Alongside undertaking research I also write about play, digital games and experimental research methods that combine art and design practices. I publish reports for industry, peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and blog posts.


Yamada-Rice, D., Dare, E. Main, A., Potter, J., Ando, A. Miyoshi, K., Narumi, T., Beshani, S., Clark, A., Duszenko, I. Love, S., Nash, R., Rodrigues, D., Stearman, N. (2020) Location-Based Virtual Reality Experiences for Children: Japan-UK Knowledge Exchange Network: Final Project Report. Available online at <URL>. 


Yamada-Rice, D., Rodrigues, D. & Zubrycka, J. (2019) Makerspaces and Virtual Reality Chapter 5. In: Blum-Ross, A., Kumpulainen, K. & Marsh, J. (eds) Enhancing Digital Literacy and Creativity: Makerspaces in the Early Years. Routledge.
Yamada-Rice, D. & Love, S., (2019) Designing tech for health: Developing a mixed reality play kit to help children who need and MRI scan, RIAS Quarterly, Vol.38, p 57.


JULY 2019


What has culture and history got to do with VR development? Here I discuss some initial ideas on the topic…

Kress (2003) describes how communication practices arise from changes in technology, social and cultural practices. Geertz (1973) defines culture as: ‘the fabric of meaning in terms of which human beings interpret their experience and guide their actions [while] social structure is the form that action takes, the actually existing network of social relations’ (p. 145). In other words, our very specific cultural and personal backgrounds control our interpretation of experiences. In relation to my own experiences of Japanese location-based VR content this is in relation to both being British, but also having spent my twenties and early thirties living in Japan. As a result my interpretation of several of the Japanese experiences drew directly from this connection to the culture; one as partial insider but also an outsider. For example, on a visit to Hashilus I played with one of their VR experiences called Happy Oshare (Fashionable) Time.


JULY 2019

How do modes, materials and performance affect the design of a virtual reality experience? Here I review some location-based VR experiences from Japan in relation to these three areas to offer some insight for future development.

The VR Park Shibuya is an arcade hosting location-based VR experiences. These are site specific content designed for VR play away from the home setting. As a result, location-based VR experiences often have a physical component which provides a different experience to that which can be achieved on a home console such as the Play Station VR. This is something more akin to fit in with the ‘experience economy’ and thus in the best case scenarios the physical set can bring an extra dimension to the VR play worthy of making an audience feel they are paying for an “experience” they could not have elsewhere.

The VR Park occupies one floor of a well established game centre. Each floor is dedicated to different types of gaming content. The ground floor for example has mostly prize based games like the UFO catcher.


JULY 2019

  “How can media help children and their families to stay healthy? From understanding how their bodies work, coping with illness, learning about health and fitness, or improving their medical experiences; worthy doesn’t have to be boring and a dose of media medicine can be just what doctor ordered.” (The Children’s Media Conference)

Last week at the Children’s Media Conference, I was lucky enough to present on a panel about using kid’s media to help child health.

I was there to talk about Dubit’s Innovate UK -funded project, with the Royal College of Art, Glasgow School of Art, Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Trust and the University of Sheffield, to build a playkit for preparing children to have an MRI scan. As part of the playkit contains a VR component I also drew on ideas from an AHRC/ESRC-funded network which has explored location-based VR experiences for children. I was accompanied by a range of very knowledgeable people working in this field and this got me thinking about what my tips for design in this area would be.

Yamada-Rice, D. (2019) Including Children in the Design of the Internet of Toys: In Mascheroni, G. & Holloway, D. (Eds) The Internet of Toys: Practices, Affordances and the Political Economy of Children’s Smart play.


NOV 2019

Using design-based workshops to understand children’s sleep knowledge

This blog post reflects on sleep workshops that myself and Amy Clark undertook on behalf of Dubit in order to inform a new play about sleep called Sweet Dreams by tutti frutti, a theatre company specialising in productions for young children. The development of the play is funded by the Wellcome Trust and includes Sheffield Children Hospital NHS Trust and the Children’s Sleep Charity as partners. These two partners are experts in child sleep, and along with a wide body of research, can testify that sleep deprivation has a serious impact on emotional, physical and mental health, and is a growing problem for children and their families.

