects and forms. For example in the circular representation of the day that was all about wheals I found myself using old watch cogs because they were the closest things to wheels which I could find in my room at that time. This day later contributed to the identification of the aspect of ‘the transfer of played particulars through space and time.’ It was only at this point that I became aware of the aptness of using watch cogs. Yet this interpretive representation by what came to hand at the time, may well in some way have interacted with my awareness of this theme. Such interpretation can be seen to extend further, when the insight gained by exploring the data is applied by these themes to external concordant description in the ensuing part of this chapter. In the same passage regarding description and interpretation Finlay refers to van Manen’s (1990) suggestion “that when description is mediated by expression, including nonverbal aspects, action, artwork, or text, a stronger element of interpretation is involved” (Finlay 2009 p.5). She goes on to express his distinction between “interpretation as pointing to something” as “suited to phenomenological description” and “interpretation as pointing out the meaning of something by imposing an external framework” (ibid.). As such this passage of Finlay’s can be seen to express both the interpretive experience of working with the data through the quilt and the ethic of interpretation, which generated the intentional frame for analysis as documented in the subsequent section.
In terms of this study a metaphor for where conscience of description and interpretation must lie can be found in Abram’s challenging of “Socrates’ claim that trees have nothing to teach us” (Abram 1996, p.117) He writes
“To directly perceive any phenomenon is to enter into relations with it, to feel oneself in a living interaction with another being. To define the phenomenon as an inert object, to deny the ability of a tree to inform and even instruct one’s awareness, is to have turned one’s senses away form that phenomenon. It is to ponder the tree from outside of its world, or, rather from outside of the world in which both oneself and the tree are active participants” (ibid.)
The passage of Abram’s comes within a proposition of our human oneness with nature, in which he explores, amongst other things, the intuitive insight offered by phenomenology. In terms of this study description and interpretation must, to have meaning in its ever-widening search for ground, maintain the context of listening for the played-with-ness of things. This at once necessitates and brings about a position of remaining on the inside of experience, rather than imposing an external framework (van Manen 1990; Finlay 2009).
Lastly Van Manen’s (1990) description of working ‘Exegetically’ (p.171) needs to be considered in relation to the subsequent application of insight drawn from the data to concurrent descriptions of phenomena by others. Under the heading of Exegetically van Manen writes “a phenomenological description may be organized by mapping one’s writing in a dialogical or exegetical fashion with the thinking of some other phenomenological author(s) – in other words with the tradition of the field” (ibid.) Though in the “ever-widening search for ground” (p.170) by which the phenomenological insight gained from the data is expanded to reflect on phenomenological descriptions by others, includes writing by renowned phenomenologists it would be incorrect to describe this process as working Exegetically. Having listened to those in the phenomenological field discuss, contrast and critique one phenomenological text with another and against their own phenomenological insight (Dreyfus 2005; Frangeskou 2010; Thompson 2010) it would be presumptuous to suggest that the way of working with phenomenological descriptions that evolved within this inquiry is in any way exegetical. Van Manen suggests “The exegetical approach treats the works of other authors as incomplete conversational scripts that require a strong reading … in order to overcome the limits of those texts.”(p.172). The incorporation of phenomenological descriptions within the analysis process of this inquiry does not reflect the degree of familiarity with the complete works of the cited phenomenologist that would permit a claim towards exegetical technique. Rather, the descriptions worked with must be regarded simply in the light of what can be found by looking outwards through the lens of what has been given by the data. Within the following process of analysis the beginning point is not the incomplete or contradictory meanings within phenomenologist’s descriptions, it is rather the expansive meanings offered by the data to the lived experiences being explored in others’ descriptions.
Drawing together this reflective contextualization
This reflective retrospective has encompassed three orientational areas:
·Firstly, I explored my life experiences with a view to unveiling that which may have enabled me to respond inventively to the play instances of this inquiry’s data. The inclusion of such material within the text of this PhD arguably contributes to its situational value (Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Greenwood 2005; Holman Jones 2005). This exploration also provided the means to evaluate my position and possible needs in relation to this inquiry. As a result of this process I was for example able to distinguish with more certainty my own process of inquiry from the cathartic nature of Woodhams (2004) work.
·Secondly, contextualization was sought through retrospective critical engagement with other researchers’ means of working responsively to their data. This enabled both reflection of the relevance of working in this way and the possibility to identify risks and challenges presented by such inventive means. Together these two elements offered a frame through which to gain perspective on the processes of this inquiry.
·Thirdly, the techniques, which were drawn from the data as structure for its analytical exploration, were considered in relation to descriptions of similar techniques that are recognized within the field of phenomenological inquiry. This third area of reflective contextualization provided an arena for communicating the way in which handling the data within the research quilt interacted with both my awareness and my sensitization towards awareness.
In its position and in its content, this section has created a bridge between the presentation of data, wherein lies the beginnings of analysis and the following process of analysis, wherein meanings are explored and expansively applied. The three areas of contextualization, have highlighted the significance of the conjoined processes of description and interpretation as discussed by Finlay (2009) and van Manen (1990). Description and interpretation have been seen here to interact with each other in what it is possible to sense as a researcher through ones disposition and in what can be authentically described by words and other mediums. It seems that a researcher’s potential to describe and interpret is affected by their capacity to be moved to new insight by the data and that such capacity interacts with the frames of reference that are known and knowable to them. The reflective ground of biography and juxtapositional inquiries suggest that the researcher’s position is not governed by intention alone but intermingled with lived experience. Thereby the limits of my capacity as a researcher to describe and to interpret are inevitable. Yet these limits also provide their own framework, which aided by such contextual orientation as this, others can exceed. Furthermore each orientated phenomenological inquiry constituted of description and interpretation adds to the facets of what is known and knowable (van Manen 1990; Chawla 1994; Heidegger 1996)
The first section of this chapter attempted to communicate the way in which the method for data presentation grew from the data and the approach to it. The data was presented in the form that it seemed to indicate. While intent was towards presentation of the data, within the processes of presentation can be seen the beginnings of data analysis. The process of becoming aware of aspects or themes and moving through datais recognised as one of analysis (Woodhams 2004; Goodfellow 2005; Butler-Kisber and Poldma 2011). The beginning of such moving through is visible in the free placement of data on the quilt and in the reflective noticing thereof. The identifying of themes can be understood as natural, these are the aspects that reveal themselves, but also as bearing a sense of discord in the separation of one from another. This later situation is echoed in van Manen’s (1990, p.168) discussion of thematic analysis. However the very separation necessitated for data presentation seems to offer the forthcoming analysis the means of seeing the data as a whole. Each aspect identified as a means of describing the data, seems now, when positioned at an angle to the other aspects, to act as a refractive lens with the affect of re-mingling the data while maintaining structured starting points for exploration. Whereas in Section 1 aspects of the data were teased apart to allow visibility and communication, here the overlapping and interaction of the themes will be allowed in a way which illuminates these as windows by which to pass through or peep into the whole. As part of that process it seemed possible and appropriate to include examples of data that are not listed in the written part of Section 1, though they are present on the quilt. Furthermore the examples described under one aspectual heading in Section 1 may be explored here under a different aspect’s heading. In this way the risk of generalization which the isolation of one theme from another arguably poses (Kalverboer 1977; Hughes 2006), may be avoided.
As previously explained, the process of analysis for this study within a phenomenological structure, is not to show how the data concurs or contradicts theories of play, or childhood. It is rather to show how the data has shed light on the possible experience of played-with-ness as described by the identified aspects. My attempt in this section is not to show how any theoretical precepts let me understand the data but to show how the data has moved my perception. In her discussion of phenomenology Woodhams picks up on the equanimity which phenomenology offers between descriptions of experience. Reflecting on her own process she writes, “This research, then, is not a study of phenomenology and nor is it concerned with a detailed exploration of theories of beauty or of art nor with theories of evil nor with schools of psychology. Phenomenology is characterized by a particular equality. Descriptions of lived experience (written and painted) share the same level as a variety of theories and other writings” (Woodhams 2004, p.4). The process of analysis here can thereby be understood as one inherent to phenomenology and also particular to this inquiry’s intent towards representing the realities of play as equal to any other. The conjunction between the way of phenomenology and the ethic of this inquiry was the gift by which a phenomenological approach resonated.
The data will be explored in relation to itself, and I will attempt to show how my understanding has been affected by it. Further I will attempt to communicate how my understanding of the writing of others has been enlightened by this data. The aspects unveiled by the quilt will be applied to descriptions by others. While such descriptions naturally reflect back onto the meanings given by the data, the attempt has been to let such reflection generate expanded meaning rather than to alter the meanings of the data. In this endeavour I have found that works of Bachelard (1971; 1994) and Merleau-Ponty (1968; 2002) in particular echo the facets of the aspects and are somehow open to being seen through these lenses.
The outward ripple of the analysis process not only pertains to the application of data derived insight to external phenomenological descriptions, but also to the flow of meaning from one aspect into the next. The process seems to be in keeping with inquiry as it unfolds within phenomenological texts. The aspects accumulate into each other via their analysis, in the way of Heidegger’s (1996) and Steiner’s (2004) lectures and the explorative writing of Merleau-Ponty (1968) and Gadamer (2004). The aspect of love, while analyzed first in relation to itself, seems to infiltrate that of merging into, the two then together seeming to inform on that of the transfer of played particulars through space and time, and so forth. In this way love should not be seen as an aspect only in itself but rather a chosen entry point, as is perhaps its phenomenological description by the data. The culmination of this approach is that from the four aspects initially presented and analyzed a further became visible, having been uncovered by the experienced process of analysis. So as not to pre-empt awareness in the reader, that quality will be described at the chronological point in which it came to light during the analysis process.
The Cat will survive, though it is lost on the street, because it is filled up with love; each bear is different, though they may outwardly appear the same, because they have each been given a different child’s special love; in the land of love furruffled means love; the perceptibility of love in the picking up, holding, drifting with, the placing of things by playing children, and also somehow in the inseparable accumulated residue of such actions; the reflection of these experiences in stories such as the Velveteen Rabbit (Williams and Nicholson 2004) and Sophie’s Masterpiece (Spinelli and Dyer 2004). Together all this seems to begin a description of love as it manifests between players and things. These instances can be heard to speak of love as a conversation between heartfelt response and material alteration. Yet when I attempt to imagine the words of such a conversation, words seem crude and banal. Rather the attempt serves to illuminates the form of such conversations as not being carried by words, or words describing love, but of millions of other little interplays, the sense of which is descriptive of that love.
In the quality of love in the data there is almost a sense of something being enlivened through being played with. This is discernable in the children’s expressions of authenticity of the tangible manifestation of that love—for example, with furruffled and the Pudsey bear. What can be sensed is that these things are experienced as bearing and communicating back the quality of that experience. For instance when the girl is holding her blue cat, the drifting dreaming seems both to be being drawn from the cat and accumulating around the cat.
Searching out descriptions by others to which the sense of love from this inquiry’s data can be applied causes the theme to become “active” (Woodhams 2004, p.3) and thereby more describable. The sense of love that the data initiates, brings to mind three descriptive encounters.
