Methodological challenges of studying children in a living laboratory: case example of conceptual PlayLab

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Digital technologies have created possibilities in research unavailable when Vygotsky first introduced his cultural-historical approach for studying children’s development. More needs to be known about the relations between methodology and method when using digital tools in the early developmental period (1-5 years). In this paper we introduce the concept of a living laboratory to capture the research dynamics of this cultural age period in family homes and preschool settings under conditions of an educational experiment. We discuss Vygotsky’s theoretical concepts as foundational for theorising the use of digital tools for researching in a living laboratory. Central for a living laboratory are: (1) capturing development in motion, (2) including the past in the present research context, (3) designing studies in ways that go beyond fossilised complete forms of development, and (4) creating study conditions for condensed and amplified forms of development. To bring these conditions into the research contexts where a condensed form of development emerges opens up a dynamic yet dialectical way of studying early development. We showcase digital tools, such as VR and digital data collection, as part of (1) undertaking an educational experiment of a Conceptual PlayWorld, and (2) a cultural-historical conception of longitudinal research for studying the conceptual development of infants, toddlers and preschoolers within a living laboratory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalCultural-Historical Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • cultural-historical
  • development
  • digital
  • early childhood
  • method, methodology
  • VR

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