Thus, Tutti frutti decided to respond to this need for wider knowledge about the importance of sleep by embedding information on its benefits and the fears children may have of it, into the Sweet Dreams play they are producing for 3–7 year olds.


APRIL 2019

How much information would young children like to prepare for an MRI scan?

How can design and play-based methods help children feed their ideas into the design of a med-tech product?

Recently, myself, another researcher from Dubit and academic partners spent time in primary schools working with children aged 4–10 years old. The aim was to gain their ideas for a med-tech product in the form of a play kit to help children their age have an MRI scan.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive scanning method that employs strong magnetic fields and radio waves to examine parts of the body. An MRI scan is used to facilitate diagnosis, help determine treatment and evaluate its effectiveness. In 2016–17, 142,020 MRI scans were carried out in England on children aged 0–14 (Dixon, 2017). Dixon (2017) also notes that MRI activity is expanding rapidly with an increase of 10% between 2015–16 and 2016–17.


JULY 2019

      In Japan there is an affinity with non-human entities. Of course this includes other living creatures and nature but it also extends to machines and an otherworldly-ness of spirits and gods that according to Shintoism reside in many things. In the Barbican AI exhibition ‘More than Human’, a whole section is dedicated to Shintoism and the connection between human and non-human things in Japan. This is used as a framework for thinking about the connection between people and machines in an era of rapid AI development.

“In the Japanese religion of Shinto, Kami are Devine forces or spirits of nature that surpass human intelligence. There are more than 8 million kami that live in natural forms including the sun, oceans, mountains, trees, rocks and animals. They are also believed to live in tools, technologies and extraordinary people. According to Shinto beliefs, all these entities respect each other and live in harmony.”

“In Japanese culture and art, life breathes in people, living creatures and artificial objects alike. This perspective is reflected in animation, games and technology.” Wall writing from More than Human, Barbican

Read more here


JAN 2019

A year ago Dubit co-produced and hosted one of the roadshow events organised by Alison Norrington of StoryCentral for the Children’s Media Foundation
on the topic of children and Virtual Reality. Our involvement in this work provides an example of how research, design and development can marry up well.

The Research
The event at Dubit focused on bringing together industry experts and academics on the topic of ‘crossing physical and virtual worlds in children’s VR’.

The event started with an introduction to an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project on design standards for location-based immersive experiences by Professor Steve Love of Glasgow School of Art. Following this, I shared insights into Dubit’s Children and VR study with a particular emphasis on the data and findings that showed how children wanted easier ways to acclimatise from physical to virtual world. Dubit also shared it’ s perspectives on telling narratives across physical and virtual domains.

The final two presentations came from Eleanor Dare of Royal College of Art about her AR books and Professor Mark Mon Williams of the University of Leeds who talked how design could help alleviate some of the pressure VR places on some children’s eyes.
Read more here


APRIL 2019

Image: Dubit

Insight into research processes behind the development of digital products.

Twice a week I work for the children’s media agency Dubit in the area of research leading to design. Dubit is one of only a few agencies that combine research and development under one roof. This is unfortunate because the connection between research and digital development is a vital part of producing a good design. Here I outline four types of research that are user-led and help ensure the products developed match the audience they are designed for.

Trends Data looks at the broadest picture, using a quantitative process to reap a broad insight into children’s lives. Dubit collects data in this manner using a 6-monthly online survey of children aged 2–15 years and their parents, which is conducted across 8 countries. The survey asks questions related to children’s tech and media use so we can understand which types of content are engaging children and what technology they have access to.

Understanding these international trends allows us to know where the products we produce tie in with what else children are using and the extent to which we are competing with similar content.
Read more here


MARCH 2019

Image: Deborah Rodrigues

Myself and others have been awarded ESRC/AHRC funding to build a Japan- UK knowledge exchange network focused on location-based Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for children, which has a growing demand in a range of sectors that include entertainment, education and health. It builds on emerging research findings that suggest that context specific VR is evolving as the next generation of immersive experiences and thus has raised questions around how best to create an experience that crosses physical and virtual spaces.