Firstly Bachelard’s quote of Pierre-Jean Jouve “Poetry is a soul inaugurating a form.” (Bachelard 1994, p.xxii). To me these words now reflect this quality by which play seems to bring living existence to what it touches. Furthermore, that such creation of possibility in something by infiltrating it with ones playing being, or playful soul, has a certain quality of love. These words “Bunny’s feeding the field of hugs, (pause) feel Bunny’s hand, now feel Bunny’s ear, can you feel the difference? Bunny’s arm has the love feeling, and now Bunny’s whole body does too” seem to describe such an infiltration of love into things through play. The beauty of the puppy’s dirt and the atmosphere of the blue cat are perceptible as the affect of such permeation.
Then I recall the words of the Waldorph Steiner kindergarten teacher after I had explained my PhD to her. She said it seemed to be about situations similar to how some mornings after playtime in her kindergarten, it felt like the whole room had become golden, like the atmosphere of the whole space had been made gold by the playing. She used the word ‘ensouling’ to describe how the playing had affected the space and all that were/was in it.
Thirdly, from the word ‘ensouling’ I remember one of my favourite pieces of writing. The description, below, now seems to reflect the dissipation of the quality of both the puppies and of the blue cat into the air around, thickening it into an atmosphere in which play can create new possibilities to settle in spaces and around things.
“At first the woman used stone and pieces of firewood. She was restless, searching for the perfect material. In her search she carved on a single stand of her hair for over three years. The woman was seeking to shape pure essence, and in time, her work made use of fewer and fewer tangible materials until finally they were dispensed with altogether.
Then tiny and cautious, she began whittling the empty air with the sharpened edges of butterfly wings that she kept in a wooden rack beside the teapot. These new creations pleased her. She polished them with the tip of her finger until they were beyond reflection. Until light passed unnoticed” (Zink 1998, p.192)
Through the lens created by the data these three descriptions are re-encountered as expressive of the experience of love with things. Before having been moved by my research these descriptions were not immediately understood as such. However the quality of response in me then, and now as I reflect, is indeed tinged with a sense of love between player and things, as I now comprehend it. This is not a romantic love, but rather the love of encountering, of becoming one with. It is a love of dedication, not in the sense of struggling with, but in the sense of dedicating oneself to something, and of thereby creating a material or metaphysical dedication to the play that has transformed that something. This is visible as occurring incidentally in the accumulation of wear of the puppy, the cats, and the bunny. It is visible as more deliberate in the owning of the napkin via the picture.
In a phenomenological exploration of how children experience the world of things Langeveld (1984) writes about how love allows something given to be a gift rather than a mere present, saying that in giving a gift we give ourselves, we are “the thing.” He writes “The four-year-old child comes to her mother, who is busy with the newborn baby, and has a "treasure" in her hand. It is the tiny feather of a sparrow. "This is for little brother, because he is still so small." Now that is a true gift! It is not ‘le petit cadeau qui soutient I'amitié’ but rather, here we see ‘I'amour qui soutient les petits cadeaux.’ This feather is a sign of a union of love. The feather is small–so be it: Isn't the little brother small too? But how delicate and soft the feather is! It almost makes the beholder delicate and soft too!” (ibid.). Two minutes after reading these words my own child calls me to help her with her writing, after-which she stands twiddling her glittery pen with a long soft pink feather on its end, she strokes her face with it then asks me to bend down and gently strokes my face with it. My consciousness of that feather on my face held by my child suddenly converges with what I had just read. It leads me to wonder at the sense of openness in me that allows the feather to transmit its softness but also the softness of her and of the moment. Is that openness essential to being affected by an object in play and is it also essential to being affected as an observer of play. As an observer of play such softness might be composite of “phenomenological doublet of resonances and repercussions” (Bachelard 1994, p.xxii) and the evolution of empathy in pedagogic practice through phenomenological enquiry (van Manen 1990).
My sensitization through my research allows me then to question whether Langeveld (1984) falls short in not joining the experience of the self and love in the feather with his description of the child in different possible relationships to a slipper. Is there not the same kind of love in the playful openness by which a child comes to uses a slipper as a cradle? Both the feather and the cradle seem to call forth the sense of possibility in the child and both seem to become altered by the child’s fulfilment of the potential they find therein. This insight is offered by the quality of love in interactions with things in all the instances presented within this aspect. However the observation of the girl and her blue cat is particularly relevant. The many little compartments of the ‘lunch box’ are filled with different foods to be fed lovingly to the blue cat and the same cat gave of the shell and string bracelet to the girl. In this observation both acts are creative of and affected by the sense of love in the play between girl and cat. It would be conceivable for the compartments of the lunch box and the shell and the string to have been played with differently, as it would be possible for the feather and the slipper to be. Langeveld discusses the invitation which things offer, referring to Erwin Straus’ suggestion of the pathic quality of things, in the same way that playworkers (Maudsley 2007; Leichter-Saxby 2009) might cite Kyttä’s (2003; 2004) or Edensor’s (2005) work on affordances. He identifies the intermingling between what he calls the open sense making of play and the given qualities of objects and discusses the child’s putting of their self into an object. However the data of this inquiry brings to light something further, that when a child pours their imaginings into an object in response to its invitation there seems to be a sense of love or care. The little compartments of food that contribute to the sensed aspect of love in play with things, brings to question whether it would be possible for the making of a cradle in a slipper not to contain a similar quality as the giving of the soft feather to the tiny brother. The sense of this aspect has been presented through overt examples. Yet by this explorative analysis the developing understanding of love as an aspect of played-with-ness becomes visible as extending further than the instances of overtly loving play, into a care for what things are and what they become through our becoming one with them.
The possibility of love as a play carried continuance of self into thing finds reflection in what Bachelard (1994) writing about the poetic act of polishing the furniture. “And so, when a poet rubs a piece of furniture- even vicariously- when he puts a little fragrant wax on his table with the woollen cloth that lends warmth to everything it touches, he creates a new object; he increases the object’s human dignity”(p.67). Bachelard then quotes Henri Bosco “It was as though the radiance induced by magnetic rubbing emanated from the hundred-year-old sapwood, from the very heart of the dead tree, and spread gradually, in the form of light, over the tray. The old fingers possessed of every virtue, the broad palm, drew from the solid block with its inanimate fibers, the latent powers of life itself. This was creation of an object, a real act of faith, taking place before my enchanted eyes” (Henri Bosco, Le Jardin d’Hyacinth, p.192 in Bachelard 1994, pp.67-68).
The last sentence offers an expanded description of dedication to an object and of authenticity in the experience of the traces of that dedication, as suggested by this inquiry’s data. The creation of an object as an act of faith reflects the quality of love in the data as a sense something being enlivened through being played with. Bosco’s description of his eyes as “enchanted” is comprehensible as an expression of something similar to mine finding the puppy’s wear and dirt beautiful. The word enchanted however describes the potency of such occurrences and our recognition of the becoming of objects by such faithful permeation.
This expansive analysis causes me to think again about my other observations, which had not immediately presented themselves as examples of this theme. A question arises in me as to whether or not more violent acts in children’s play with things might dispel the quality of love. This leads me to consider the observation of the boy bashing the metal pole. He seems to have a relationship to the metal pole and to the process. I do not see the beginning of this relationship, but it grows through the play that I observe. The statement ‘it’s a story’ suggests something is being played which is more than is observable. There is an importance to the metal pole, which I pick up on to the extent that I feel it right to put the metal pole and the bits safely away after they have been left for some time, an act which causes a moment of recognition between us when I tell him. Is this not also an example of enchantment of something and by something through its enlivening?
Reflecting on this observation in this light, brings to awareness of the balance of influence between the child and the object on unfolding play. Rather than being static or equal this balance seems variable. The part that is feather of the bird, the part that is feather’s existence since, the part that is child’s openness to the feather and the part that is feather as affected by the child’s play are not the same in Langeveld’s (1984) observation as in mine. Such skewing of balance is illustrated in the observation of the child building towers out of plastic pots and being drawn to the box with the Geomag in it, or the observation of the child who captured the napkin with the cat on it with her picture. Here, these things that the children spontaneously discover, as a fit for themselves in that moment of play experience, seem to then be the greater creators of the unfolding play. In those two observations it is as if the children in their drifting incorporative atmosphere allowed the objects to form their play experience. The balance seems different between the boy and metal pole, wherein although all that was the metal pole co-formed the play, the boy seemed to put more of himself into the form of the play. Of course, my perception may have been misguided by the force of boy over the metal pole, juxtaposed with the meandering nature of the other two observations. However perhaps the act of force was itself affective of such balance. Though the affective balance between self and object is subtle and perhaps logically obvious, it is worth noting that this process seems to exist on a continuum.
Such a continuum might be created by the flexible interplay, the inter-affect, between player and things and the sense of love in that responsiveness. Thereby such a continuum might in its very existence be descriptive not, as I have suggested above, of a situation of a whole play interaction in relation to another, but rather of process. This perceptible reflexive partnership should perhaps rather be seen as continuance. Here continuance of self into things becomes redefined to necessarily and unavoidably include continuance of things into self, like interdependent breathing. This is indicated by the room becoming gold as it is permeated by and re-permeates the play, and by the accumulation of love in the cats, the bunny and the puppies. The moments long and short, strong and subtle, in each play where the player might have breathed in or be breathing out into the things, might be differentiable simply as a means of seeing the thing enchanting the player and the player enchanting the thing, as is a condition of love and a potential of play.
Exploring experiential continuance between players and objects within analysis of the aspect of love leads me to wonder about the identified aspect of merging into and its interaction with experiences of love within the data. In the context of the possible permutations of qualities of love in experiences of the creative communion of playing with things I reflect on the experience of making my quilt. I pinpoint the sense of rightness of finding that the thread that I had made the dandelion puffs with was gold and how this allowed me to link two observations with a song from my childhood.
“Dandelion yellow as gold what do you
do all day?
I sit and I wait in the long green grass till the children come and play.
Dandelion yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
I sit and I wait in the long green grass till my hair grows soft and white.
What do you do when your hair grows white and the children come and play?
They pick me up in their dimple hands and blow my hair away.”
The dandelion yellow as gold, waits for the children to come and play, the dandelion who’s hair has turned soft and white gets picked up by the child’s dimpled hand and has its hair blown away. When I see the words of the song they seem metaphoric of the intermingling of the overtly visible and subtly perceptible merging between children and things in the play instances of the data.
At one end of the gold thread of dandelion puffs is the way that a child’s relationship to her toy husky, transmitted through handling of it in play, seemed to fill the little house made of willow. I made the house of willow on my quilt using a scrap of material that I afterwards saw had tiny dandelion puffs printed on it. The other end of the gold thread leads to an observation in which I had described the tone of two boys play as surrounding them in a cloak or mantle of playful dandelion puff. The process of linking the two observations gave me a feeling akin to love for my quilt, a kind of reverence for what it was showing me. This experience seemed to echo the sense of atmosphere that the connecting of the two observations illuminated in each. Then I became aware that atmosphere had been perceptible as part of many of the observations in my data. This atmosphere seemed to carry and transmit the sense of merging into, as if ectoplasmic. In the exploration of atmosphere within analysis through the aspect of love such intermingling extended the possibility of what love in played-with-ness might be. Discussion there, moved towards a sense of merging between player and things, which, though founded on the quality of openness towards as love, could carry more than the emotional realm. My own experience of the interface between love and merging into in my handling of the data on the quilt focused my perception of the details of which such inter-permeation seems constituted.
In the example of the old cards that “Henry the Eighth played with” the way that the boy expresses the value of the cards can be seen as a conjunction of the cards and himself in his play experience. In expressing that Henry the Eighth has previously played with the cards, the boy is articulating his experience of the cards with a quality of Henry the Eighth merged into them. Yet he is also simultaneously creating the experience of the cards available to him and others.
When Grayson Perry’s Alan Measles, as read by Jonny Phillips expresses his horror at the fate of the bears in the Steiff museum, he speaks of life being breathed into bears by the child’s imagination.
“The horror, the horror, I am met with a panorama of hell, everywhere I see teddies and cuddly toys chained to wheels and wires acting out the same mawkish tableau over and over again, forced to do the company’s bidding, never to have true life breathed into them by a child’s imagination” (Perry 2010)
What the data of this inquiry brings to light is that such enlivening merging between things and the playing child seems to happen through the particular ever altering qualities of both thing and child as experienced in play. The significance of the thing, as it is and becomes, while it merges into and is merged into finds resonance in the following description.
The artist Lewty’s (2008) description of his encounter with the body of a dead lamb seems to show the affect of the quality of the form of something expanding perceptively into the atmosphere and into the player. He enters an old barn, “As I stood there, my eyes growing accustomed to the dimness, I saw something hanging in deep shadow on a wall to one side of the door; something I knew had once lived, but was now too still for life” (p.19). Here there is a sense of the something having imparted itself into the space around it. “I came closer and saw that it was a body of a large lamb, dangling stiffly from a nail…I knew that I had to make a drawing of it. I knew also that in order to see it properly I would have to turn it towards the light. But there was something else prompting me, less rational. I felt that unless I touched the carcass, not only could I not see it, but I could not know it, and so would not be entitled to draw it. The idea revolted me, yet conscience kept saying; this is the price you must pay for your drawing…I embraced the shrunken thing and turned it to the light. I cannot adequately describe the feelings of that moment. I knew it was a creature, not alien to me; and yet the reality which had been an animal was utterly changed. It hardly seemed like a once-living thing, now in decay, but rather a kind of nothing, become stubborn, clotted substance” (ibid.). Here the sense of the carcass from the description of the shadows around it, and its stillness seems confirmed as an echo of the state of the body, by what Lewty feels when he embraces it.
Lewty finishes the description of the experience by expressing the return to the “elements” of the lamb and his drawings. He writes, “So nothing is left now, of substance. Yet the essence of the experience remains: to question” (p.20). This dissipating of the physical, as if from the body of the lamb as it became less, became nothing, palpably into the atmosphere in the barn, into the man as he took the carcass to himself, and drew it, and then into memory and words, seems describable by the sense of merging into offered by the data of this inquiry.
The example of the pebblely from my research, suggests a playing child’s sensing of such gradual dissipation from the physical to the metaphysical. In this observation there is also an infiltration of that sense into the expressive word, when she is telling it to me. The clay oval becomes the pebblely and the play, all the while physically becoming less by the cumulatively play filled handling. It inspires a word and carries itself and thereby the play into a dusty bridge of wonder towards infinity. This example offers a way of accessing these words of Bachelard’s (1994) “When a relaxed spirit meditates and dreams, immensity seems to expect images of immensity. The mind sees and continues to see objects, while the spirit finds the nest of immensity in an object.” (p.190). These words seem to echo the girls playing experience of the pebblely becoming less and less and then being able to be thrown away. It is as if the possibility, which her playing merges into the clay, is experienced to extend beyond the pebblely and beyond herself. The dusty residue of the pebblely is the important quality, it is the possibility / the becoming / the what if and it carries the pebblely out of what will be left, which can then be thrown away.
In his exploration of how “ruined matter offers ways for interacting otherwise with the material world” Edensor (2005, p.311) suggests that jumbled, decaying out of place objects in spaces offer opportunities to engage with matter more playfully. This analysis of merging into as an experienced aspect of play with things, offers a suggestion as to why such material flux might invite playfulness. Could it be that we recognize the permeability and its possibility towards recreation as invitation to play because experience tells us that that is what playing does to the material world? Might the traces left by spiders or mould on mounds of paper that Edensor describes resonate as the affect of play similarly to the play of the sea on sand leaving traces (Schwenk 1996; Gadamer et al. 2004) and so inviting our play. In seeing the old playing cards as having been played with by Henry the Eighth the boy seems to be expressing that play makes things played-with and that this is then their appeal and their value. The dissipation of the pebblely and the visible accumulation of layers of play in the colour and texture of the puppy or in furruffledness all seem to be indicative of awareness of merging into as an atmosphere of possibility and recreation. The aspect of merging into in the data creates a consciousness in me of the possibility for the quality of what materially was, is and becomes to transpose itself into atmosphere and into player and into the world.
The transfer of played particulars through space and time
This aspectual view seems to extend insight offered by the previous two, as if expanding the panoramic by a further perspective. While merging into looked at the intermingling of player and things as a possibility, this aspect can be seen to trace trajectories of such possibility. Through analysis of the data via this frame, what can be viewed expands from the possibility of accumulation of play and love in the material, and the merging between substances that are both tangible and metaphysical. The focus comes to rest on a sense of particulars of play experience being held in material and spaces and thereby being available to re-experience.
Within the presentation of the data by this aspect there are two observations, which together suggest that the possibility that the sense and words ‘that’s mine’ has been carried from one child’s play experience through time to another child’s play experience. This seems to have occurred by and in relation to, little paper shapes pre-cut with shape cutters from myriad pretty papers. The first child wants to take the shapes home in a red box which seems to be the object that she wants most to take home, the little shapes acting as a reason for the box rather than the other way around. The sense of ownership in opposition to someone else’s ownership appears only when the second girl joins and wants to copy the first girl’s idea of making a magazine. Here my hands are involved in finding the little shapes which each girl then wants, then the girls end up helping each other find ones that fit with their magazines.
In the second observation, when I pick the shapes up to put them back in the ice cream tub the girl tells me they have been put there by another playworker for them (the children) to play with. Later, when I am interacting with the girl, each time I pick up a shape she says ‘that’s mine.’
Here we see how what could be called the spell of ‘treasure’ has grown around these little shapes. They seem, in being played with to have accumulated layers of treasured-ness, conceivably in their altering material composition and atmosphere, and discernibly in the experience of them. One is called to wonder as to how this treasure value occurred and accumulated. It is not possible to know for sure, it is only possible to sense the possible. In the prettiness of little shapes cut of different paper there is the possibility to select according to what catches the eye. There is also the fact that someone has cut the shapes in preparation for making something with. In seeing another touch the shapes or seeing a shape in something made by someone, i.e. each other’s magazine, there is an indication that that shape is valuable to them. The sense, which these observations create is that each layer of this quality of treasure spoke to and generated the next layer. These perceptible experiences of treasure seem to exist as a junction between the paper shapes’ periphery to and formation of play experiences.
The shapes are a means of taking ownership of the box, yet selection of which to put into the box is carefully considered.
The shapes are one of the things that are available and used to make the magazine/s, yet they become a fundamental in the play.
By the second observation, this quality of treasure and ownership seems to be the very quality of the experience of the little shapes.
This dichotomous relationship between the peripheral and integral is further illustrated in the examples of my finding the little empty sea snail shell on the floor when the children are playing around their snail collections. The peripheral space of awareness can be seen to have been affected by the central point around which the group of children’s play is unfolding. Interestingly the snails themselves while being played with, seem also to be the medium rather than the be-all of their playing.
The interplay between what is being played and what is then the residue holding possibilities for future play is also visible in another example, presented firstly within the aspect of merging into, but also relevant to this theme. I see the left over pencil sharpenings which had been the play’s focus when they were made three weeks previously at the same time as I notice the girl, who had sharpened them, drawing a tiny flower head on a piece of paper whilst leaning on the corner of the table where I had placed the little Lego flower in the red Lego hat for her towards the end of the same pencil sharpening play instance. It seems like the space, the Lego flower that was there, the flower she is drawing, the sharpenings, her play and my perceptions are all interweaving. It seems that the corner of the table inspires another layer of flowery play, which I recognized because I have been party to what was played there before. The sharpenings have become just something that is there, the residue, delicate but still intact. Yet my only noticing of those since the day they were made coincides with the awareness of the flower being drawn where the Lego flower was. The space of time between the first and the second observations causes my sense of wonder at this happenstance.
Within the observation of the day when everything was about wheels there is the part where the younger boy roles the purple cardboard tube up and down the older boy’s front talking about making him into a (skate)board. This proposes an additional facet to the way that played-with-ness may extend and envelop things. Here we see the boys who have been carrying their atmosphere (which seems to me like a mantle of playful dandelion puffs) throughout all they are playing, now incorporate the surrounding atmosphere of wheels. In this intersection the purple tube seems to be imbued with the special quality with which they have surrounded themselves, at the same time as demonstrating impact on the form of their play by the surrounding feel of wheels. This example points towards a processes by which play might offer, by myriad such intersections, infinite possibilities to the becoming of objects.
The observation of the play with the word ponytail again shows such inter-re-creation of things in play, this time ideas and words, laughter, volume, excitement, people and the space around. The funniness of going to the toilet and washing hands and cooking mixed with the girls’ relationship to the playworker inspires the word play with her ponytail. The excitement perhaps initiates, and or swells with, the magic of unicorns and all this spills out of the kitchen in the physical bounciness and loudness, which then fills the space.
These instances seem to confirm that the permeation, accumulation and dissipation sensible in the experiences of play with things are not constituted of vague essences but of the specifics of experiences themselves. Such a suggestion was initially offered through analysis of the data through the aspect of merging into. However what has come to the fore through this aspect’s different focus is the possibility for such particulars to be discernable to our peripheral perception and our experience.
If the possibilities offered by these observations are taken as the lens through which to see, they provide the opportunity to uncover new meanings in related phenomenological descriptions by others.
In the chapter about houses in The Poetics of Space Bachelard quotes Theophile Briant “to synthesize the little Camaret peninsula for me, Sait-Pol Roux took a sheet of paper and drew a stone pyramid showing the hatchings of the wind and the roll of the sea. Underneath it he wrote: ‘Camaret is a stone in the wind on a lyre’” (Briant 1961, p37, in Bachelard 1994, p.64) Bachelard then suggests, “We should find ourselves indulging in similar daydreams if we started musing under the cone-shaped roof of a wind-mill. We should sense its terrestrial nature, and imagine it to be a primitive hut stuck together with mud, firmly set on the ground in order to resist the wind. Then, in an immense synthesis, we should dream at the same time of a winged house that whines at the slightest breeze and refines the energies of the wind. Millers, who are wind thieves, make good flour from storms.” (Bachelard 1994, p.64). Here in the Briant quote is the word synthesis, which is then echoed by Bachelard in the idea of ‘immense synthesis’. What is it that affords the possibility of this immense synthesis, could it be the openness of plays antennae to pick up peripheral / integral possibility from the atmosphere? For surely dreaming of winged houses is play filled in its evocation?
