Chris Martin, Postgraduate Researcher

Children’s intra-actions with mobile digital technologies during outdoor play: Everyday agency, assemblages and affordances

Contact DetailsChris Martin

Project Overview

My project looks at how combinations of environment and mobile technology assemble to afford playful moments in older children’s lives, and considers how these ‘matter’. I am particularly interested in de-centring the playing child and reconstructing them in a complex assemblage to present an alternative perspective to biosocial dualisms, thus offering the qualities of non-human actants up to increased scrutiny.

My fieldwork started in the summer of 2016, and is based in a large adventure playground in southwest England. As well as carrying out participant observation and focus groups, I will be experimenting with app development and design.

Research Theme

Critical and Creative Geographies

Research Questions

Technology is increasingly sophisticated, accessible/intrusive and increasing its impact on everyday life; the cutting edge mobile phone of today may be supplanted by wearable or even implanted devices by the end of the research.  The main research question is therefore flexible, it asks simply:

‘How do children, young people and mobile digital technologies (MDT) engage with one another in outdoor play?’

Beneath this are sub-questions, which focus research and provide structure and direction:

  1. How do combinations of environment and technology support playful moments?
  2. How does engagement with mobile digital technology affect children and young people’s agency?
  3. How does children and young people’s engagement align (or not) to intergenerational, community norms?


Martin, C. (2019). Aspects of Playwork: Play and Culture Studies. International Journal of Play, 1-4. doi:10.1080/21594937.2019.1640960 [Book Review]

Martin, C. (2018). Grassroots youth work: Policy, passion and resistance in practice. Children's Geographies, 1-2. doi:10.1080/14733285.2018.1545842 [Book Review]

Martin, C. (2018). ‘Weaving phones into trees’, Primary Geography, 95, pp. 16-17.

Martin, C. (2017). Children, Mobile Phones and Outdoor Play. In W. Russell, H. Smith, & S. Lester (Eds.), Practice-based Research in Children's Play. Bristol: Policy Press.

McKendrick, J. H., & Martin, C. (2015). Playwork practitioners’ perceptions of the impact on play of austerity in the UK: comparing experiences in Scotland and SW England. International Journal of Play, 4(3), 252-265. doi:10.1080/21594937.2015.1106046

Martin, C. (2014). Playwork cuts: the effects of austerity on playwork practitioners, playgrounds, and play services. Journal of Playwork Practice, 1(1), 74-81.

Social media

My blog ‘Playing affordances’


  • 'Children’s use of digital technologies during play: Everyday agency, assemblages and affordances', workshop delivered at the Play Wales Conference 'Spirit 2017: A Healthy Childhood', Cardiff, October 2017
  • 'Children’s use of mobile digital technologies during play: Everyday agency, assemblages and affordances', conference paper delivered at the Triennial International Play Association in Calgary, September 2017
  • 'Children and mobile digital technology in outdoor play: Everyday agency, assemblages and affordances', conference paper delivered at 'Play and Playwork: Research and Practice', Leeds Beckett University, July 2017
  • ‘Collective agency and everyday affordances: assembling children and young people's play’, conference paper delivered at the Royal Geographical Society with IBG International Conference, London, August 2016
  • ‘Agency, assemblages and affordances: children and mobile phones in outdoor play’, conference paper delivered at the Royal Geographical Society with IBG International Conference (London, August 2014) and International Play Association Conference (Istanbul, May 2014)
  • ‘Children’s use of mobile phones on adventure playgrounds’, dissertation presentation, University of Gloucestershire CPD seminar, 2014
  • Presentation on the impact of cuts on playwork services, University of Leicester ‘Play in Times of Austerity’ Conference, 2013
  • ‘Virtue ethics for those working to support children’s play’ paper presented at the Philosophy at Play Conference, University of Gloucestershire, 2013

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