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MEDIA CULTURES OF EARLY CHILDHOOD

Childhood has not always been considered as a separate moment within people’s social and cultural life. The current definition of ‘childhood’ is indeed at the junction of various disciplines (especially psychology, anthropology and sociology) and is clearly related to the presence of products specifically aimed at children, for which media are precisely conveyors in many respects. The expansion of mass media since the nineteenth century, and in particular during the twentieth century – with the advent, among others things, of a children’s press or TV programs for children – has contributed to the recognition of children as active subjects with an agency of their own, and in the recognition of childhood as a specific and critical biographical moment. Moreover, media participate in people’s socialization, especially during childhood. While mutations around children’s media practices (be they recreational, cultural or educational) seem very important nowadays, the role of media in people’s social integration need to be reexamined: media carry cultural and social representations of childhood, and are thereby mediations between children and the world.

Toys, action figures, books, musical instruments, adornments may indicate the presence of a child, even before his / her birth, and reveal the media culture in which they will grow. New media, such as tablets or connected toys, have acquired a privileged situation within family environments, although socioeconomic inequalities should remind us that it is not the case in every household. New media are also gradually spreading out in other child-dedicated spaces (kindergarten, schools, game centers, libraries, etc.), in which children are experiencing earlier and earlier an increasing diversity of media devices. Accordingly, the conference will give researchers the opportunity to look into the emergence of children’s media cultures through the interactions between kids (between 0 and 7) and media. Media contribute in how children construct their representations of the world: the devices they watch or manipulate, the way they use them, the meaning they assign them, and the significant relationship they establish with the world through them take part in the development of their media cultures.

This conference will focus on three complementary questions to understand childhood and early childhood media cultures.