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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Arculus

The Thesis What I Wrote : ‘More-than-Words: reconceptualising two-year-old children’s onto-epistemologies through the Improvisation and the Temporal arts’.

Updated: 2 days ago

I will unpick the title of my PhD thesis a little.

Onto-epistemology is a hyphenation of epistemology meaning a system of knowing or way of understanding and ontology meaning the nature of reality and being. I use the term onto-epistemology as a way of working with the way in which knowing and reality are created by each other.

Young children have a different way of knowing and being to that of adults and I am especially interested in how we know and exist in the world before words teach us to stand outside the world and name it.

Temporal arts are art forms that take place in time, such as music and dance. And improvisation is productive method of uncertainty which two-year-olds are extremely good at. Adults less so.

Lastly, this is a thesis, a piece of academic research, it uses academic language and philosophical theory to talk about what I did, why I did it and what sort of knowledge (epistemology) was produced. I go on a long, twisty journey to argue that young children are more than adults-in-waiting.

I do not recommend reading it in a linear fashion. I certainly didn’t write it that way. There’s a useful list/map/compass on page 15.

My favourite chapters are the last 3. Particularly Wild Buzzings. I did not enjoy writing chapter three, Finding fertility in the gaps between words but I think it brings together a counter narrative to prevailing discourses around young children’s speech and language.

You can download the full thesis here.

Download PDF • 3.40MB

The examiners said:

The thesis makes a strong and original contribution (a) to arts-informed research with young children (around 2 years old); (b) to video methods in (post) qualitative research, and (c) to the development of methodology within a broadly post-human, new materialist orientation. It presents a powerful and very well argued critique of normative models of child development  and the over-attention in early childhood education to language at the expense of affect, movement and materiality. The thesis draws on the writer's experience as a socially engaged artist to develop a creative, highly original approach to the "wild curiosity" of young children. The empirical part of the thesis is organised around two iterations of an installation entitled More than Words, in which children from a local nursery, parents and staff were invited into a carefully curated space designed to encourage open-ended engagements, and to minimise spoken language. Three different modes of video recording were used to generate data: an over-head 360 degree GoPro camera, iPads used by nursery staff, and a child-friendly trolley-mounted Tcam. The overlaps and disjunctures between these modes provided a fertile space for interrogating conventional video methods in social research and developing a more haptic method that is attuned to the movements, feelings and atmospheres that energised the space of the research. The result is a rich, provocative, nuanced and ethically engaged piece of research that yields genuinely new insights into the extra-linguistic dimensions of young children's engagements with the world. The thesis is beautifully written, often moving in its evocation of young children, and a real pleasure to read.


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