(Re)Constructing Children's Play Cultures: An Exploration into the Work of Children App Designers

Monday, 11 July 2016: 17:00
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Sébastien FRANÇOIS, EXPERICE (Paris 13 University), France, CERLIS (Paris Descartes University), France
Even though the final use of games and toys aimed at children is often unpredictable, studies about products themselves, marketing strategies or parents’ attitudes have demonstrated that children’s play is a social construction involving various adults too (Brougère, 2008; Buckingham, 2011). However, the sociology of childhood has paid little attention so far to those who also shape directly children’s play environments and practices, namely game designers and creators. When they design new products indeed, they adopt a reflexive stance towards children and anticipate how the latter will play: but where do their representations and assumptions about childhood come from? Are they coherent? And for instance, are they scientifically or intuitively conceived? An answer to this kind of questions will be given through the case of the mobile application industry which has developed in the past few years a large offer for younger and younger children, creating new markets as well as new concerns (Chiong & Shuler, 2010; Goldsmith, 2013). Thanks to semi-directive interviews with app developers, graphic artists or game designers, and to the analysis of children app companies’ websites, I examine the definitions and the roles attributed to children during the design process: the study reveals important differences regarding, for instance, the actual presence of kids in the process, the use of external expertise about childhood, the degree of autonomy left to children or the balance between educational and entertaining objectives; it suggests that they can be explained, at least partially, by the specificity of the mobile app economy and by the creators’ diverse professional cultures and experiences. Results additionally question the evolution of children’s play cultures, especially under the influence of play practices from older generations.