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Multimodal technologies in LEGO House: A social semiotic perspective

Cowan, K; (2018) Multimodal technologies in LEGO House: A social semiotic perspective. Multimodal Technologies and Interaction , 2 (4) , Article 70. 10.3390/mti2040070. Green open access

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Children’s playworlds are a complex interweaving of modes, with the border areas between the digital and non-digital often becoming increasingly blurred. Growing in popularity and prevalence, multimodal technologies blending digital and non-digital elements present novel opportunities for designers of toys and play-spaces as well as being of interest to researchers of young children’s contemporary play and learning. Opened in Denmark in September 2017, LEGO House defines itself as the ‘Home of the Brick’, a public attraction aiming to support play, creativity and learning through multiple interactive LEGO experiences spanning digital and non-digital forms. Offering a rich context for considering multimodal perspectives on contemporary play, this article reports on a range of multimodal technologies featured in LEGO House, including digital cameras, scanners, and interactive tables used in combination with traditional LEGO bricks. Three LEGO House experiences are considered from a multimodal social semiotic perspective, focusing on the affordances of multimodal technologies for play, and the process of transduction across modes, in order to explore the liminal border-areas where digital and non-digital play are increasingly mixed. This article proposes that LEGO House presents an innovative ‘third space’ that creates opportunities for playful interaction with multimodal technologies. LEGO House can be seen as part of a growing recognition of the power of play, both in its own right and in relation to learning, acknowledging that meaning-making happens in informal times and places that are not positioned as direct acts of teaching. Furthermore, it is suggested that multimodal technologies embedded into the play-space expand opportunities for learning in new ways, whilst highlighting that movement between digital and non-digital forms always entails both gains and losses: A matter which needs to be explored. Highlighting the opportunities for meaning-making in informal, play-based settings such as LEGO House therefore has the potential to recognise and give value to playful meaning-making with multimodal technologies which may otherwise be taken for granted or go unnoticed. In this way, experiences such as those found in LEGO House can contribute towards conceptualisations of learning which support children to develop the playfully creative skills and knowledge required for the digital age.

Type: Article
Title: Multimodal technologies in LEGO House: A social semiotic perspective
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3390/mti2040070
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3390/mti2040070
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
Keywords: social semiotics; play; LEGO; third space; makerspace
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10058371
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