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Beside the Looking For / The Finding’s Always Tame: * Mining, Crafting, Writing, Thinking

alesnick's picture

Beside the Looking For / The Finding’s Always Tame: * Mining, Crafting, Writing, Thinking

*  (The Loving of the Game, Pat Garvey, covered by Judy Collins)

Alice Lesnick, Bryn Mawr College

4C's March 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana


Starting again with the essay, essayer, French for "to attempt" – TS Eliot still over there:

". . . perhaps neither gain nor loss.

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. " (East Coker, Four Quartets)

While Judy gives the soundtrack: "nothing drives a gambler, like the loving of the game."

Blah Blah Blah     Risk      Blah Blah Blah

Let’s go!  But here --

“Chapter 1 

There was a wall.  It did not look important. “ (Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed)

Let the wall be the binary [here we go again]:

Structure – freedom

Engrossment – distance

Debate – difference

Play – work 

Win – lose

Porous - sealed

Abstract - goncrete

Ideal - real

Specific - general

To scale or pass through this wall, we have heard of critical thirding, the third space, (Tuck, Gutierrez)

second stage (Pincus), exquisite card trick  

thresholding the in-between,

really just the good old middle way, taut wire so fine it soothes instead of cutting

Remember Pythagoras?

. . . to double the square, skate out on the diagonal

jump the curb

This is about the Magic Circle -- dream and abject fact of porosity


Thesis: Our life online today shows us what we’ve been up to all along, writing inclus,
what we came to school for, if we wanted to do more than to control or to be controlled. 

If we wanted to work the transit between this and that to see what else might be, what else we might be.

"Then, perhaps, teaching the text may lead us to devise new forms for knowing that will not compel our students to recite the history and future of our desire."  (Madeline Grumet, Bitter Milk)

if we wanted:

to dive into the wreck (Rich)

come up to the difficult surface and extend there

full out

sans clinging, sans sinking

Right beside the looking for


“It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work. ” (William Faulkner)

This takes us to probative and to process writing – the looking for and

The looking after. That game.

“Soon after my arrival in the hovel I discovered some papers in the pocket of the dress which I had taken from your laboratory. At first I had neglected them, but now that I was able to decipher the characters in which they were written, I began to study them with diligence. It was your journal of the four months that preceded my creation. You minutely described in these papers every step you took in the progress of your work; this history was mingled with accounts of domestic occurrences.” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein)

Student blog posts on/while playing Minecraft as a class (find more left of this text):

Thought I would blog while I wait for the rain to pass :-)

Question: Can we "craft" a friend? I am kinda lonely.

What do we want to say about this?  Where is your thinking now?

[time to write]


Minecraft is a house without a roof – happy . . . .   A fairer house than the gaming world of folks like Jane McGonigal with their epic wins, leveling, optimistic efficacy. McGonical's website starts with the headline: "You found me." An open world. 

Or maybe not.  

Maybe Minecraft is a in fact and most importantly a house WITH a roof, with hiding places, a way to escape the panoptic-eye, to explore while undirected by authority, or to explore the possibility of such.  To explore what authority one wants to accept, and to direct.  As a student wrote in the class blog, "How can I learn better from all of you?"

One thing theses different approaches to gaming share, though, is the call to voluntary surrender, to chosen work.  A kind of work beyond the binary of on the clock, off the clock.  Beyond industry v. leisure.  This is about an option for freedom, with freedom quickly trending to engrossment and [fear of] addiction.  

To dodge dependency, critical play is a recommended tonic. Flanigan: games “are systems for imagining what is possible.”


In the chimney between actions

tuneful or swarming

mind begins again, moving snugly

then gives itself

the slip




Serendip Visitor's picture

My Minecraft Experience fo Tech, Ed & Society

I would have to say that to sum up my experience in a sentence, minecraft definitely was a space "to imagine what's possible." It was an assignment where the line between work and play blurred.

In a society that is sometimes always governed by rules, minecraft offers a space to traverse the void between freedom and structure. Some of us wandered without being tied down, and some of us tried to give ourselves purpose by setting self-directed goals. What was interesting was that eventually once we learned how to fulfill our basic needs as individuals to "survive", we then tried to create a microcosm of our own reality, and we started building communities and farms. We decided to built houses in close proximity with one another, so we could have "neighbors." It was a chance for us to make our own rules and yet some of the rules of reality continued to seep in and manifest in the game. It became a figment of civilization. A cross between reality and our own imagination. We wanted to be "close" to each other in a virtual world because sometimes we felt lonely. Perhaps that says something about what it fundamentally means to be human, and what it means to have "freedom". Perhaps, it was just a game.

Robert Homan's picture

I really like the idea of

I really like the idea of "voluntary surrender" here, and I think it applies well to Minecraft. Minecraft can be work, even painstaking, meticulous work, but it is worth considering why it grabs such a hold on people even when from an outside perspective it seems tedious, boring or repetitive. The key I think is that minecraft at its best is work - and work is important I think some sort of need for human beings - but crucially it is work with meaning, with purpose. Simone Weil the 20th century philosopher and religious writer wrote that "work is the useful effort" which I think is a helpful distinction. Work without meaning or purpose, when not considered as useful in some way, perhaps shouldn't even be seen as work, but something less and worse.

So I think maybe minecraft can help us think through these issues relating to work and the dignity and usefulness of work, and the importance of meaningful work. Personally and practically I think this means a lot more jobs in education, as I think jobs such as teaching are intrinsically meaningful if they are oriented towards building relationships.

Thanks Alice for being such an innovative teacher with minecraft and for this post, it leaves me with a lot to think about!

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