A small-scale international project focusing on children’s experiences at home during the Covid-19 lockdown through an innovative methodological and conceptual approach based on rhythmanalysis.
This research project involved an innovative approach to the challenge of capturing and comparing children’s experiences of everyday life through the use of specially designed child friendly time check forms during the 2020 global lockdown. Incorporating and reflecting the theoretical approach of rhythmanalysis (Lefebvre, 2004), the study explored the daily routines of a small group of children in England and Greece to discover changes and similarities in their activities during a day of lockdown.
- In what ways were the rhythms of the children’s days connected to wider social, environmental and cultural factors?
- To what extent was there evidence of synchronisation (similarity) or disruption (difference) in the daily rhythms of place, association, activity and emotion captured in the children’s time check forms across different households and in the two countries?
How useful is rhythmanalysis as a methodological approach in exploring, understanding and comparing the holistic lived experiences of different groups of children?
There were ten participants in England (3 girls, 7 boys) and six in Greece (3 girls, 3 boys) ranging in age from eight to eleven. All of the children were living with their immediate family during lockdown. For the majority this consisted of two parents and at least one sibling, although one child in England was the only child of a single parent.
Each child in the study was given a daily time sheet entitled ‘How am I spending my time today?’ and asked to fill in answers to four questions every two hours throughout a specified day. This day was four weeks into lockdown after the schools were shut in both England and Greece (9.4.20 in Greece, 30.4.20 in England). This day was chosen to allow the children to have settled into some sort of new routine after the novelty of being at home had begun to wear off and to allow the children’s days to be compared at the same stage of lockdown.
Aspects of rhythmanalysis were adopted and adapted in order to explore how children’s use of time was organised and experienced during lockdown without the usual physical constraints and temporal boundaries of the school day both in the design of the data collection sheet and in the analysis. To this ends two key rhythmanalysis concepts, ‘synchronisation’ and ‘disruption’ (based on Lefebvre’s (2004:77) descriptions of ‘eurhythmia’ and ‘arrhythmia’), were used as heuristic devices to frame the analysis.
The study asked children to respond to the same four questions every two hours. These were: Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? and How do you feel? These questions allowed the children’s experience to be apprehended holistically by incorporating their physical location, their activity, their social context and their emotional response to the situation at specific times during the day. They were also simple enough to be answered directly by the child without adult intervention, although adult support was often required in prompting the children to fill in their diaries either by hand or on Word, and on occasion, to scribe the responses for them.
There was much evidence of synchronisation in the daily diaries kept by the children in relation to time, activity, companionship and feeling. Through this lens, internalised rhythm can be recognised as one of the often invisible mechanisms that connects the individual to the social and that regulates and harmonises everyday life for most people, most of the time. It seems likely that the children in this study and their families had internalised the ‘expectation structure’ of the school day and attempted to replicate it in a modified form in their own homes during lockdown.
Despite evidence of the imposition of institutionalised routines and rhythms on the individual children and their families it is important to also recognise the flexibility and fluidity in the children’s everyday rhythms. This potentiality of creating new rhythms to be incorporated into everyday life was reflected in the 8 o’clock Thursday clap in England, for example, and in the location of the school day being transferred to the kitchen or living room in many homes in Greece and England.
From a methodological perspective, the project established how the broad approach of rhythmanalysis might be useful in both generating important questions about the lived experience of children’s everyday lives and offered techniques to explore and compare them in fresh ways.
BCU Pilot project fund
O’Connor, J. and Fotakopoulou, O. (2022, forthcoming) Using rhythmanalysis to explore the synchronicities and disruptions in children’s everyday lives in England and Greece during the 2020 lockdown. Methodological Innovations