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Useful play: Social reform, child development, and the problem of screens

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The central question this dissertation asks is, how has play become a natural-seeming strategy for managing the problem of children's screen time? Methodologically I draw from Foucault's writings on genealogy. The hallmark of genealogy is its ability to disrupt taken-for-granted phenomena that, like the value of play or the problem of screens, seem so common sense to us that people rarely think to question them. Using Canadian examples and archival materials ranging from the years 1900-1980 and from a wide range of sources including the early twentieth-century playground movement, the Children's Aid Society, the Canadian Welfare Council, the Canadian Council for Children and Youth, the Canadian Home and School and Parent Teacher Federation, the Children's Broadcast institute, The Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, I trace some of the factors that have historically conditioned the possibility for our present configuration of concerns with play and screens. I illustrate that those conditions are not natural or necessary but rather contingent, subject to chance, emerging over time by accident, coincidence, convenience, allegiance, tension, or outright struggle and involve a whole constellation of institutions, individuals, practices, and discourses. I conclude by suggesting that rather than assume the current preoccupation with play is the result of progressive views toward child rights and needs, as has often been the case, play should be understood as linked to the exercise of power and knowledge over children's bodies—as a tool for securing the social body and for producing normative subjects.
146 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Poyntz, Stuart
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