The network will use some of the existing ways in which location-based VR experiences are emerging as a starting point to identify what further research and development needs to be undertaken in this area. These include:

Projecting the VR narrative into the physical environment, i.e. Marshmallow Laser Feast’s Ocean of Air


JAN 2019

Do you ever wonder what it feels like to have an MRI scan?

Perhaps you have already had an MRI and are familiar with the need to remain very still for up to an hour or more, as well as how noisy the scanners are. These are two reasons that 58% of MRIs on 5–10 year olds are performed under General Aesthetic. Figures for children younger than 5 years are harder to calculate. However, in the UK around 60,000 MRI exams are carried out on 4–10 year old’s annually.

UK-based research firm and digital studio Dubit has been awarded prestigious Innovate UK funding to expand into the area of gaming for child health by developing a digital play kit to prepare children for undergoing an MRI.



JAN 2018

For three years, Dubit has been engaged in research around children and virtual reality. Beyond basic questions of health and safety, engagement and enjoyment, UI and UX, it’s critical with this emerging medium to ask how children can learn to critique VR content. As with any medium, we should want young people across cultures to be critically literate — choosing and engaging thoughtfully across diverse VR content, but also to be content creators themselves.

Making builds an active connection between thinking and knowing. Anthropologist Tim Ingold (2013)* wrote that humans have forever learned about the world through our hands.

While VR content creation is still a complex process, perhaps enabling young people to design their own VR headsets, with an eye toward enhancing the immersive experience, would spark critical thinking about how VR works. I tested this idea in my role as a Senior Tutor at London’s Royal College of Art, with postgraduate students, building from key findings in Dubit’s Children and Virtual Reality study.

Read more here

Yamada-Rice, D. (2018) Licking planets and Stomping on Buildings: children’s interactions with curated spaces in Virtual Reality. Children's Geographies, Vol.16, No. 5. 


Information Experience Design (IED) work is multimodal. This workshop showed participants  how an understanding of multimodal theory can be used to expand their IED practice. There was a focus on:

  • The meaning of a mode
  • What it means to transduct information from one mode to another
  • The ways in which modes relate to culture and history
  • Information that is lost and gained when one mode is used over another

The workshop started with an outline of multimodal theory similar to the last session (see here).

In the last multimodality workshop students were asked to observe one mode across the ground floor of the RCA White City campus and find a way to represent it, i.e. to see how the building smells and find a way of representing it. Having done this with groups of social science students in the past I was surprised when none of the IED students choose to represent the mode they were representing in writing.

Much of the literature on multimodal analysis within the social sciences uses a form of transcription that breaks down the multimodal whole by transcribing each mode into words and placing them in a table (such as the example below by Mavers, 2005).

Yamada-Rice, D. (2018) 'Designing Play: young children’s play and communication practices in relation to designers’ intentions for their toy' Global Studies of Childhood 8 (1). pp. 5–22.
Yamada-Rice, D. and Marsh, J., (2018) Using Augmented and virtual Reality in the Early Childhood Curriculum. Printed Publication available online.


JAN 2018

Image: Dylan Yamada-Rice

It’s fascinating and fun to observe a child at play. Even more fascinating, though, is the underlying engagement and learning that can be uncovered through emerging means of transcribing and analyzing data.

Increasingly, research with children in an industry context uses big data from online surveys or harvests data directly from the technology young people are using. Working as a Senior Research Manager at Dubit and a Senior Tutor in Information Experience Design at the Royal College of Art, I too collect and analyse data around children’s play, to guide the design of new digital products.

Still, I remain an advocate of the smaller-scale qualitative insights gained from visual and experimental methods. While more resource intensive, observing and talking to children about their use of digital content can provide very rich accounts of what engages them, that may be obscured in quantitative data alone.

Currently, myself and others at Dubit are studying children’s use of Virtual Reality (VR), primarily via detailed observation. Does VR affect children’s balance? How do children move in a virtual environment? We video-record their play to answer these questions, but I had to invent new means for transcribing and analyzing that data to delve deeper into the reasons behind children’s actions.

