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 PLAY & DIGITAL GAMES


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

NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US




        What does it mean to be inclusive when working with kids in research?

Nothing About Us Without Us’ is the title of a chapter in Costanza-Chock’s (2020) book ‘Design Justice’. The chapter starts by outlining the controversy that followed a Google employee sharing a memo called ‘echo chamber’ that suggested the company, like most tech companies, had limited diversity and thus the products being designed within them were not inclusive. In the children’s tech and digital play industry, there is a similar lack of diversity in the workers developing products for younger audiences. Bringing a more diverse workforce onboard is one aspect that needs addressing; making sure we are connected to diverse groups of children and families is another part of the equation. They are connected. Working with diverse groups of children during the research and development phases of design means children from under represented groups are much more likely to see a place for themselves in our industry as they grow up.
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ARTICLE
Yamada-Rice, D.  (2021) Children’s interactive storytelling in Virtual Reality, Multimodality & Society, Vol. 1 (1), p.48-67.

DO EMERGING FORMS OF DIGITAL PLAY REQUIRE NEW MEANS FOR ANALYSING DATA?


Drawing: 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.

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CAN MAKING A HEADSET TEACH CHILDREN HOW VR WORKS? 




      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.




STORYTELLING & GRAPHIC NARRATIVES


I specialise in narratives and storytelling. Most commonly in relation to children’s media, such as digital games, toys and TV shows.To do so I conduct research that crosses academia and the kids media industry. Often using a combination of methods from social sciences combined with those from art and design. I also use graphic narratives to analyse data, think through drawing and tell stories.



CO-PRODUCTION RESEARCH ZINE


Image by Richard Nash

2020-2021
This knowlege exchange project involved members of the UK-Japan Location-Based VR for Children Network working with artists’ book and zine practitioner Richard Nash to explore ways in which his expertise could be used for secondary analysis of the project data to generate new knowledge. The final creation of the zine was framed as a structured co-production methodology that was undertaken in three stages. 


I SPY SENSORS


Image by Julliette Coquet
2021
This project aims to give children better control over how they are observed by digital sensors and in doing so addresses the core concerns of the HDI network around ‘surveillance and resistance’ by actively addressing issues of privacy and control arising from the increased use of sensors in digital devices to collect user data. It aims to inform and empower the users of devices, specifically children aged 8-12, by co-designing tools to understand, resist, and subvert the sensors embedded in common digital devices and smart objects. The tools will provide children with agency over how their lives are presented through data, and how this is used to inform a range of products aimed at making money from them.
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MOON & ME



2014-2019
I worked as a researcher and advisor for the hit TV show Moon and Me. It is an example of the importance of research to good design. 
VR Other Worlds (2020)