Routes and roots to knowing in Shaun White’s snowboarding road trip: A mycorrhizaic approach to multisensory emplaced learning in exergames

by Åsa Bäckström, Mikael Quennerstedt, Ninitha Maivorsdotter & Jane Meckbach

Vol. 10 2019, pages 251–278
Published November 25, 2019


This article explores learning during game-play of a snowboarding video game intrigued by questions raised in the wake of the increasing mediatisation and digitisation of learning. Correspondingly, we answer to calls for more suitable metaphors for learning to cater for the entangled learning processes that changes related to the increase of digital media may infer. Using a short term sensory ethnography approach, we elaborate on the idea of multisensory emplaced learning and propose an organic metaphor – mycorrhiza – to both methodology and learning. Mycorrhiza refers to a symbiotic relationship between fungi and roots of plants in its environment where fungi are the visible effects of the mycorrhiza. The metaphor provides a way to start to unpack sensory, visual and embodied aspects of learning in the complexities of the digital age. By elaborating on the mycorrhizaic concepts fungus, soil, growth, mycelia and symbiosis we show three interrelated ways of moving through this game: (i) a social and cultural route, (ii) a competitive route, and (iii) an experiential route. With help of the metaphor we discern the symbiotic relations between what appeared in our empirical material as visual and other human and non-human aspects of emplacement.

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About the Authors

ÅSA BÄCKSTRÖM is an Associate Professor at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. Her research interests include informal learning processes, youth, culture and gender. Skateboarding has been particularly focused since the late 1990s and Bäckström’s work has appeared in Leisure Studies, Journal of Sport and Social Issues and Sport Education and Society. Bäckström has a keen interest in ethnographic methodology and sensory perspectives.

MIKAEL QUENNERSTEDT is a Professor in Physical Education and Health at the School of Health Sciences, Örebro University, Sweden. Quennerstedt has been leading the project Learning and exergames in school (LEXIS) funded by the Swedish research council, investigating the educational values of video-games involving movement, so called exergames, and the learning regarding the body, physical activity and health that takes place in young people’s playing of exergames in school.

NINITHA MAIVORSDOTTER is a Senior lecturer in Public Health and Head of ‘Digital HEAlth Research’ (DHEAR), a research unit at the School of Health Sciences at University of Skövde, Sweden. Her research interests include the study of processes of meaning making and learning in different educational contexts, such as health education, physical education, and online communities. Her work has been published in journals like Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health and Sport, Education and Society.

JANE MECKBACH has a PhD in pedagogy and is an associate professor at The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) in Stockholm, Sweden, where she has worked for the last 30 years. Her current research areas include teacher training and physical education from a pedagogical and gender perspective, as well as young coachers in education. In her research, question of gender, artefacts, subject content and learning processes within educational practice have been prominent.