Hidden Worlds: A Geography of Childhood Multispecies Secret Places

"Hidden Worlds: A Geography of Childhood Multispecies Secret Places" develops a holistic understanding of childhood secret places. The phenomenon of secret places is mapped by weaving together diverse sources with an empirical study, which invites the public to send anonymous postcards on their childhood secret place. These postcards are displayed below, come explore these hidden worlds!


Project information

Project duration


Funded by

Other Finnish

Project funder

EDUFI Fellowship from Opetushallitus / Finnish National Agency for Education
Finnish Cultural Foundation, North Ostrobothnia Regional fund

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Contact information

Project leader

Project description

My PhD thesis, titled "Hidden Worlds: A Geography of Childhood Multispecies Secret Places," supervised by Pauliina Rautio and Tuure Tammi, aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of childhood secret places. This research seeks to contribute to the well-being of both children and the environment by establishing principles that respect children and their multispecies companions' rights to privacy, embrace risk, and help to navigate current and future uncertainty times.

Childhood secret places – including physical places like treehouses or dens, but also digital and virtual secret places inside video games or a child’s imagination – inhabit an ambivalent place in discourses on children and childhood. On the one hand, often nostalgic academic literature promotes their existence as supporting children’s development. On the other hand, due to concerns about children's safety and a desire to regulate their education and surroundings, adults more frequently attempt to manage, monitor, and restrict children's mobilities, temporalities, and spaces, limiting their capacity to have and maintain secret places. The two competing narratives – benefits for children’s development and worries over their safety – leave a crucial gap in scientific understanding: what is the meaning of these places for children themselves and those these places are shared with.

This PhD located at the intersection of (early) childhood studies and children’s geographies produces a more holistic view by examining and expanding the current narratives on secret places of children and their companions to answer the main research question of: how can narratives on childhood secret places be decolonized from adult and minority-Western dominated perspectives to acknowledge non-developmental, collaborative, joyful and difficult expressions of this phenomenon?.

To accomplish this work, the phenomenon of secret places will be mapped in three work packages including a theoretical exploration, methodological development, and empirical research. Diverse philosophical, cultural and historical sources will be weaved together with an empirical study conducted in the North of Finland, using the innovative method of inviting the public to send anonymous postcards in line with a research-creation approach. These postcards are then curated into a digital anarchive. This newly developed method responds to the ethical challenges related to researching childhood secret places of privacy, trust and power relations, while also challenging the adult/child binary and concepts of authenticity relating to childhood experiences and children’s voices. Including new materialist and posthumanist perspectives will challenge the romanticizing, colonizing but also risk-avoidant and adults-controlling-children narratives.

This research will further scientific understanding of the phenomenon of childhood secret places. Furthermore, it promotes a transformation in understanding human's relationship to the world, emphasizing epistemological humility and the importance of respecting privacy, embracing risk, unknowing and lack of control while facing today’s uncertain times with joy and playfulness.

Participate in the project!

Didn't find a postcard to send in but still want to participate in the project? You can download a postcard here, write and/or draw about your childhood secret place(s) on it and send it to the following address to have it included in the digital anarchive!

Kristina Vitek
Kasvatustieteiden ja psykologian tiedekunta
PL 8000
90014 Oulun yliopisto

Digital Anarchive

English translation: The secret place of my childhood was at my grandparents' house under the stairs, I could even still go there because it was such a magical little nest/den, I would eat my packed lunch there and wonder what I would paint and that's where a lot of my art inspirations were born. I was happy in that moment, accompanied as a little one by my cat Musse and my dog Turre. Thank you

English translation: As a child, I spent a lot of time on my own - although with my cousins in the countryside at my grandmother's house, we would get together as a group. Popular places were the roof/edge of the feed tower attached to the barn building. That's where you climbed up the “feed chute”. The top of the barn was also an obscure, dusty hiding place where the cats would have their kittens. But a very special hiding place was the currant bushes, where you could get fresh berries from the bushes and stare at the sky. I would often find myself in the middle of a large clump of bushes, huddled by a green mossy rock. Surrounding it was a lawn where lady's mantle was also growing. After the rain, it was nice to step out and smell the wet leaves in the dew. My childhood home in the church village was near the cemetery, which was higher than the surrounding area. It seems odd that the cemetery scared - I was only interested in the old, large headstones in particular. The pine forest was also a place where you could enjoy eating berries all by yourself in the autumn. So there was not just one place, but several

In the news

An article on the project was published in Kaleva on 17 May 2024, read it here!

Data Privacy Notice

Here you can find the data privacy notice for scientific research participants according to EU General Data Protection Regulation Art. 13 and 14 for the project "Hidden Worlds: A Geography of Childhood Multispecies Secret Places".

Data privacy notice in English: https://unioulu-my.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/personal/kvitek21_student_oulu_fi/Ea4G_WbhL7ZFtgMOc4ocPWAB2duuGAkjuPouomAtFMFeuQ?e=TedXhY

Tietosuojaseloste suomeksi [Data privacy notice in Finnish]: https://unioulu-my.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/personal/kvitek21_student_oulu_fi/EUVOtxSm5WFFmH0W5b-_gXEB4RGy1kWqnoSGMvPdVdu1EQ?e=WHMqji