This passage of Bachelard’s when seen through the lens of the data as developed above offers the question as to how we might come to indulge in similar poetic day dreams when under ‘the cone-shaped roof of a wind-mill’. When Bachelard suggests that Saint-Pol Roux ‘follows the working draft of these metaphors to build his house’ it could be deduced that the poetic response to such a roof is held in the idea of it. However the idea and indeed the poem must surely have been passed through the cone-shaped roof. The sense of Chartres Cathedral is not fashioned merely by its shape or size, nor arguably simply in the depictions on the carved stones, but also by the thoughts of the stonemasons and the steps and touches and prayers of all those who have been inside. Would a mill’s cone shaped roof inspire daydreams if it had been prefabricated in a mould and had not felt the wind turning its sails. How is the immense synthesis facilitated if not through the stonemason inspired by one roof to make another, transferring the sense of one through their creating hands to another? How is the atmosphere under one roof evolved if not by the poetic and playful daydreams of millers and visitors and of the wind? Is this layering not then vital to the immense synthesis that conjoins Camaret with cone-shaped windmill roofs and the music of the wind. Might this process not be akin to the peripheral sensing perceptible in the play experiences described above? For instance, the way that the corner of the table where the Lego flower in the little red hat has been, seems three weeks later to inspire the drawing of a tiny flower head.
To follow ‘the working drafts of these metaphors to build his house’ can thereby be understood as building a house out of that which we sense under the roof, which is more than a literal description can satisfy. It can be seen as building a house out of all the possibility constructed into the roof and imparted to our sense of it. A sense which the poet draws on in creating the metaphor to express the more than of our experience so that it can be shared with others and so with the roof, the lyre, the wind, and music. Hereby the cone-shaped roof of a windmill is similar to The Silk Brocade (Batt and Griffin 2000) quoted from in the presentation of data via this aspect of the transfer of played particulars through space and time. In the story the old lady feels peace when she sees the picture. She speaks of the picture and with the help of her son re-imagines it as a brocade which she has the skills to make. The brocade is stitched incorporating the old lady’s tears and blood, then taken by the wind to the sun maidens who imitate it. From this imitation the brocade seems to be given the possibility to manifest into a land that can be lived in by all who’s hearts it has touched.
In writing about poetry as a form of play Huizinga says “To understand poetry we must be capable of donning the child’s soul like a magic cloak and of forsaking man’s wisdom for the child’s” (1970, p.141). This statement is offered a context by my description of the atmosphere of the two boys playing as ‘a mantle of playful dandelion puffs’. Perhaps the cloak, the mantle, which allows for poems to be written, is the awakeness of the player to the possibilities that are available from that which surrounds them. The more static factuality of ‘man’s wisdom’ would perhaps, in its more certain quality, not wrap itself to the form of the player. The observation of the two boys seems to show a conjunction and materialization of the quality of their play and the sense of wheels that is all around that day. From the explorative analysis that has unfolded it is possible to propose that in play we can absorb that with resonant qualities of possibility and mix and create more of these.
In her book about Goddesses Jennings (2005) offers Air Goddess Stories and Exercises. In a suggested meditation she says ‘Allow the wind goddesses to give you energy, allow them to inspire you, allow them to let you fly to new landscapes.’ (p.65). Surely in order to do this we must experience the wind to some extent playfully. Then in our awareness of the wind we may notice, through our senses and our imaginings, all that it might carry to us and all that it might (through letting it carry our imaginings) allow us to reach. It was the wind that carried to my ears the delighted words of the man who found the stone that must have been a ‘Roman brick’ and then the word ‘Zeeebra’ from the lady who was helping him build. The wind carries sound and smell and warmth and cold, it is formed by and forming of what it encounters (Schwenk 1996). It can move things as light as sound and as heavy as buildings. Perhaps in its substance and insubstantiality the wind provides resonant imagery of the myriad intersections between our senses of the world, our imagination and the experiences and expressions of others as combining in the intersubjective atmosphere of our play with things.
The residue of play is not the play, yet is of the play
As stated when introducing the presentation of the data, this noticed aspect is linked with ‘The transfer of played particulars through space and time’. Discussion here can therefore be seen to compliment that within the preceding aspect. In this entire part of the chapter, where the aspects presented in Section 1 are revisited and explored, the interconnected overlapping nature of themes within data (van Manen 1990) has been allowed to carry the process. However the relationship between the transference and the residue can be seen as more particularly interdependent, for the residue both provides context to and gains its relevance from the transference.
This being the case, the wind with which analysis within the frame of ‘The transfer of played particulars through space and time’ was closed, provides an apt/poetic opening for exploration through the focus of this partnered aspect. If we consider our experience of a gust of wind, is this experience altered by what that gust carries with it, or even what has caused that gust. Is there a difference in experience when a hat is lifted off by a gust from a fast moving car, or lifted off by a gust of a stormy day? This is perhaps too crude an example. Yet this aspect can be understood as situated between such an example of the obvious, and that of ever present forms made in the air by differently played instruments and different vowels, which are only made visible with the addition of gas or flame (Stülken, in Schwenk 1996, plates 61-70).
When something is altered in a way that is sensible by the actions of playing, initial logic suggests that such material alterations could equally have been made by actions, similar or dissimilar within other situations. Yet the data of this inquiry seems to suggest that in terms of experience with things in play the unique subtleties of the way that such alterations occurred may be of significance.
The data presented within this aspect offers three intertwining qualities of such experienced significance.
Firstly, there is experience that things are affected by play and that this affect cannot be artificially reproduced. If the flowers had been picked and put in the tin it would have been experientially different than the tin eating the flowers. However the flowers being in the tin afterwards are not exactly the tin eating the flowers. If they had got into the tin by some other means they would not have been the result of that play. Do the stalks show that they have been eaten? Perhaps their way of being in the box only suggests that they have got there through something playful. Yet they would not have got there in the same way if they hadn’t been eaten. Here we see the appeal of the possible which Edensor (2005) identifies in the displacement and decay of objects and the juxtaposition of sensing but not knowing for sure what they might have lived. Edensor suggests that such situations cannot be artificially produced, for instance in art installations designed to bring about a particular response. The data of this inquiry suggests that the sense that it can’t be faked is because the residue is created by the means by which it has been created. This is expressed in words about furruffled and about the Pudsey bear.
The way that the chalking of bodies and houses and names happened spontaneously all at once is differently representational of this quality. Had one child made an image, and then another come and made another and then another, the marks left on the ground would have been the result of different play. While it cannot be proposed that the ‘all at once’ of this play happening would be obvious to someone who came across the chalkings later, they are nevertheless the result of this play and were experienced at the time as the creation of each among others. It is probable that had the chalking been created within different play the visible residue would also have been different.The latter example is also an illustration of the second aspect of experienced significance. Namely that the experience of the affect begins before it is sensible by our commonly recognized senses. This is most clearly brought to light by the boy who knows that each child’s bear is different but maybe does not trust that each will yet be obviously different enough to be returned to its rightful owner. It is also demonstrated in the way that the ferret smells of cat firstly to the boy and then to me. However the example of the chalking offers an identifiable way of grasping interplay between matter and player as the object is formed in play, first and continuously in the experience of the player and therefrom in ways which are physically more obvious. The chalked brother is already a living expression before the x is added to signify trouble; the x can be understood as a manifestation of what is already being experienced in the playful creation. The example of the girl and her puppy demonstrates that process occurring in a more gradually accumulative way. The swing of the (skate)board into becoming scratched as it is taken from club and the creation of ‘four-way fire’ in the pots seem to sit between incidental accumulation of residue and deliberate representations as part of the play. Whether the intent was to mark the board is impossible to know, as is whether ‘four-way fire’ was at any point a plan, or was, as it seemed, an accumulation of the positioning of pots as part of play. That the ‘four-way fire' was recognized as the achievement of the play is easier to ascertain.
The girl and her puppy illustrate the third identified quality of experienced significance, namely that of re-creation. The example of the chalking is one of creating, of the interplay between the player/s and their chalking as the depictions taking form on visibly empty tarmac. However the example of the puppy shows the way that the layering of the affect of the play over occasions is at once building up and wearing away. Just as described in the dialogue about furruffled, the puppy’s fur has become less of what it once was by becoming the result of the play it has been party to. Furthermore in this ‘being party to’ or taking part in play the erosion is not a meditated feature of the play that has caused it. While the chalking, and the fire in the pots and the marks on the board, may have come about in partnership with the playing, the transmutation of the puppy has not been deliberately caused. Yet as illustrated with these examples and with that of the value of played with cards expressed by the boy saying that they are the ones Henry the eighth played with, the incidental reforming seems experienced as of the essence.
These three proposed qualities of experienced significance in the way that play affects what is played with, combine to offer the means through which to appraise concurrent descriptions by others.
In the chapter ‘Indirect language and the voices of silence’ in Signs Merleau-Ponty (1964, pp.39-83) explores questions that can be understood as relevant to this theme in my data. Showing art as a signifier of expression with similarity to language, he explores different facets of the communicated style of the artist. The proposition that real counterfeiting is impossible reflects the suggestion from the data that the affect of play cannot be faked, and also that the playing self is implicated in creation and re-creation. Merleau-Ponty writes “And if the counterfeiter succeeded in recapturing not only the processes but the very style of the great Vermeer’s, he would no longer be a counterfeiter; he would be one of those painters who painted for the Old Masters in their studios” (ibid. p.61). This is understandable by the insight that Merleau-Ponty provides regarding what a painting holds in its representation of the artists style. Namely, that composite in a painting is the self of the artist expressed through the detail of his brushstrokes. In this chapter the expressed self of the artist is explored in terms of his/her cultural situation (see also Heisenberg 2000), and the way in which the brush stokes of the artist are a unique expression of himself via his body. Dichotomously this uniqueness is sensible to us through our corporeal existence, and connects the artists to all others in their creative expression. “As the artist makes his style radiate into the very fibers of the material he is working on, I move my body without even knowing which muscles and nerve paths should intervene, nor where I must look for the instruments of that action” (ibid. p.66). Bearing all this in mind while considering the enveloping atmosphere in which the chalkings happened, it is possible to suppose that ‘those painters who painted for the Old Masters in their studios’, were themselves composite in the paintings and were also by their association painting within a conjoined frame.
Through the lens of my data my reading of this chapter is given greater potential. The interchange between what exists before and what exists as residue of play, visible, touchable, hear-able and available to taste and smell, offers me insight into the processes described by Merleau-Ponty. In the following passage Merleau-Ponty points to the myriad experiences of the painter’s life, which by his living nourish his art.
