Visual and Beyond: Rethinking Aesthetics, Ethics and the Senses in Education

Year: 2016

Author: Knight, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For more than a decade digital imagery has saturated the contemporary world and the lives of families and children. Initial commentaries on this saturation recognized how ‘we need to understand the role of the media as a dynamic and multifaceted process’ (Buckingham 2003, p. 19) that impacts audiences, and particularly young children as rapidly as it develops and grows. In that decade the development of smartphone and tablet technologies mean that children can often independently/privately access digital media and imagery from a very young age. Much of that imagery is commercially driven, although not always as obviously as the clear motivations of advertising images. Games, apps, films and TV programs specifically aimed at children sell ‘things' to them, including virtual friendships, families, and game-based accomplishments. The pervasiveness of image-based material and the enthusiastic way children engage with digital imagery suggest that contemporary childhoods are lived through significant exposure to digital aesthetics and through messy, intermingling ‘imaginary', ‘experienced’, and ‘actual’ dimensionalities. Young children also experience digital tablet and computer technologies in their learning environments so how do these multidimensionalities include the routines, activities and events that occur daily in early childhood sites? As a basic question, how do early childhood sites make reference to, or become multi-dimensional? In considering these questions digital and non-digital art and play help reconceptualise early childhood learning environments as aesthetically rich, as spatially and temporally fluid and where ideas and concepts can be explored and troubled by adults and young children. Drawing on a research project that took iPads into kindergarten sites in Queensland, Australia, I propose how tablet technologies in daily art and play routines contest aesthetic conventions and destabilises the fixed physicalities and temporalities of early childhood sites and the children that attend them. Reference:Buckingham, D. (2003). Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity.