In order to understand young children, in this case, the focus child, Silvana’s subjective sense and how she relates to others, visual narratives are used to account and exemplify how babies make affective connections. Affective connections with significant others are made through symbolic senses and productions through gestures, gaze, touch, postures and tone of voice babies connect to others. The following case examples were selected because as Vygotsky (1998) explains they were identified as being of unique type, were nonverbal interactions and forced a maximum interaction between adults and infants.
Case example 1: affective connection
The first example takes place at Silvana’s home. This takes place in an afternoon and it’s a moment of contemplation between Silvana and her father. This example develops in a period of one minute. This interaction begins silently as the father looks intensively at baby Silvana. They are sitting in a couch and looking at each other. Silvana responds, looks back and exchanges gaze. The father is smiling as he holds Silvana’s dummy. He takes in and out the dummy, when she opens her mouth, the father takes the dummy. The father is smiling all through the interaction as he pretend to put in and out the dummy in Silvana’s lips. Silvana responds to this fun and teasing game by opening and closing her mouth, and by making sounds of her own.
Image 1 and 2: Moments of intensity
The father is playing with dummy and then takes it out from Silvana’s mouth. The father opens his mouth and suddenly Silvana imitates her father which is also opening and closing his mouth. Silvana opens her mouth when the dummy is placed closer to her mouth. They are intensively looking at each other.
Image 3 and 4: Moments of affective exchange
Silvana says: “agu”
Father: “You want to talk don’t you”… (This occurs while he continues to put in and out dummy in mouth)
Silvana opens and closes her mouth and says affirming “mmm” as she closely looks at her father.
Image 5 and 6: Moments of affective connection
They now have focused on a sound and father say “jjuuu” and then Silvana “agu”. Silvana babbles and makes a sound “mm”. The father continues saying agu, Silvana moves her head to a side and the father puts dummy inside. And they never stop looking and contemplating each other silently as Silvana sucks her dummy.
In this example we can visually observe how the father and Silvana affectively relate to each other and this silent interaction develop from intensively to affectively exchanging to affectively connecting. At a very young age, Silvana is making strong affective connections with her father and her immediate world is about him. As Vygotsky (1998) explains young children develop a close relationship with those around them and this example shows the different moments of how the experience is affectively sensed and produced by them.
In this example, Silvana makes an affective connection with her father and her father with her. These emotions of love are subjectively express by the father in the interview, as they acquire a subjective expression that is communicated silently by both participants. This experience can be seen as another event in the everyday life of a baby. It is vital to pay close attention as the analysis becomes an iterative and sensitive process which is made subjectively and is characterised by multiple senses - non-human (dummy) and human (father/baby) made through the moment of making an affective connection. Silvana and her father make this connection silently and through creatively imitating gestures such as opening and closing their mouths.
This experience contains cultural meanings that are subjective. For example, Silvana’s father mentions how these experience is about having fun and is a game of teasing. Through being playful about taking dummy and putting it in and out, Silvana is able to communicate a strong motive of having it back through saying twice “mmm”. The father senses this as verbally communicating and he says “you want to talk don’t you”, which the subjective interpretation made by the father who closely relates to what Silvana which is affectively demanding his attention from him. As Hedegaard and Fleer (2009) explain demands arise between different intentions of persons and strong motives are characterized in engaging in different practices. Because teasing is a cultural practice valued through having fun and playing, the father teases Silvana with a dummy, an object that Silvana has created an affective relation and at the same time engaging with her father in an affective way.
Silvana’s father commented on this video clip, “I am teasing (or joking) with her, I love her, I am looking at a part of me… La estoy vacilando, la amo, ella es una parte de mi ser…” Through this comment it can be interpreted how the father is able to subjectively sense her experience with her daughter. The different moments to the family practices to show different affective dimensions such as having moments of intensity and moments of affective connection between parents and children, as the father expresses children are part of us.
These meanings are organized and configurated in different forms when doing the analysis with participants. The symbolic productions made from participants are beyond explanation. There are many symbolic and emotional productions made as the experience develops, and how the affective connection is made. The affective connection becomes stronger and more significant as the participants look more closely at each other, there are many moment of silence where the participants develop strong affects of love and appreciation which become “overwhelming” to verbalise as Silvana’s father comments.
Silvana and her father exchange looks and gaze with much intensity as they develop affective connections, this a strong motive which is love, the love parents have for children, and the love babies are able to express through reciprocally gazing at each other. Silvana as little as six weeks learns about ‘gaze’ is an important dimension of affectively connecting with people.
The following case example takes place between two infants and as they become more mobile different symbolic and emotional productions lead to developing strong affective connections.
Case example 2: building affective connections
In the following example, Silvana is establishing a relationship with Fleur for the past few months. Silvana has learned from her family home that exchanging looks and gazing when interacting with others is important when developing significant affective connections. This was seen in the last example with his father where she subjectively sense and configurated through intimate exchange with his father. This example contains moments of affective action and of building affective connections. This example shows the importance of the time needed for infants to be familiar with each other and in this interaction it is captured how it is believed an affective connection is created.
The example takes place in Silvana’s home, her mother is filming and Fleur is a guest. Silvana has already established a relationship with her mother and Fleur is familiar with both of them. Silvana is ten months and Fleur is nine months. Fleur is already crawling while Silvana is not yet. This is important as Fleur has more freedom to move around while Silvana needs to wait for Fleur to move closely to her.
Silvana and Fleur are playing on the mat. Silvana looks at Fleur while she plays with an object which she is chewing. Fleur is looking at something else, an open box with toys, then at an electronic toy that makes music. Silvana moves her hands and is making noise to what might mean to get the attention of Fleur. Very quickly Silvana leans back to what seems touch Fleur’s feet and at the same time Fleur turns to see Silvana’s mother and gives her back to Silvana. Fleur positions herself in front of the adult.
Image 7 and 8: Moments of affective action
Fleur positions herself in front of the researcher giving her back to Silvana and Silvana stays at the back. This is a good opportunity for Silvana to touch Fleur. Silvana touches Fleur several times and Fleur smiles. Soon after Silvana finishes, Fleur moves and Silvana leans back to touch Fleur. Fleur is looking at a box of toys and she grabs one.
Image 9 and 10: Moments of building affective connections
Silvana touches Fleur then Fleur turns around again and chews a toy and eventually after 56 s had passed Fleur kisses Silvana for a second. Silvana’s mum comments: “Fleur kissed you”. Then Fleur claps and Silvana keeps smiling and Fleur say “ahh”. Eventually, Fleur crawls to get more toys and Silvana observes what Fleur is doing.
In analysing this interaction there are different moments of affective action though patting, touching, kissing and intensively gazing. The infants have different affective attitudes toward this situation. In this everyday life playful activity, they both develop strong affective intentions and purposes for what they want to do. Silvana wants close interaction and eye contact from Fleur. Fleur is interested in exploring the new objects and in making connections with the adult that is taking care of them, Silvana’s mother. The way they are positioning creates different ways of active participation and creating moments of building affective connections.
In different moments, Fleur has different motives from Silvana’s. Fleur wants to interact with objects and exchange looks with Silvana’s mother. She is also able to move freely as she is crawling too. Fleur’s mother comments on how these two little friends are different from each other.
“I think Silvana is more intense, there is a lot of expression and passion in terms of what she wants to express and what she wants others to do to join in. I think Fleur’s concentration is shorter than Silvana’s. Fleur is quite carefree, you could come or go and it would all be fine and dandy’ (Fleur’s mother).
Silvana in this example can be seen as very expressive and passionate and wants Fleur to join her in and almost share the same motive. The meanings they create are subjective as they are interpreted they can have different meanings to the infants. However, their actions are produced symbolically and emotionally and they progress as they subjectively sense each other’s intentions. On the other hand, mothers get to know their children well and Fleur’s mother also knows well Silvana. Fleur is relaxed and is able to account for Silvana’s intentions. Fleur accounts Silvana by kissing her.
It is important to acknowledge actions as part of subjective sense because “the processes of shaping a living system of actions, as in a subjective production” (González Rey 2011, 2011a p.272). Babies’ affective actions enabled them to create an affective connection between each other. For Silvana the forms of establishing an affective connection involved attention from Fleur. Silvana’s established this connection non-verbally through touching and exchanging looks which is an important value when interacting with her family. Fleur was able to take upon her perspective at the end and she finally gave a kiss and said “aahh”, this moments of action, Silvana is able to responds affectively through smiling. Both infant have strong will and affective motives and these placed demands towards each other, babies like Silvana and Fleur are able to resolve it in affective forms. They learned how their world consists of relationships with significant adults but also with significant others like them.
Their subjective sense in this example relates to their ability to read and interpret each other’s affective intentions through the actions and symbolic productions created in the moment of affective action. Practices and activities progress over time and because they are experienced intellectually and emotionally actions allow us researchers to understand subjectivity in how young children learn the ‘art of reciprocity’ with others.
The ‘art of reciprocity’ involves “the value of possessing awareness of how to engage with others with all parts of your being- including how children feel and think about each other and about what they play” (Ridgway et al. 2015). Through this example, Silvana in order to engage with others has to subjectively sense by being patient in getting a response back from Fleur. A minute can be a long time for these babies and it this example shows how time is an important element in babies building on affective connections with each other.