Multimodality, Mixed methods and Interdisciplinarity – 14th May 2012

Girls clapping from above

The case of Children’s Playground games

This seminar will draw on a series of large datasets generated by the recent AHRC-funded project Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the age of New Media ( The project studied playground games in two primary school playgrounds (in London and Sheffield), using forms of visual ethnography involving digital video as the main data collection method, and depositing the archive at the British Library. In addition, the project digitised a substantial collection of audio from the 1970s and 80s (the Opie collection) in the National Sound Archive. It also made a website showcasing all this material, co-curated by primary school children involved in the project, who made animations to introduce the categories of play they had helped construct. Finally, the project developed a prototype application to record the movements of play as virtual figures in real time and display them back to the player, enabling them to see embodied action on-screen, and to play against the captured movements.

This seminar will consider, then, how these forms of digital data can be analysed using multimodal approaches. These will attend to the modes of communication and expression involved (games, performance, dance, song); to the embodied nature of these modes; to the material media involved and the meanings these contribute. They will also consider how the meanings made in the particular cultural moment incorporate or transform earlier meanings, whether those carried from game movements, words and music from decades earlier or those derived from contemporary media forms (film, computer games, television).

This multimodal approach will consider how to carry the analysis across different kinds of data produced from different kinds of research and practice: ethnographic observation, interview, film-making and web design, and movement capture. At the same time, it will need to consider how the different disciplinary traditions and perspectives influence the analysis: cultural and media studies, ethnography, folklore studies, musico-ethnology, computer science and game design.

Girls clapping game

The day will include three sessions. Each will consist of a brief introduction outlining the context and the analytical approach. Participants will then be invited to study a selection of data and practise forms of multimodal analysis. Presenters will then summarise their own analysis and its outcomes. There will then be a fourth session to consider the challenges and opportunities of multimodal analysis across these kinds of data.

Participants in the seminar can look at sample material of video data and the children’s animations (Session 2) on the British Library website Playtimes: a Century of Children’s Playground Games –

SESSION 1: Dr Julia Bishop (University of Sheffield); Professor Andrew Burn (London Knowledge Lab)

Clapping Games and performance: video and interview data of girls’ clapping games and cheerleading routines, looking at gesture, song, dance movements, language, gaze and proxemics.

SESSION 2: Grethe Mitchell, Reader in Digital and New Media, University of Lincoln

Game-Catcher: motion-capture of games, focusing on the relation between physically-embodied play and virtually-embodied play.

SESSION 3: Dr John Potter, London Knowledge Lab

Children’s animated films and web designs, focusing on moving image media as kineikonic mode (incorporating visual design, spoken language and music).

SESSION 4: Professor Andrew Burn

Mixed methods: structured discussion around a SWOT analysis of mixed methods and interdisciplinary research. Questions addressed will include:

  • How and to what extent can multimodality be a unifying methodological approach across different forms of data analysis and different disciplinary traditions?
  • What is the relationship between multimodality and ethnography?
  • What are the affordances of digital data – video, audio, text, movement capture – and what particular challenges do they present?
  • How can multimodality theory help our understanding of embodied action, communication, expression, both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’?

Date, venue and fee

14th May, 2012, University of Newcastle. Fee £20

To register for this seminar please visit our online registration site or contact Anna Waring.