Saturday, December 19, 2015

Play Entry 29

"you can't role play empathy" 

I read this article on unrestricted play for children which I do have lots of thoughts about - however the two features of the article that stood out to me were the quote I put up at the top and the impulse to interrupt play to "correct it"

And also the fact that children surprised adults by resolving differences just not on the time table the adults wanted.

It's almost as if adults were conditioned to believe if it isn't resolved right away and in front of them it isn't resolvable.
Almost like a management issue with adults......
But so many of our creative or introversion advocates use "role-play" which is really imaginative play to try to "teach" a thing - but they set all the rules and interrupt the play for adults too - all those "role-play" corporate games have "right answers" and people who don't work with competitive players as coaches might not know how we train cognitive shortcuts in our best players to achieve goals - that's a positive thing not a negative one - it frees up automatic things for use in strategic things. But if you don't let something grow unrestricted and then give it contraints you get a different thing ( that can still be beautiful) than if you constrain a thing and then let it grow. Bonsai and Redwoods are both trees topiary and non topiary plants are both plants.

Something tells me that the intersection of "time" and "play" are things relevant to organizations and management of workspaces.

It's important to realize that one of the reason we are training our children to be indoors all the time is we expect our adults to contribute their productivity and citizenship responsibilities but being indoors all the time.

Bonsais are still beautiful -  maybe it's the interrupting we should work on rather than the glorification of one space or the other where adults vs children are, unless we find ways to free our adults. I don't think it "unfair" to raise up children to function in the culture we've created for them and there are strong arguments that all these "negatives" of ranking and sedentary-ness are realistic disciplines that children will be subjected to because that is what we offer as western educated industrialized democratic cultures. Making them full of compassion and joy might take a different thing than the nostalgic past. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Play entry 28

Yesterday while reading Subject and Power by Foucault I realized he has in effect 2 paragraphs on the exchange of subject/object power relations in the language of "games" and I'm going to have to go back and unpack it carefully when I managed to get some "post-semester-finals" sleep.

Also I need to make sure that I write up an entry on the idea that material objects have an intent that is intrinsically housed in themselves and exists regardless of whether or not a human interacts with them.

I am still unsure if that intent exists if it is an unmediated object - right now I think maybe it's only mediated ones and therefore a function of "designed objects"

Also here is this article in mainstream press that I want to go look at later to see the divisions of play as they are being experienced by western US humans and what they are thinking about it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/12/11/why-adults-have-to-stop-trying-so-darn-hard-to-control-how-children-play/?postshare=4471450357277630&tid=ss_fb

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Play Entry 27 - Oh Hell, I've been down this road before

Once upon a time - a long, long time ago I used what I now recognize as focus grouped ethnography to playtest toys and write toy reviews.

I tackled the difference between adult play and child's play then - right there- published and everything:

"If you want a glimpse into a strange new world, eavesdrop on a pre-schooler playing alone. You will discover a range of voices, character traits, and truly alien thinking that will put to shame any hidden notion you have of your own superior imagination. The biggest lie we science fiction adults tell ourselves is that we have retained the sense of imagination and wonder we had as children. But we are cynical. We imagine the impossible because we have so clearly defined for ourselves what is possible. We hope for the improbable because, well, we’re weird. But children have yet to draw the line between possible and impossible. They still hope for the impossible.


When we adults play, we are practicing the suspension of disbelief. Children, on the other hand, suspend nothing. Even when they are very reality-based during their period of play, they practice belief. For the duration of their play, they believe their doll is hungry; they believe their T-Rex hand puppet is bad and should be smacked on the snout for trying to eat boo-boo bunny; they believe that they are the teacher and should be listened to. I hope that by encouraging this type of play over video games that the kids we deal with will have a little less disbelief to suspend when they are older and weighted down by reality like we are."

I've moderated my own stance considerably on video-games over time, but part of the reason is that video games have changed too - that's personal/editorial - I think what's interesting to me is that this is commercial writing for niche market and before I went back to any form of school. For example: In an earlier column I discuss how "I don't know much about Art History" and it was true then, and it is deeply false now.

I am more consistent than many would be over a span of decades but I obviously still care about the same questions for different reasons.

That insight of "belief" is a thing I struggle with in anthropology - recognizing that the impulse to consign to "suspension of disbelief" already privileges rationalist hierarchies and colors other systems as "fictional" or "unbelievable"

The reason I encountered my own work is an internet security search I do every so often -

I may have to cite myself at some point - http://www.strangenewworlds.com/issues/kids-12.html

I'm glad I'm not static, I'm also glad my past self doesn't make me cringe too much. But that said I'm already writing to adults about Nostalgia Play vs Play, where the act of playing at all is nostalgic and subversive in the literal sense.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Play Entry 26 - There is no spoon - but what about a box?

I am thinking about the Matrix and imagination and imaginary worlds and why imagination is said to be desired in workspaces to solve problems but then discouraged if it imagines anything that is outside the current paradigm.

It is important to note that "think outside the box" already creates the space and the binary of inside or outside the box.

What is the thing "inside the box"?

Boxes are actually playthings - they can be all the things  - they can be the possibility of things.

Why are you asking to define things by box positionally as belonging or not belonging?

Box is being seen as the "container of things" not as the material FOR things.

When we play WITH the box what we are doing is rejecting the paradigm that automatically benefits the person/entity giving us "imagination instructions"


I am thinking of the man who can read the matrix and see the patterns and knows because he took "the right pill" the moral one of truth - but there is a cost to being outside the box and knowing and seeing all the patterns and he is the one that eventually betrays the group - to take the "wrong" pill and be in a world where he can't see outside and inside simultaneously anymore.

The strain of seeing the matrix and not having quite enough power to fix both inside and outside the box is real. Then the box is a game, there are rules, you solve games. "Play" is engagement.

But what if you look at the matrix and it is YOUR box- then inside and outside are irrelevant

My box is a world, my box is a lion, my box is a refrigerator that produces small gods I will sell to starving clergy that need them.

It is a plane or a tank or a table or a snowflake.

I won't take a pill or choose to think inside or outside I will take the box. I will open the box so it can be inside and outside simultaneously. My box is a shaman, it is in its own world and ours at once.

That is just play. It may not help solve the game problem set by the "imagination overseer".

All of the imaginary play in this case is transformative and it might also be transient replacement. The language of play is informed in the request to think outside the box - but it is appropriated language.

What does a business solution look like if I "play with the box" instead of think outside it?

What is the power exchange made by linguistically distracting me from playing with the box?

Would the man who just wanted a steak dinner have betrayed any of our "heroes" if he looked at the matrix and thought about it as a box he could play with instead of be in or out of?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Play Entry 24 Openness, Chaos, Replacement

Yesterday we were dealing with Design in org behavior class and moved to make a design vision board for our consulting offices - this is of course part of my former world and the vision board part of it wasn't the hard part - it was being an anthropologist in a room of social workers.

"What do you want your client to experience when they come to see you"

They need to be in very different spaces than I do with that - they are looking to help people achieve specific mindsets and goals and healing or achieving things.

Anthropologists go where people are not have people come to them.

Consultancy - which is the other thing I would be doing would be convincing people that I share their symbols and and values while actively working to change them.

I am working on the idea of Play as Viability - a survival impulse - I am looking for people who come in to my space to be open in replace some of the things they know with things the do not know- I'm pretty sure in my working definition of play one of the concepts will be play as transformational - you cannot be unmarked by "play"even if it feels unserious.

I contend the "unreality" of play as intrinsic to it's definition and find that is more of a linguistic instinctual backlash trying to maintain the hierarchy that is currently "rationality" -

Openess - all things may be possible for at least a nanosecond because you thought of it
Chaos- Chaos
Replacement - if you touch chaos for a moment it will take a piece of space where chaos wasn't.

If you're playing with me we're changing things together.

*****

Conversation at a bar with my brother-in-law -
"Who GAVE you matches!"

I was talking about an essay I handed in - my thesis proposal is due this week and it meant that my writing for my other classes was a little less filtered and my thought processes and sense of humor was more present because my brain was working so hard on meeting stringent structured requirements for the proposal.

I mentioned my birthday matches in that essay.

This exclamation engaged us in a playful conversation that literally became about play.

The thing that I take away from it several hours later is this - the exclamation became a moment of trust "Oh my god he DOES actually know something about 'real me'" rather than simply the kinship space I occupy for the family - the rest of the conversation ( which he agrees for adults counts in play) is play not because of the "joking relationship" that would be described by Radcliffe-Brown but because the recognition OUTSIDE the role meant that it was "safe to play" - at that point play is connection. Transformatively the relationship changed incrementally - I am known in a way I did not think I was known - interactions will be slightly different - trust will be slightly higher - if he gifts me matches it will be a reference to that moment.

I wrote about the way rationality and credibility force "positives" into transient moments instead of permanent objects because once a thing is proven it no longer becomes "proof positive" but an "objective fact" and thus neutral but in discussing the essay - the playful act of gifting me matches become referenced and semiotic in several spaces making a transient moment a returnable referent.

It is also generative - sharing the moment of play ( or in actuality playing with the moment of play) reproduces the moment and then leads to more moments of "good" and play.

If rationality makes "good" no-thing, a moment before it becomes an objective neutral then seems like play might take that moment and make it "a thing" and removes it from neutrality - so its not simply emotional reality but also moved into an objective positive existence.

If I were a novel, it would matter that it is the act of providing me with matches that is acting as a way for me to realize I am being seen. I don't think we actually exist that far outside of literary theory.

Also I still have matches. And I made Anarchy Chickens in my class at Grad school

******* A thing I observed on some-else's FB threat about not-getting Wesley Crusher Hate in Star Trek Next Generation.

Adrienne Reynolds Older men in SF hated that character the same way they hated Barney (the pre-school dinosaur) and for the same reasons - they didn't get that it wasn't about them - but there was also the problem of him being used for deaux-ex-machina. 