Read more here
Marsh, J. A., Plowman, L., Bishop, J, Lahmar, J and Scott, F, Yamada-Rice, D. (2018), Play and creativity in young children’s use of apps. British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 49, No.4.


NOV 2018
Photo: Daisy Buckle

This workshop started by considering how an ethnographic approach can be used to collect first-hand data that can in turn to be used to inform Information Experience Design work.

It then went on to introduce two academics that have shown how the study of seemingly everyday things can be used to provide a deep understanding of the world around us. These were Sarah Pink’s work on Sensory Ethnography and  Tim Ingold’s study of lines.

The brief for the workshop was to build a den that could keep out the cold. To do this groups were asked to divide into Den Builders and Sensory Ethnographers. The role of the Sensory Ethnographers was to find a means of recording the experience of Den Building by focussing on one particular mode. This idea was developed from the work of IED student Daisy Buckle who is exploring how building human sized nests might help with people’s mental and emotional well-being.


MAY 2018
In what are still “early days” for Virtual Reality (VR), experiences predominately are being developed in the following areas:

· Health and medicine
· Entertainment and Gaming
· Education
· Art/ cultural sector

Narrative design is important to all these areas, resulting in wide discussion of how narrative should be developed for VR’s unique attributes. Increasingly, companies with a tradition of immersive storytelling in non-digital forms are leading innovation in VR storytelling. The Royal Opera House, for example, created Audience Labs to combine historic stories with cutting edge technologies.

I’ve been exploring what makes good narrative in VR since beginning as lead researcher on Dubit’s Children and Virtual Reality project. I’ve also led a paper prototyping workshop on the subject with a group of MA Information Experience Design (IED) students at the Royal College of Art.


Yamada-Rice, D. (2017) Designing Play for Dark Times. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Vol.18 (2). p. 196-212.
Yamada-Rice, D., Mushtaq, F., Woodgate, A., Bosmans, D, Douthwaite, A, Douthwaite, I, Harris, W, Holt, R, Kleeman, D, Marsh, J, Milovidov, E, Mon Williams, M, Parry, B, Riddler, A, Robinson, P, Rodrigues, D, Thompson, S and Whitley, S, (2017), Children and Virtual Reality: Emerging Possibilities and Challenges. Available online at http://childrenvr.org.

Yamada-Rice, D. (2017) "Designing Play for Dark Times' Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 18 (2). pp. 196–212

Yamada-Rice, D. (2017) 'Using visual and digital research methods with young children'. In: Christensen, P. & James, A. (eds) Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices. Routledge
Yamada-Rice, D. (2017) Designing connected play: Perspectives from combining industry and academic know-how. In: Chaudron S., Di Gioia R., Gemo M., Holloway D., Marsh J., Mascheroni G., Peter J., Yamada-Rice D. Kaleidoscope on the Internet of Toys - Safety, security, privacy and societal insights, EUR 28397 EN, doi:10.2788/05383


Marsh, J. and Yamada-Rice, D. (2016) Bringing Pudsey to Life: Young Children’s Use of Augmented Reality Apps. In: Kucirkova, N. and Falloon, G. (eds) Apps, Technology and Younger Learners. Routledge
Marsh, J., Plowman, L., Yamada-Rice, D., Bishop, J. & Scott, F.(2016) Digital play: a new classification Early Years an International Research Journal, Vol, 36 (3). p. 242-253. 


JAN 2016

I attended a Glück workshop run by Deborah  Rodrigues that taught young children how to make their own miniature robots from toothbrush heads. The workshop took place at Der Malfisch, which is a cafe, play and art space for young children.

The design for the toothbrush robots was relatively simple but still fiddly. Deborah explained the process by projecting a video of the process onto the art space wall. The children needed to fix a red wire from a motor to the top of the toothbrush heads, place a battery on top and then add a black wire on top of that.  This made the motor vibrate and move the toothbrush robot. The wires were held in place by tape that made them very sensitive. Part of the process was for children to understand how the circuit was made and thus be able to repair their own robots.


