Mercantile parenting: the circulation of information about children’s literacy and development in commercial spaces Sue Nichols, Helen Nixon & Sophia Rainbird University of South Australia, Australia Jennifer Rowsell, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, USA Funded by ARC Discovery Grant 2007-2009 Rutgers University Development Grant Our Questions • How are resources for early learning produced for and circulated among parents? • How are resources spatially located and networked in community, government and commercial spaces? • What messages do these resources and practices send? • The interactions between all these elements. Project Elements • Ethnographic approach (Bloome and Green, 1998) • Geosemiotics (Scollon & Scollon, 2003) • Network theory (Law, 1999, 2003) • Three sites: 1) small rural community outside of Adelaide, SA 2) larger outer suburb of Adelaide, SA 3) suburban, university town in Princeton, NJ Research Design • • • • • • • • Parent survey Interviews with parents and service providers Observation Resource inventory & mapping (Neuman & Celano, 2001) Artefact collection Web-site investigation Observation Opportunistic information gathering Data analysis: geographic, social and virtual affordances • Spatial context – where is this text/display/shop? What kind of space is this? How easy is it to find/reach/see? • Cost – how much time/money/effort does it take to: get to this place/access this resource/take this thing home? • Social relations – which people are hailed to read this text/come to this place and which people do? • Mobility – how do information resources move in and out of this space? • Networking – what kinds of connections are made between information resources in different spaces and across material and virtual spaces? Gumtree Plaza, a Westfield mall in NE Adelaide, viewed from library and local council offices- a late 1960s planned separation of civic and commercial suburban spaces. 7 Mum’s Tips Kids and Computers I let my kids use the computer to access some very good web sites, such as 'ABC Kids', 'Happy meal', and some colouring website..., even 7,9,10 news. I create links that they can easily get on. Shu-Fen (Mum of 2) Inside the ABC shop Gumtree Plaza Books, spin-off merchandise from ABC and BBC TV shows, and Reading Eggs literacy materials displayed Online ‘ABC branded stores’ for themed merchandise ‘Reggie’ animated welcome Tally of Games Bought – formerly ‘Lessons Completed’ View of RE world with animated avatars Kmart is located alongside an open-style café where parents can sit and observe their children playing in Playworld, a feature common to Westfield malls worldwide. 14 ABC books, DVDs & themed clothes in Kmart The Physical and Virtual Worlds of Babies R Us, Target, and Walmart • Three commercial hubs in close proximity in US site in ‘strip malls’ • Used a Sarah Pink lens for observations to explore, “the production of both material and social realities” to derive a sense of place. (Pink, 2008: 179) • Documented ‘entangled pathways’ or making of routes for sensory experiences. • Such a perspective accounts for researcher reflexivity. Using a Geosemiotic Framework Babies R Us Interaction Order: Interact with BRU representatives Visual Semiotics: Texts are read at stations, large reception for questions, answers, and requests. Semiotics of Space: Open, expansive, modern, focused on babies in all domains of philosophy and practice Target Interaction Order: Little to no seeking out of help and most activity in children’s clothing Visual Semiotics: Parenting has a variety of books - not separated by genre like B R U - privileging of children’s clothes instead of information Semiotics of Space: Muted colours, darker lighting, vast, busy and hectic feel Walmart Interaction Order: Focused shopping and interactions looking for specific items Visual Semiotics: Generic design with sections in the same place in each store. Informational texts at the front of store by the cash registers. Semiotics of Space: Clothing in front of store and toys in back, darker lighting and more chaotic feel. Fieldnotes On Walmart: Moving into the store and walking east along the side you hit: food; drugstore/chemist at the front of the store and on the other side as you walk into the main part of the store you hit: stationary items; housewares; and gardening/landscaping. You walk through aisles and aisles of housewares; sporting goods; electronics; until you hit children’s toys in the back of the store. Most of the toys have to do with pure fun, but there is one row dedicated to educational toys. (12/09) Comparing Online Spaces Babies R Us Home Category Brand Collection Top Rated What’s New Multiple Learning Styles Target Women Men Baby Kid Shoes Beauty Home Bed + Bath Walmart (Baby Section) Bedding and Décor Car Seats Clothing Cribs Diapers & Potty Feeding Gear Gifts for Baby Maternity Nursery Strollers Toddler Room Toys Travel Solutions Placement of semiotic artefacts like store signs and toy packaging work to position parents in particular ways vis a vis other people (e.g. parents, education experts, children), objects (e.g. books, websites, toys) and practices (e.g. giving children pleasure, singing to children) as they learn about how to care for young children as ‘proper’ adults from the perspective of organizations or corporations and their sponsors.