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Visual representations of children and childhood: Implications for equity in research

Authors: Bryan Wee*, University of Colorado Denver, Elly Evans, University of Colorado Denver
Topics: Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Visual representations, children, childhood
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Research with children will never ascertain what the world is like from children’s perspectives. All research with children are inevitably an interpretation of children’s lives. Likewise, childhood’s defining characteristics are found in the things that children can or cannot do based on the expectations and norms of being a child. In short, equity in research is not only about increasing participation from traditionally marginalized groups (e.g. children), or changing the nature of that participation so that marginalized voices are emphasized. It is also about addressing the social structures that maintain and reproduce assumptions of a universal child. This paper draws on qualitative research using visual methodologies to reveal embedded assumptions about children, childhood and the environment in contemporary human societies. Specifically, drawings and photographs representing child-environment interactions were collected from formal (schools) and informal (social media) spaces, then coded for emergent themes using inductive analysis. Our findings suggest that child-environment interactions are guided by a set of socially defined codes and the practices that make these codes recognizable. The implications for equity in research are that, for example, what seems at first glance to be participatory research with children may reinforce social and institutional hierarchies. What position/s do children occupy in adult-centric research and are they spoken for and spoken of, in the same way that childhood is spoken for and of, in adult-centric societies? These are the questions that this paper addresses, and the dialogue that it hopes to nurture.

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