And that Barney reference isn't random - I was running and SF magazine and the sheer amount of time, investment and hot air older SF fans spent hating Barney at conventions was ridiculous. Now when I think about "disliked things" in the 80's and 90's it always looks like "hey this isn't catering to ME" kinds of things where before the space exclusively catered to them or they were power tripping - hating Barney in SF spaces was about some sort of something ....

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Play entry 23

Earlier this week was my Anthropology History and Theory presentation on Post- Structuralism

So I convinced my team ( to no resistance) to teach and discuss habitus and Foucault's Discipline with legos.

This was very successful - and though I will be writing a reflexive essay about the act of negotiation and designing the exercise *one of very cool effects is the three of us all then worked through designing the exercises we cared about most by not behaving in the manners or physcical space usage of past classes.

Improvisation and adjustment happened - cause and effect suspended and morphed. If it is not transforming something is it play?

Over the last two evenings I have finally "played Magic" each with an individual friend ( one new,  one pre-existing)

Here are things that are true:

My first friend is "new" and he has been unable to play Magic for two ( possibly more) years - he brought his own cards. The last time he played was during my favorite time to play - for those who don't play magic, set releases are tied to a story that provides "flavor" which is then also executed through art and game mechanic shifts. Innistrad from Sept 2011 which was legal to play in Standard through September 2013 is my favorite standard legal environment. It's horror film inspired.

The end result is that I got to play with a number of decks that I hadn't taken apart for pieces because I love them so much. I got to play "less competitive" decks because my friend's collection was being looked at for the first time and his deck construction was unclear - we talked about what it means to play and keep up with building decks.

He enjoys the building part and his builds are from his collection. He did not play competitively so the act of economics is based in collections through boosters - playing "kitchen table" with me allows his collection to be "at will" there's no need to keep up or buy more advantageous cards.

However I interact with the cards from a collection/competitors positionally - my goal ( less intense since the release of Gatecrash ) is to collect at least one of each set. The more I play competitive play, the weaker that impulse of engagement becomes.

In the process of identifying my interactions with play I should unpack that - "fun" used to be collecting and putting the cards in binders that could then page through later. Binders would still be the "dream" way of storing sets of cards for me - however they are space inefficient, and expensive to maintain a collection of over 14,000 cards that way.

So thinking about the relation of consumer to community member: the consumption of the material objects to participate in the activity - combined with my personal "joy" in that consumption created an effect where I no longer can do the joyful thing in a pragmatic way.

An emergent property however will be this - I am not a deck builder - I'm more of a tinkerer: some of this is also about time constraints - and I have now found there is a whole study of women and leisure time to cross compare use of leisure. However my friend the engineering student would build decks but has economic constraints as well as deep time constraints - my surplus cards however could be used for him to make decks that live at my house where we would play. I keep my decks forever when I love them or didn't get a chance to play them as much as I'd like.

There is also the issues of card management - the tool that I use to update and record the circulation of my collection** stopped opening this weekend. I am not the only person who had this issue when I went to report it to the developers.

Being unmoored from the record of my collection made me realize how I am both connected to the material collection and alienated from it simultaneously - my ambivalence in play and my disconnect from my preferred methods of storage actually mean that I have accumulated a surplus of maintenance work that could be pleasurable but now is perfunctory to an opportunity to play.

I should come back and flowchart this relationship.

However the surplus is creating an opportunity for a community member to re-engage with a form of play that includes discovery and creation and give him "joy" and then presents and opportunity for us both to play.

We played with existing decks on Friday.

On Saturday while I ostensibly asked for help with work - ( developing a survey) what happened instead was play - we played with coffee, we played with shopping at the anniversary event of my local games store, then we played with cards. She had brought a mixed proxy deck from the same Standard environment that my friend on Friday night had. Because she and I had previously played together - expectations of skill set were less "cautious" but she also hadn't played in sometime.

We discussed things we practiced "not to look dumb" like shuffling and card placement.

I think it's significant that our "Kept" decks for all three of us are disproportionately in that timeframe even though we have VERY different core motivators for playing - all three of us are unhappy with playing the current Battle for Zendikar set. The reasons for our reduction in play however are all differently motivated so therefore not causative between that disconnect.


All three of us expressed how nice it was to play without playing with strangers, performativity, or economic concern. Two of us however dropped a bunch of $ when we went to the game store anniversary - one for gifts for others involving miniature gaming and me for "non-study" desired singles for a modern deck - putting together the modern deck has no aspect of "play" to it - it is solely at the economic exchange issue for the "hope of play" later. Now that I have re-established two friends who will come over to play without the other psycho-social burdens of playing the modern deck elsewhere I may proxy my missing cards to play the deck while continuing to acquire the legal cards for future opportunity to play.

The economic constraints of building the modern decl literally mean I am not playing the game - I will not be able to acquire a fully legal deck for the better part of a full year due to the costs of the components.


*(my own habitus and my participation in structuring structures was explicit - once again moving through Holt's knowing but also through Rabin's trickster categories - is incorporation of bodied play "uncanny"?)

** this is a lie - a collection does not "circulate" if I never trade or get rid of cards .... or if it does circulate it circulates internally through my own usage/storage patterns.