“If we take the painter’s point of view in order to be present at the decisive moment when what has been given to him to live as corporeal destiny, personal adventures of historical events crystallizes into “the motive,” we will recognized that his work, which is never an effect, is always a response to these data, and that the body, the life, the landscapes, the schools, the mistresses, the creditors, the police, and the revolutions which might suffocate paintings are also the bread his work consecrates” (ibid. p.64).
The data of this inquiry brings focus to the moments of creative experience through which the painting has been painted and which must therefore be in the material that is imbued with the painter’s style. Without these lived moments the cultural and physical situation of the painter becomes generalized or automatized. In fact the painter’s self cannot actually be there sensible to us as they are in the painting. Furthermore in considering this, insight is offered to Merleau-Ponty’s suggestion that the artist must not be predominantly conscious of creating great art (1964, p.62). Analysis of data within this aspect and those previous indicates that value is imbued in things by the irreplaceably incidental change to matter as it is played with. While the painting could not be deemed unintended, its resonant authenticity could be seen to be related to its creation within and as part of the moments of experience of the artist as he paints. Thus, this writing of Merleau-Ponty’s has been problematized by reading it through the lens of this inquiry’s data. Furthermore exploration of this text has yielded further awareness of the relevance of the integrity of the lived moments of affect on matter. It seems that the out-of-moment-ness of consciously striving to create great art may be experienced in response to such art later.
From that awareness I come to wonder at the perceptible recognition and valuing of the residual affect of playing on matter. In closing of this chapter Merleau-Ponty (1964, p.83) sums up the non-formulaic nature by which the statements of our expressions occur. In conjunction with Edensor’s (2005) work and Alan Measles’ horror at the repetitive tableau through which the chained Steiff bears are forced (Perry 2010), a question re-arises for me. In the valued experience of the impact of play on matter might there be a peripheral sense of the unfettered possibility with which play enlivens. Such a possibility is already touched on in the closing paragraphs of the previous aspects. Through exploration via this theme the question has become more explicit. The specifics of the question can be seen to have developed through application of the insight offered by the data to writing outside the context of children’s play. Yet by the perspective of this development the question can now offer greater possibility to the meaning of a text regarding children’s play.
Goldman (1998) undertook in depth ethnographical research into the myth mimesis and make-believe in the lives of the Huli, through the window afforded by the children’s play. In the closing chapter he explores the nature and role of the trickster in Huli mythology and in the play experience of the children. Here Goldman refers to the oft-quoted Heraclitean extract 52 (Heraclitus and Kahn 1981) and writes “Children are kings of the universe because, like tricksters, they control transformations between reality and make-believe ‘like you can’t imagine’” (Goldman 1998, p.257). Is this control afforded by a facility with the means of transformation? Is the imprint of play one of imbuing possibility and as such of a quality, which cannot be replicated by any formulaically attempted recreation? Does freedom of experiencing reality, things, and moments lie in our possibility to playfully affect. Might that be part of our peripheral awareness and thereby implicated in our valuing of this affect. If this might be the case there is repercussion for the way we treat the play environment of the child. These matters will be further explored within the concluding chapter.
An intertwining thread – a culminating aspect of data analysis
It would have fulfilled the requirements of phenomenological enquiry to end my analysis above, if the above had been the extent of what I had been able to uncover. However in allowing myself to be affected by the data as I worked with it, I became aware of a thread, which seems to run through it all. The thread became visible as inherent to every part of the inquiry. Furthermore the thread seemed to be present in and have implications for the overarching frames of phenomenology, playwork and play as they combine for this study.
Therefore I will attempt to communicate the process of discovering this common thread as it occurred. I will tell of the instances within the data wherein my awareness of this was awakened. I will explain the way that I was moved to a questioning of such experience in the very relationship between people and matter, and of the role of play within that conjunction. I will trace my search using the starting point of my data instigated awareness in presentation and analysis, towards finding written examples of other peoples experience and discussion of this quality. I will critique these texts by bringing my data generated awareness to bare on them and use the facets (Richardson and St. Pierre 2005, p.963) which these texts provide to extend understanding of the meanings of my data. Throughout I will attempt to communicate the way in which the presence and nature of this common thread within the whole inquiry; subject, process, data and frames, seems to confirm the inevitability of the constant interplay between these parts. The overlapping and interchange has been both an inspiration to understanding and a challenge to the organization and presentation of the study. Furthermore the merging and mirroring has, throughout, given me both a sense of authenticity to what was being discovered and a watchfulness against creating a self involved daydream. Unveiling the common thread came with recognition of its intrinsicness to that convergence, for without it each part of the study would not relate to itself or to the other parts. The section thereby culminates with suggestion of the reverberation of awareness of this thread towards playwork practice and understanding of the over arching frames of play, playwork and phenomenology. These concentric ripples of analysis will then be further explored through the evaluative remit of the concluding chapter.
Before telling of the instances within the data that began to illuminate this interweaving thread, and before naming it and describing its experiences, it is important to communicate the challenges presented by the process of unveiling a deeper layer of the aspects analysed above. There was the temptation to finish the analysis with the exploration of those aspects and simply not to attempt to tell of this further layer of awareness. However to do so would have contradicted the nature of phenomenological inquiry that sensitizes (Merleau-Ponty et al. 1968; Bachelard 1971; Silvers 1986; Bachelard 1994) and thereby holds the possibility affecting empathetic practice (Silvers 1986; van Manen 1990; van Manen and Levering 1996; Titon 2008).
As will be shown, the recognition of, and attempt to meet, the challenges are visibly part of the very phenomenon in question. Therefore the discussion below rather than being superfluous, adds depth to awareness of the interweaving of this common thread within the inquiry and further.
When something is identified that is common, or essential to, sets of experiences, it is possible to see the nature of that something become the focus, or the important finding of the inquiry. That occurrence is perhaps linked to our human urge to understand the big questions and to have structures that can be applied to new encounters so as to make them understandable to us (Bateson and Bateson 1987; Jung 1995). The manifestation of such a process can be seen in the valuing of research that is generalizeable and in the creation of theoretical understanding (Crotty 1998; Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Greenwood 2005). While the development of reference points for understanding in that way clearly has benefits, the difficulty with such an approach seems to lie in that perception of what does not fit, can be limited or altered by what is being looked for. That such possibility exists within the playwork arena is highlighted with the critique of the theory of play types (Hughes 1996b; 2006) in the literature review of this inquiry.
The tug and pull of universal essence versus discrete experience is also visible between the writings of fundamental phenomenological thinkers (Husserl 1980; Stewart and Mickunas 1990; Finlay 2009). Abram (1996) discusses the way in which Husserl, though accepting that the body was crucial to our experience of phenomena, remained resistant to giving up on a self beyond the body. Abram then summarizes the sacrifice which Merleau-Ponty’s location of the “body itself as the very subject of awareness” (p.47) requires. He expresses this sacrifice as the relinquishing of “any hope that philosophy might eventually provide a complete picture of reality (for any such total account of “what is” requires a mind or consciousness that stands somehow outside of existence)” (ibid.). Abram continues, explaining what Merleau-Ponty’s embodiment gives us in exchange. “Yet by this same move he opens, at last, the possibility of a truly authentic phenomenology, a philosophy which would strive, not to explain the world as if from outside, but to give voice to the world from our experienced situation within it, recalling us to our participation in the here-and now, rejuvenating our sense of wonder at the fathomless things, events and powers that surround us on every hand” (ibid.).
This sentence of Abram’s seems to reflect the way in which awareness and understanding unfolded through all the processes of this study. The last part “recalling us to our participation in the here-and now, rejuvenating our sense of wonder at the fathomless things, events and powers that surround us on every hand”, can be seen to reflect every part of this inquiry. Namely, the interweaving layers of the child playing with things, the playworker / researcher observing in awe, and the spaces of uncertainty that call forth and respond in creative interaction, which all became part of my handing of the data. The way of knowing which can be found reflected in Abram’s words seems to be one, not of looking for the full stop, but rather looking to inspire the next sentence. In that there is acknowledgement of the possibility of infinite re-creation, a recognizing that there is no finality to experience, and thereby no finality to the layers of and ever changing nature of phenomena (This possition is reflected in, Bachelard 1971; Bateson and Bateson 1987; Cobb 1993; Heidegger 1996; Woodhams 2004; Fisher 2008; Kilvington 2010)
My task here is therefore not to focus in on something, which seems to be within every part of this study, and to examine it in separation, but rather to communicate how the noticing of this interweaving thread illuminates further that which it is a part of. The relevance of such an approach can be further evidenced by considering the nature of the data and the handling that it inspired. Let us consider the observation of the huge inflatable ball that journeys between groups of children seeming to gather their play to itself. The ball seems to accumulate the children’s climbing onto it, their jumping on, their slipping of, their various balancing, their spinning of it slowly in a paddling pool, followed by their moving of it by crawling on it. Then these playings that the ball seems to have gathered show themselves re-played, incorporated and extended as the ball meets and becomes part of the playing that is happening on a water covered mat. Were these forms of play with a 1 metre inflatable ball in summer to be listed in separation to each other the form of what would be communicated would be completely different. Let us consider the research quilt and the way that the presence of dandelions in two observations, and my intuitive linking of both through a song from my childhood, brought to my consciousness the quality of atmosphere in many observations.A focus zeroed-in on dandelions or atmosphere could become removed from the context of the play to which these characteristics here pertain.
If one holds in mind Bohr’s (1958) proposition that life can only be understood in something alive, together with my instinct to retain the play-filled nature of my data, through playful handling, the congruence evident in every layer of this study seems perfectly sensical. It seems of no surprise that the discussion above of the way in which I must attempt to communicate this perceived interweaving thread is itself imbued with the quality of what must be communicated. The thread that I recognized through analysis of the data within every presented aspect, and also within every process of the research is experience of detail. Experience of detail is also evident in the dichotomy of essence and experience.
The significance of detail to the insistent interweaving of data and process within the study is offered context by the previous discussion of Abram’s (1996) proposition of phenomenological authenticity in Merleau-Ponty’s embodiment of understanding. The authenticity offered by embodiment seems echoed in the inescapability that the nature of this inquiry’s subject must affect its process and that the process can communicate this subject. In the inquiry it seems that authenticity rests in the phenomenon’s retention of its own quality so as to reach inside those who encounter it and thereby spread its form, all the while having its form extended by the new connections. The means by which that happens is arguably through the experience and therein the unavoidable alteration by and of detail.
The challenges presented in the task of unveiling the interweaving thread, experience of detail, can thus be understood as fundamental to the experience itself, and integral to its situation within the study. The above exploration has highlighted the qualities with which investigation of the experience of detail must proceed, in terms of this inquiry, in order to meet the inherent challenges. These qualities can be summarized as; that of retaining the context of experience of detail from which the awareness stemmed, and that of recognizing the transmuting nature of experience of detail and the possibilities and difficulties which that brings. Having identified these qualities the attempt will now be to apply them to the challenge of analyzing experience of detail in its many repercussions within the inquiry.