FEB 2016

This was the first prototype for the Ava Kai dolls. The main starting point was their belief in open-ended play. The Vai Kai founders saw this as the starting point. So they started with this childhood ideal rather than the product or the technology. With this in mind they designed a toy that could be fully customised by each child using a selection of different shaped wooden pegs.

The founders felt that the technology should complement traditional play. They allowed the toy to be opened up so that things could be stored inside.

One of the cofounders, Justyne Zubrycke mentioned how she was influenced by Machiko Kasahara ideas on 'Device Art'.

"More recently, interactive art has redefined forms of art and the role of artists. What we call device art is a form of media art that integrates art and technology as well as design, entertainment, and popular culture. Instead of regarding technology as a mere tool serving the art, as it is commonly seen, we propose a model in which technology is at the core of artworks." (Kasahara)

As it happens I have been interested in Japanese art history for a long time and the ideas described by Kasahara can, I believe, can be traced throughout Japanese art history, that is the ideal that art should also blend seamlessly with everyday life so that it is used not only looked at.

In play sessions with children Vai Kai noticed some differences in the way in which children of different ages played with the prototype. 3-5-year-olds really enjoyed adding the pegs and spent a long time doing this, but this did not hold the attention of older children so well. They experimented with adding in technology, such as using an ipad to hunt for the prototype, but the children seemed only to look at the screen.  In the end it was decided that the Ava Kai prototype was too open-ended.

Read more here


APRIL 2016

From the start [of the project lookng at designers intentions for their smart-toy called Avakai] I was interested in the small compartment in the Avakai's base. I thought it would be of interest to young children who I knew from personal experiences liked to collect "stuff" in containers. Here are a couple of examples of collections from my young child:

Stones have been reoccurring features of collections since my child was very young. At times I would find pockets full of them before tipping his clothes in the washing. On most occasions I would throw them in the bin but one day I asked him what they were for and he said they were Star Wars rocks for a game he played with friends in the school playground. This reminded me of work by the academic Karen Wohlwend who has looked at how children substitute everyday items to represent digital technology when none is available for them to play with. Also of work by Jackie Marsh and Julia Bishop about how children carry over popular culture themes into their playground play.

Read more here


Marsh, J., Plowman, L., Yamada-Rice, D., Bishop, J.C., Lahmar, J., Scott, F., Davenport, A., Davis, S., French, K., Piras, M., Thornhill, S., Robinson, P. and Winter, P. (2015) Exploring Play and Creativity in Pre-Schoolers’ Use of Apps: Final Project Report. Available at: <www.techandplay.org>
Yamada-Rice, D., Procter, L., Stirling, E. & Almansour M. (2015) Review: Margolis & Pauwels (eds) (2011). The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods, Visual Communication, Vol. 14. No. 2.
Yamada-Rice, D. & Stirling, E. (2015) Visual Methods with Children and Young People. Academics and Visual Industry in Dialogue. London: Palgrave.

Yamada-Rice, D. (2015) Semiotic Landscapes: Cultural affordances of texts in and of Japanese landscapes. In: Pahl, K. & Rowsell, J. (eds) (2015) Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies. Routledge.


Yamada-Rice, D. (2014) Using Multimodal Social Semiotic Theory and Visual Methods to Consider Young Children’s Interaction with and Comprehension of Images. SAGE Research Methods Cases Collection.
Yamada-Rice, D. (2014) The Semiotic Landscape and Three-Year-Olds’ Emerging Understanding of Multimodal Communication Practices, Journal of Early Childhood Research, Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 154-184.


Levy, R., Yamada-Rice, D. and Marsh, J. (2013) Digital literacies in the primary classroom. In: Hall, K., Cremin, T., Comber, B. and Moll, L. (eds) (2013) International Handbook of Research in Children's Literacy, Learning and Culture. Wiley-Blackwell.



Yamada-Rice, D. (2011) New Media, evolving multimodal literacy practices and the potential impact of increased use of the visual mode in the urban environment on young children’s learning. Literacy, Vol. 45, No. 1, p.32-43.
Yamada-Rice, D. (2011) A Comparative Study of Visuals in the Urban Landscapes of Tokyo and London, Visual Communication, Vol. 10, No. 2, p.175-186.