University of Oulu

Karin Murris (2023) ‘This is Not a Photograph of Zuko’: how agential realism disrupts child-centred notions of agency in digital play research, Children's Geographies, 21:3, 547-562, DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2022.2098005

‘This is not a photograph of Zuko’ : how agential realism disrupts child-centred notions of agency in digital play research

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Author: Murris, Karin1,2
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2School of Education, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-20


The way in which individualised child agency is already ‘given’ ontologically in digital play research profoundly affects epistemology: how data is produced, analysed and interpreted. Co-created as part of a large-scale international study is a photograph ‘of’ South African six-year-old Zuko playing with Lego bricks. The agential realist diffractive reading of the photo as phenomenon traces transdisciplinary what is already at play materially and discursively in its specificity. Benefitting from recent work by feminist philosopher and quantum physicist Karen Barad and other agential realists, this article foregrounds the distinct contribution agential realism can make in children’s geographies. Moving away from either zooming in objects, or subjects when analysing data disrupts the adult-human gaze and brings into focus the apparatuses that measure and the relational spacetime entanglements objects are always already part of. Doing justice to the complexity of reality reconfigures digital play and agency as intra-actively relational — essential for reimagining more equitable futures in resource-constrained environments.

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Series: Children's geographies
ISSN: 1473-3285
ISSN-E: 1473-3277
ISSN-L: 1473-3285
Volume: 21
Issue: 3
Pages: 547 - 562
DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2022.2098005
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: The Children, Technology and Play project was funded by the LEGO Foundation. The work in this paper was supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa under Grant number 129306.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided theoriginal work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.