Awakening to the experience of detail
Within the research data the following instances are those, which started to awaken me to and illuminate the nature of the thread of ‘experience of detail’.
The words ‘it’s a story’ said by the boy who was bashing the metal pole, is a detail which momentarily illuminates the aspect of the boys experience that is both beyond my ability to fully see, and which I yet sense peripherally so that it transmits itself in the quality that I perceive interwoven in the whole of that play. The tiny red Lego flower in the tiny hat that I place on the table corner for the girl, who then weeks later draws a flower with a tiny head when standing at the same corner, is the detail which connects the two observations, the space, by play, through time. The nature of the girl’s placement of her toy husky in the willow house, and the repeated act of placement, via which her friend seems to both recognizes and reinforced the importance of the husky, can be seen to expresses and spread the detail of the owner’s relating in play to the husky. The atmosphere which I have perceived in the play between the older boy and the younger boy before I observe the younger boy rolling a purple tube up and down the older boy’s front and talking about making him into a skateboard, has a quality which I best express as a cloak or mantle of playful dandelion puffs. It is that detail as discussed above, that enables me to playfully link on my quilt this observation with the one about the husky in the willow house, this availing me of the realization of the significance of atmosphere in the data of my research.
These examples communicate my sensing of the way in which children’s play seems to become its very particular play by its detail. This detail seems, in these examples, to be passing in and out between the child and the environment through the conduit of the self-evidential rightness and continuance of the play’s moments. These moments comprised of detail, at the same time as seeming replete, direct the continuation of the play. In these examples play seems all at once, to be, to spread its bounds via detail and to draw its next breath from the detail inside and outside the child. The later example may suggest that the subtle detail, which someone in the presence of children’s play is able to sense, belongs to the play and is created by the play, yet is comprised of more than the actions of the play though it is not separable from them. These examples shows how those details, constituting the atmosphere can then traverse into another playful interaction with things, through stored experience and re-experience or extended experience of them.
The way in which the boy expresses and augments the value of the old playing cards in response to the girls delight at the new playing cards by saying that they were the ones Henry the Eighth played with, can be seen as responsive to the layers of previous playing held within and beyond the wear of the cards. At the same time he is adding further to the quality of that detail in the naming of Henry the Eighth. This can also be seen in the ferret smelling of cat. In the way in which the girl brings her puppy to her face and the way in which her arm passes over it as she plays cards there seems to be a reflection of the precise accumulated quality of the dirt, created by actions of similar nature and now transmitting a further inspiration/ or attraction for such. In this way, as discussed previously, the puppy gains another layer of detail. The fur becomes less the colour and texture that it was and yet more of the detail of the puppy’s play life with the girl. These examples suggest to me the interweaving of children’s experience of detail with their experience of matter. The first time I see the puppy I find it beautiful and I later sense this as an actualization of Bachelard’s words “we can sense how a human being can devote himself to things and make them his own by perfecting their beauty. A little more beautiful and we have something quite different” (Bachelard 1994, p.69). In this passage of Bachelard’s making something beautiful and becoming one with it are indicated to be one and the same. The nature of this process is expressed to me by the discussion concerning ‘in the land of love furruffled means love’. When I enter this conversation in on the quilt it creates an understanding in me of the detail that the words of the data carry with them, not in their separable meaning but from the way they were gathered and presented. Here it is possible to see detail as it interweaves through the layers of the inquiry, changing what it touches and those who experience it.
That is further illuminated by the example of the girl showing me the bracelet on her wrist made by her blue cat for her. The shell and the string on the girls wrist are no longer only a shell and string, they are a bracelet, they are a bracelet made for her by her cat, they are a gift in the same way as Langeveld (1984) describes the little feather gift from the child to the baby brother. When I remake this bracelet on the quilt the quality of the twist of the snail shell and the twist of the string bring awareness of spirals as a means of entering into something. I remember what I have read about spinning dervishes bringing spirit into matter via their dancing (Purce 1974; Guilbaud 2008). The spiral joins the girl’s blue cat with my daughter’s cat with an additional thread, because of the spiral on my daughter’s cat’s tail. The actual threads blend with the other conceptual threads that join the two cats, threads of; seeming to be loved and to transmit that love, of shape, and of the atmosphere when the cats were held.
Further analysis yields further detail and therein further description of experience of detail. Everything of the string and the shell still potentially exist as they are on the girl’s wrist, in the same way they did before and when they were found either in response to the idea of making a bracelet or creating of their togetherness that idea. However, perhaps in their configuration they have become less what they were and more what they are, what they might then become is also perhaps affected. Furthermore the bracelet on her wrist holds the detail of being a gift from her cat. The shell’s and the string’s potential to be a bracelet from cat needed the quality that was brought by cat as experienced by the girl. The combining of qualities of the shell and string with that of ‘loving gift from the cat’ is carried forward into my experience of another shell and string/thread as I represent the bracelet on my quilt. Had the girl not mentioned the bracelet I may not have noticed it and the following awareness in me, may not have happened. Had she only touched the bracelet in front of me what would I have sensed? If she had later lost the bracelet and had I or someone else come across the shell threaded onto the string on a path and picked it up what would have touched us?Certainly something, a mix of the quality or the shell and string and that it had been made, (and worn with care?). Would that touching be different in the playing child’s hand or the dustman’s glove? Might it be similar? This wondering illuminates Merleau-Ponty’s (1968, p.133-134)description of the touching and at once being touched by what we are touching. That sensation seems to implicate experience of detail being sensed at the same time as through sensing it we meaningfully create it. Thus the detail of the girls play with the shell and the string affects, and might potentially affect the experience of others of this shell and string and then of subsequent things that conjoin in experiences.
Through the processes of presenting and analyzing the data it gradually dawns on me that it seems to be the detail of matter that we are affected by, and that we affect. I come to question if detail might be the malleable aspect of the world, and if our experience both creates and responds to that detail, thereby creating our reality. Following from this question I wonder at how in play, reality seems to hold a great potential to be all that it can be, to be ours and its greatest possibilities, I sense that this is a notable consideration in the creation of the world.
Having identified ‘experience of detail’ in my data and my research processes, I started to search for writings with which to juxtapose the data instigated awareness and add refracted understanding (Richardson and St. Pierre 2005). However searching for ‘experience of detail’ provided only material concerned with the detail of various things or situations. Though I was looking for something about the feel of the experience of detail, there was a clear remindful lesson in this search—experience of detail is always experience of detail of or within something.
Experience of detail in mindfulness
Discussion of what I was searching for with my supervisor Phil Jones and others within the university yielded differently worded yet similar suggestion towards exploring, ‘mindfulness’ and ‘being in the moment’. The sense of allowing awareness in a moment, or of something, to grow to its fullest potential and the value of that in reflective practice and research (Mason 2002) does indeed have relevance to the experience of detail within the frame of this study. However coming across articles concerned with how to teach mindfulness to children (Fodor and Hooker 2008; Thompson and Gauntlett-Gilbert 2008), creates a question as to possible difference between openness to the possibilities of detail when it is sought or attempted or when it just happens. While experiencing detail is clearly a feature of mindfulness, the context of attainment is not completely at one with that of this inquiry, even if that attainment is in the form of letting or making space for (Johanson 2006). If the attempt is to let my understanding of the experience of detail radiate from my sense of that in children’s play with things, the context of mindfulness seems to be out of sync, because its frame is methodologically pre-structured, rather than responsively created. My experience of trying to play when as a pre-teen I could no longer slip into the same way of playing as I used to, suggests that play cannot be methodologically sought. That perspective is also suggested by Crowe’s (1983) memory of when she was asked as a child what she had been doing that day. Her response of either playing or nothing suggests that playing though preferable was not something that could have been decisively achieved instead of a nothing day. Finnan (1982) reflects my awareness of this situation as it pertains to the researcher's frame of analysis “players cannot play if they analyze their own actions, and researchers cannot analyze behaviour if they do not understand what the players take for granted” (p.360). The condition of taking for granted suggests non-methodological attainment and so reflects my sense of the ill fit of mindfulness as a reflective position.
However, the potential experiential similarity of detail within play or within states of mindfulness cannot be dismissed. In Csikszentmihalyi’s (2002; 2004) description of flow qualities identifiable as experience of detail seem reflective both of mindfulness and play. Csikszentmihalyi’s (2004) previously discussed example of the composer’s description of the ecstatic state wherein his hand seems to notate without bidding within the responsiveness of creative absorption, illustrates a way of being which can be seen to be at once akin to mindfulness and to playing. Furthermore this example seems to expresses an interaction through experience of detail akin to that of Silvers (1986) Woodhams (2004) Lewty (2008) and my own in making the quilt.
This arguable closeness necessitates clearer analysis of the perceived discrepancy. It seems that the experience of detail may be similarly available within play or within states of mindfulness. Yet in play detail is responsively incorporated while being created and carrying the play, whereas attention is applied to or removed from detail within frames of mindfulness. This differential is pertinent. The experience of detail, which I sense in the data of my observations and from which I take my point of reference, seems to be in the inter-play between the internal and the experienced external. For example the observations of the interactions between the children and the table of ice cream tubs filled with bits and bobs suggest that the player is not alone in creating or holding that which bounds and is within their play. It seems that detail of the world as it is experienced touches and resonates with internal detail, becoming incorporated in the constant reconstruction of the frame. This way of experiencing detail may be seen as a drifting rather than the placement of attention, the later being identified as requisite of mindfulness (Mason 2002; Kabat-Zinn 2003). Such drifting seems to be composite of Tom’s fooling around as told by Hoban:
“It looks very like playing to me,” said Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong. “To much playing is not good, and you play too much. You had better stop in and do something useful.” “All right,” said Tom. But he did not stop. He did a little fooling around with two or three cigar bands and a paper-clip.” (Hoban and Blake 1993, p.7)
This drifting seems to be part of Feynman’s description of what happened when a spinning plate that a child had thrown up in the air caught his attention.
“I was eating lunch some kid threw up a plate in the cafeteria which has a blue medallion on the plate, the Cornell sign and as he threw up the plate and it came down it wobbled and the blue thing went around. And I wondered, it seemed to me the blue thing went around faster than the wobble and I wondered what the relation was between the two so I was just playing - no importance at all. So I played around with the equations of motion of rotating things and I found out that if the wobble is small the blue thing goes around twice as fast as the wobble goes around. And then I tried to figure out if I could see why that was directly from Newton's laws instead of from the complicated equations and I worked that out for the fun of it.” (Feynman and Williams 2008)
This drifting seems to be part of the wonder of fathomless things (Abram 1996), not the wondering about, the focused noticing, but the sense of wonder that is pulled forth in the encounter (Silvers 1986; Cobb 1993; Bachelard 1994; Chawla 1994; Fisher 2008; Kilvington 2010). This drifting is perhaps a characteristic of the sensing of the played-with-ness of something, it is perhaps how the created history of something seems to spread and touch us by its resonant detail.
Of course my proposition of this differentiation of the experience of detail between that framed by play and that framed by mindfulness is itself limited by my understanding of mindfulness. I suspect that once mindfulness becomes an inherent quality of being its responsiveness to and creation by detail becomes very akin to that of play. However the very limitation of my understanding by my lack of developed practice itself confirms the differentiation identified here.
Wonder as response to experience of detail
Exploration of mindfulness in terms of the experience of detail, refined my awareness of the intertwining of frame and content in the context of experience of detail in play. This intertwining can be seen to happen through the player following the possibility of the detail they are experiencing. It seems that such following has an experiential quality of wonder at what might be, which enables the alteration of the reality that is being experienced in play. In the example of the girl and who is making the chick at the same time telling me “I have a feeling that everything comes alive, cause when I go to sleep I put them in one place and when I wake up they’re in a different place, so everything comes alive” there is wonder. As a playworker I must honour this wonder or fail in the ethic of play-centredness. As a researcher in the playwork field I must surely authenticate rather than explain away the detail of this wonder. The experience, which she seems to be expressing in talking about things in her room and also the chick that she is making, is the possible aliveness of her played with things.
By such contextual criteria I was brought back to the work of those who seem in their noticing and experiencing of detail to echo that of the playing child. Wordsworth’s (1850) spots of time is used by Chawla (2002) in her expression of children’s play moments of communion with nature. Keats’ Negative Capability (Strachan 2003; Keats and Forman 2004), as cited several times previously, is recognized by Fisher (2008) as a play responsive stance in the way of being of the playworker. Cobb (1993) describes the expansive patterning created by the sense of wonder in moments of play in childhood. Her citings of the words of adults retelling these moments seem to illustrated the wonder called forth by details in the played with environment. Carlson (1998) writes of the way in which adults can notice and uphold the child’s sense of wonder. Her writing perceptibly reflects the nature of that wonder as responsiveness to the experience of detail.
“And then there is the world of little things, seen all too seldom. Many children, perhaps because they themselves are small and closer to the ground than we, notice and delight in the small and inconspicuous. With this beginning, it is easy to share with them the beauties we usually miss because we look too hastily, seeing the whole and not its parts.” (Carlson et al. 1998, p.76).
While Carlson speaks here of the world of miniature, her whole text about honouring and preserving the child’s sense of wonder can be seen to relate to the detail of the described experiences. In writing “If a child asked me a question that suggested even a faint awareness of the mystery behind the arrival of a migrant sandpiper on the beach of an August morning, I would be far more pleased than by the mere fact that he knew it was a sandpiper and not a plover” (ibid. p.94) Carlson seems to communicates all the detail contained in our experience of something. In this extract the detail is both auxiliary to a type of something or a type of situation yet integral to it by wonder-filled experience. Similarly the slips of slate stone in the surf with which I was drawn to merge, had a shape that could have been gained by other means than their repeated turning over by the sea. Yet it was the detail of their shape as it was at once being created by the sea’s play and creating the form of the sea’s play that invited me into their play through wonder. This same relationship between detail and wonder can be seen in the following description of an aunt’s story to her niece about the flower garden she sewed in the beginning centre of her patchwork quilt.
“I spent a long time sewing my garden together. Mama helped me, of course. It’s difficult to reach the corners. But I enjoyed it more than anything I had ever done before. Round the green felt lawn I arranged my chintz and cotton flowerbeds: roses, apple-blossom, hollyhocks, lilies, pansies, and carnations. When I finished it, it looked beautiful. I could almost smell the flowers, and I stroked my finger over the green felt, feeling the embroidered daisy in the summer grass. I had a garden. I had made it myself. It lived on the table near my bed, where I could see it every morning when I woke up, and every night when I went to bed. In my dreams, it grew and spread, the stitches turned to flagstones, and I walked on them between the flowerbeds, sniffing a rose here, picking a pansy there.” (Geras and Caldwell 1994, pp.20-21)
This passage from the children’s book Apricots at Midnight is cited within the data presentation section in the aspect of merging into. It could equally have been cited within love, the transfer of played particulars through space and time, or the residue of play is not the play, yet is of the play, for all these aspects intertwine therein.In this text we see all the life with which wonder at the details imbues the cloth, these then spread and extends in the girls dreams. Many years later the little girl is now the aunt and these words are the story she is telling as her niece lies under the quilt now complete with many patches each with a story. The little niece feels the quilt to be enchanted as she lies under it listening to the stories by which the patches came to be created. In this story the detail of these little pieces of cloth, which may exist only as words and ideas, but must have been inspired by something tactile, are transferred by the sense of wonder at their life before, in and since their creation.
This exploration suggests the role of wonder in actualizing details when playing with things and seems to point to the characteristics which I am searching for in an experiential description to offer refracted understanding (Richardson and St. Pierre 2005) to my data initiated awareness. The spread of experienced detail through wonder that is implicated in Aunt Pinny’s quilt (Geras and Caldwell 1994) also reflects the way that the nexus of the experience of detail within my data radiated, creating my understanding, seeming then to evolve through textual exploration of mindfulness and then of wonder.
At this juncture a lucky online search for ‘detail’ and ‘spots of time’, divulged the following articles Local Transcendence: Cultural Criticism, Postmodernism, and the Romanticism of Detail (Liu 1990) and Minute Particulars and the representation of south pacific discovery (Lamb 1995) These in turn took me to the words ‘minute particulars’ in Blake’s Jerusalem. (Damon and Eaves 1988; Bindman and Blake 2000)
While recognizing the vastness of that work of Blake’s, encountering it provided such a sense of rightness and relevance that I set aside the fear of inept misunderstanding, and the fear of countless analysis of this text by meticulous and recognized scholars working within their field of expertise. Instead I chose to trust in Bachelard’s (1994) proposition that poetry must be encountered in awe, with a certain non-analytical quality almost akin to love, for it to transmit its full phenomenological potential. I decided to trust my own intuitive response to the poem, born of a recognition of the echo that Blake’s words ‘minute particulars’ offered to the experience of detail that I had identified in children’s play filled interactions with things.
A brief representation of my interactions with the poem is included here. In communicating the reflection of my data initiated awareness that I find in the poem the analysis of experience of detail manifests in two inseparable ways. Firstly, the poem’s echo of my perception of experience of detail in the data is pointed to (van Manen 1990; Finlay 2009). In this way the meanings created by the data manifest into further words, this divulging more of their meaning. Secondly, implicit in what is pointed to (ibid.) is the affect of the detail of the data on my capacity to locate its reflection. The attempt has been to illustrate the significance of the duality of this analysis through description that encompasses both data and frame. Such creation of frames of reference by being moved by the data and the process of working with it is ratified in Richardson and St Pierre’s (2005) description of refracted understanding. Their proposition of an ever-evolving crystal as a more appropriate metaphor that a triangle for verification within modern qualitative research, recognises the continuous impact of the data and process on the means of its appraisal.
In my interactions with this poem, I became conscious of repercussions of played-with-ness in the experience of reality. The unbounded flux seemingly offered by play to things via their detail seems reflected in the words and the illuminated plates of this poem, as Blake brings our notice to myriad aspects of existence. The volume and variety of quotes, miss quotes, applications and interpretations of ‘minute particulars’ (for example, Feldmár 2005; Chico 2006; Folkert and Atley 2011) arguably confirms the resonance that these words and their meanings have with our creative awareness of the experiences and things of our lives.
An experience of the minute particulars in Blake’s Jerusalem
The whole of Jerusalem (Bindman and Blake 2000) seems to be an insistent web of detail. In its subject matter and in the way of its communicating the poem seems to be a materialization of the quality of minute particulars. This can be seen to happen through the expression of detail in what is being spoken of.
“Of all the inhabitants of Earth wailing to be Created:
Shadowy to those who dwell not in them, meer possibilities:
But to those who enter into them they seem the only substances
For every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear,
One hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away.”
These lines seems to reflect my awareness of the unquantifiable significance of each inextricable play instance via which the puppy accumulated play into the detail of its colour, texture and smell. Or the way that the boy’s fur ferret did not smell of cat to me until he told me it did, after which point the smell of cat was an irremovable part of my experience of his ferret when he put it to my nose.
Minute Particulars also seem to enable the joining of two or more lines, extending the meaning of the first through to the second, where it becomes more than it was without loosing what it was, for instance:
“Gwendolen saw the Infant in her sisters arms; she howld
Over the forest with bitter tears, and over the winding Worm
Repentant: and she also in the eddying wind of Los’s Bellows
Began her dolorous task of loving in the Wine-press of Luvah
To form the Worm into a form of love by tears & pain.”
The way in which the rhythm and the words are imbued with the sense of the meaning and carry it, can by Blake’s words of introduction to the reader at the beginning of the work (3 & 4), be understood as deliberate and created in detail. The feed from one line to the next in that passage seems to echo the flow of influence in the following observational extract, which is presented in full within the aspect of merging into.
Then the pile of plastic people on the floor (largely action type) is stared at, permeated, drifted into, then left. She goes back to the table of iced cream tubs full of bits and pieces. A cloth is lifted, absentmindedly, a chess piece discovered, she colours the bottom with pink pen, presses her finger on it and makes a print with her finger on paper.
The story of the poem becomes layer upon layer, with meanings conjoining, expanding, exchanging with each other and adding light to each other in the way expressed by Merleau-Ponty’s (1968) discussion of reversibility. Albion shape shifts between a land, a giant, a woman, gathering to itself and imbuing that which it becomes with all the detail of previous description. Furthermore the details reach out to resonate with any aspect in the encounter’s preoccupation, which then seems to pull forth new understanding of the poem itself.
For me the following words interact with Kilvington’s (2010), previously cited, questioning of whether the facts of today with which we often contradict the created reality of play, actually began in the creative play of yesteryear.
“I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Mans
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create”
These words bring to the fore the rising up of creative consciousness which can be understood as this poem’s subject, process, perhaps intended affect, and in its evident resonance, its materialization. Blake’s concern with the minute particulars seems to run through every aspect of this poem, even in the parts where they are not as specifically named. In the passages that do include the words ‘minute particulars’ their vitality to life and freedom and their potency and oligarchic value as such, pervade. The following three instances are chosen illustratively here. These passages do not bring to mind specific incidents in my data, but rather ratify my sense that the detail of my observations should move me to new insights and ways of comprehension rather than being adulterated by pre-established constructs. The sensed imperative of this approach to the details of play instances can also be seen reflected from Heidegger’s (1996) proposition of the synthesis of being and reason in play. Heidegger further develops his position through a critique of what can be understood as the abstraction of reason, and culminates the final lecture of the text, with an expression of our human affiliation with being, this making the essence of being that which remains “worthy of thought” (p.129). He calls on us “to find paths upon which thinking is capable of responding to what is worthy of thought”, rather than being seduced by “calculative thinking” (p.129). Blake’s signification of minute particulars is offered context by a sense, awakened by the data, that playful interactions with the details of things may be relevant to the potential of our experienced world.
“Fearing that Albion should turn his back against the Divine Vision
Los took his globe of fire to search the interiors of Albions
Bosom. in all the terrors of friendship. entering the caves
Of despair & death, to search the tempters out, walking among
Albions rocks & precipices! caves of solitude & dark despair,
And saw every Minute Particular of Albion degraded & murdered
But saw not by whom; they were hidden within in the minute particulars
Of which they had possessd themselves; and there they take up
The articulations of a mans soul, and laughing throw it down”
“For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power,
The Infinite alone resides in Definite & Determined Identity”
You accumulate Particulars, & murder by analyzing, that you
May take the aggregate; & you call the aggregate Moral Law:
And you call that Swelld &bloated Form; a Minute Particular.
But General Forms have their vitality in Particulars: & every
Particular is a Man; a Divine Member of the Divine Jesus.
So Los cried at his Anvil in the horrible darkness weeping!”
The text of Jerusalem feels thick with juxtapositions of particulars and generalization. The reference to science and art, which are perhaps symbols of apposing epistemologies, but also together, of ontology (see also Heisenberg 2000), seems to epitomize the integrity of minute particulars to the creation of reality. Minute particulars are perhaps the very permeable spaces where what has been and what might be experienced commune and mingle. Such might in both its interdependent meanings of ‘power’ and ‘possibility’ seems integral to the creative freedom of play.
Might as possibility and power
When, after my own encounter with Jerusalem, I explore others’ discussions of minute particulars my understanding of the relationship between detail and malleability of the world is extended by the combination of two articles; William Blake's Print-Making Process in Jerusalem (Carr 1980) and Local Transcendence: Cultural Criticism, Postmodernism, and the Romanticism of Detail (Liu 1990).
In subject, and in his approach to the subject, Liu (1990) offers a warning as to the pathology of detail. His critique formulates lists of what he postulates as the self-contradicting universalization of detail. Whereby, as he puts it, the detailed explorations become explorations of detail, not providing a ‘picture of great detail’ but a ‘great picture of detail’ (Liu 1990, p.81). In Lui’s critique we can see what Blake draws attention to when he writes:
“You accumulate Particulars, & murder by analyzing, that you
May take the aggregate; & you call the aggregate Moral Law:
And you call that Swelld &bloated Form; a Minute Particular.”
The solidifying of detail, “hardend into grains of sand” (Bindman and Blake 2000, 31), can as Liu puts it, be seen to hold the potential to “build a world that is exactly concrete: a cement aggregate of specific and determinate particularity” (Liu 1990, p.84). However it seems to me that it is the very approach that Liu has taken to this subject which is bound to lead him to his perspective. In gathering lists of different apparitions of detail in poetry, anthropology, epistemologies and research methodologies, Liu has himself created a universal; he has removed detail from it being the detail of, and thereby from the realm of experience. For Liu detail seems to be not a tangible resonant interface between self and other, but a general catalogued trend of human preoccupation.
Conversely Carr’s (1980) discussion of Blake’s print making process in Jerusalem displays how Carr has been touched by Blake’s process. Carr’s repeatedly uses the words ‘melt’ ‘melting’ ‘melted’ in describing the creation of the plates. As well as describing technique, these words create a metaphor for Blake’s perceived intention that moveable layers of meaning within the artistic representation of the poem interact with the meaning of the text for each individual who encountered it.
“Vision is not Memory, or a search in the past for some idealized origin or unmediated truth, but is Imagination, an activity that continually consumes the fallen realities of this world in its quest for Eternity. . . . Blake’s unconventional, irreverent, and infernal additions to his prints are one way in which he calls into question the sovereignty of his visions, and thereby encourages his audience to participate in the regenerative acts of the imagination” (Carr 1980, pp.538-39)
These closing comments of Carr’s essay transmit the sensitized flow of interactions carried by the minute particulars from Blake to his creation of Jerusalem, to Carr in his sense of Jerusalem, to the reader of Carr’s essay. These words also impart an awareness of all the other threads of experience that have stretched from others’ encounters of with that work of Blake’s. Within this there is reflection of the concentric quality of the process of my own analysis of experience of detail. This offers certain ratification of the phenomenological appropriateness (van Manen 1990) of appraising experience of details by the outward ripple of their affect on meaning.
Thus Blake’s Jerusalem (Bindman and Blake 2000) and the articles of Carr (1980) and Liu (1990) offer perspective to the nature of this inquiry’s concern with experience of detail. From the conjunction of these texts a suggestion can me made that minute particulars or details come to life in their affecting of us. This proposition is a reflection of the research data of this inquiry and of the identified aspects. The writing of Carr (1980) and Liu (1990) show the impact of our approach on what minute particulars might transmit. The question of might, in its power and possibility, became articulated through investigation of minute particulars. This ambiguous might will now be explored as it pertains to the ramifications of the experience of detail within the data, towards the playwork context of this inquiry.
The might of play as playwork praxis
Much more of what something has been and can be seems available to experience within the frame of might, than within a frame of preset boundaries. This situation is visible in the following extract from a research observation, which is presented in full within the aspect of ‘merging into’.
She is building a tower out of finger sized clear plastic pots balanced upside down on top of each other. The tower is made of rows on top of each other in a triangle shape. She builds on the plastic seat of a chair, which is slightly dipped. On the top pot she balances a tiny silver metal Geomag ball, which roles to the edge of the pots bottom before stopping. She stands back, I sense her satisfaction. A boy who has been playing table blow football with two others comes over ‘That’s really cool, I would hate to see something bad happen.’ She makes noooo noises and moves her arms around. The tower falls down. He says ‘Hey I just said I would hate to see something bad happen and it fell down.’ He seems impressed.
If we consider the girl’s play with the pots up to this point we can see it to be full of possibility, precariousness, uncertainty and mastery – full of might. The culmination of all this in the creation of the tower on the chair with the ball on top seems somehow to communicate these qualities to the boy. He then, or perhaps already in himself, seems to have been able to experience all that might be as transmitted by the tower and to recognize his might over the tower.
In order to respond appropriately and with integrity to the boy (even if I do or say nothing), I must be able to at least entertain the possibility of his might over the tower. I must as a playworker be prepared to believe something I did not know before on the basis of its possibility as transmitted in the moment. For it is only in so doing that I can say that I am being moved by the reality of fantasy (Hughes 2006; Fisher 2008; Kilvington 2010) rather than dismissing its value as insubstantial or unquantifiable.
It is possible to see here how the ambiguity of the word might offers a way of better articulating and so responding to the requirement to authenticate rather than explain away details which are given fluidity in children’s play. The requirement towards such a response by the frame of playwork and so by playwork research is expressed above in relation to the girl’s wonder at the possibility of the chick she is making coming alive. The word might seems to describe the quality of experience and re-creation of detail in children’s play experiences, and also to describe the movement of the playworker by the possibility of such sensed details.
The following written observation by Webb when she was working with Romanian orphans illustrates this very process of a playworker being moved by the play they encounter. “…I watched Elena play with Virgil – it was absolutely beautiful, and the best representation of play I have seen. All they were doing was chasing each other, it was so gentle and silent and it was as if they were flowing in and out of one another…Just like two butterflies” (2001, preface ). Without her readiness to be moved by the children’s play, she may well not have noticed all the minute particulars that constitute the quality of this game of chase. To have said, ‘they played chase without much noise’, would simply not have said anything. Had Webb been working to a set of precepts either internalized to her way of being or accepted for her research, this observation may well have been constrained, for it does not fall wholly within any established categories of play. As it is, however, Webb is moved by the experience to the extent of being inspired to write the poem below with which she opens her dissertation, displaying the fundamental impact of this encounter. When I read the poem it reverberates inside me touching all that I have sensed through my own observations and validating my way of being as a researching playworker.
Play as the conduit for change
I watched as they moved
Beautiful in the sunlight,
Chasing one-another like balloons
Caught by the breeze
And the room seemed silent
As they flowed in and out
Just like two butterflies.
(Sophie Louise Webb, 11th June 2000)
This can be seen as an example of the detail of children’s play expanding the perception of those who encounter its concentric ripple. My perception of it as such has been enabled by my own analysis of my data. In this situation there seems to be something pertinent to the means that playworkers might employ to responsively communicate the meaning of their observations. Through the outward trajectory of the detail of data, its affect can re-form the way of knowing about it. The process of analysis undertaken here has not yielded definitive findings that could be applied to future play. To do so would be to degrade the minute particulars of such play instances by possessing them (Bindman and Blake 2000, 31). Rather this analysis offers suggestions that the inquiry’s data illuminated as to the repercussions of the experience of detail in our playful interactions with things. These suggestions can be summarized thus.
Detail cannot be removed from that which it is detail of - The experience of detail, can only be experienced as detail of, or pertaining to, something, it cannot be removed from that which it is of, though it will by its nature of dependence for its existence on the noticing of the experiencing person extend further than what it belongs to.
Experience of detail renders things malleable - It seems that in the way that detail cannot be divorced from what it is detail of, while at the same time being dependent on our experiential noticing, there is the space in which the world becomes malleable.
This malleability is dependent on openness to what might be - The quality of openness to all that something is or might be, allows for us to be affected and to affect it. The situation of openness to might encompasses; negative capability, awe, wonder, ignorance, listening, becoming one with, fluidity and uncertainty. This seems to be natural and integral to the way of being with things in play. It is also vital to the playworker, who arguably cannot do their job if they do not stand in wonder at the children’s play. For a lack of wonder would suggest a perspective of complete and certain understanding, and such an authoritative stance would not be permeable by the ever moving details of children’s play. Furthermore it is perhaps the stance taken by anyone who discovers anew. As Plato is quoted “Philosophy begins in wonder” (Stewart and Mickunas 1990, p.5) and Einstein says “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science” (Frank et al. 1947, p.284).
In the example of the girl and who is making the chick and telling me about her things that are in a different place in her room in the morning to where she put them at night, there is wonder, yet there is also acceptance of the actuality of the miraculous. This dual quality is also apparent in the examples of the boy’s delight in having made the girls tower fall down simply by saying that it would be a shame if something happened to it, and in the example of the chalk being made to change colour. This is perhaps what Einstein is describing, and perhaps the stance by which playworkers can assimilate the realities in and of children’s play. When I reflect on these examples I am struck by another that comes to mind, the boy who after transferring fire from the fire pit to one pot and to another and another and another, until there is a fire moving between all four pots set in a square, suddenly exclaims “look I created four way fire!”. This situation came to my mind by its similar feel, tone, atmosphere, and as such reiterated a possibility touched on above. Namely, that the categorization of credible and incredible belongs to the frame of knowing solidified by facts, and is not a differentiation applied in the play of infinitely possible reality in its constant reformation.
A repercussion of such lack of differentiation is the reliance on an internal sense of authenticity in encountering, rather than on an objectively validating framework. In the closing chapter that will be explored, as it pertains to experiences of played-with-ness, to the processes of this research, and to the encounter of this work by others. Through the forthcoming chapter’s tasks of evaluating in response to the inquiry’s two questions and recommending further areas of investigation the implications of such a way of knowing within this research endeavour and to its value will be drawn together for consideration.
 It is not ‘the little present that sustains friendship’, but rather, here we see ‘love that sustains the little presents’