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Taking play seriously: Notes Towards Day 7 (T, Sept. 20)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
* Cathy is placing us in the London Room in Thomas Hall.
Francesca will select our site for Thursday
Beatriz posted about the coziness of our being in Pembroke lounge;
any other feedback (Francesca being late?)

* our cell phones now up as a private page on Serendip,
as pull-down from page of instructions about "meeting elsewhere"

* name test!

* Last Thursday, we explored the concept of slipping--
the degree to which it has to be unconscious/subconscious;
cf'ing that to being intentionally offensive...
and what difference intentionality makes...
Molvine's story brought home some of the costs
of  "being uncomfortable"--> deep discussion
about taking this up (acting as allies...)
* I've only read 1/2 your papers on this topic so far;
one of you wrote interestingly about "those who walked away from Omelas" as "slipping";
6 of you wrote about Bryn Mawr's history as an example of "slippage."

* @ the end of class on Thursday, we divided into
small writing workshops to work on these papers:
in what ways was that experience helpful/not?

Will do more writing group work on Thursday:
Review all your classmates' postings
(from both sections) on their childhood experiences of play.
Tag in top tool bar, for "Reading as a Listing," is handy here....
Come to class having selected one of these (not your own),
which you will be interpreting for your next paper.

By 5 p.m. on Fri: fourth 3-pp. "web event," using concepts drawn from the essays theorizing play (by Henig, Brown, Edensor et. al) to re-read a posting by one of your classmates on their childhood experience of play.

For Thursday's class, also read Tim Edensor, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington and Jon Binnie. Playing in Industrial Ruins: Interrogating Teleological Understandings of Play in Spaces of Material Alterity and Low Surveillance. Urban Wildscapes. Ed. Anna Jorgensen and Richard Keenan. New York: Routledge, 2011. 65-79.

This is a demanding text, so we're going to break it down.
Count off to four: in groups of 2-3, each one to focus on one of the 4 types of play:
1) destructive, 2) hedonistic, 3) artistic, 4) adventurous/expressive--
come in ready to give us a summary of the key point
(= definition of this type), and one example illustrating it.
Together we'll work through the remainder of the essay,
on what it means to "theorize play."
We're really going to be focusing on how the argument is constructed
(which might help you think about organizing your own papers...).

III. Turning to the three texts assigned for today--
Robin Henig, in Taking Play Seriously,
Stuart Brown's talk, "Play, Spirit, and Character,"
and Molly Knefel's "Kid Stuff"--
what jumps out for you? what do we see?
what can we learn? How is the play we know, experientially,
like and-or-different from what they describe?
What does it mean to "take play seriously"?
What role does/might it "play" in your intellectual life?

IV. Get into the same groups of 2-3 (that we just counted off into, for Thursday's homework):

each of you read your posting, describing your childhood experience of play, to your group members.
[Need to share computers, for access...?]
Draw on these three stories [and if you want also on our texts,
using dialogue, or visuals on the board, or silent pantomine, or...?)
to create a 3-minute enactment of "play."

V. Large group to discuss in large group

Reading notes
Brian Sutton-Smith’s 1997 classic, ‘‘The Ambiguity of Play,’’ cited in Henig's article:
"For all its variety...there is something common to play in all its protean forms: variety itself. The essence of play is that the sequence of actions is fluid and is at its core 'a behavioral kaleidoscope'....the best way for a young animal to gain a more diverse and responsive behavioral repertory."...‘‘I think of play as training for the unexpected”….”Behavioral flexibility and variability is adaptive; in animals it’s really important to be able to change your behavior in a changing environment.’’ Play…leads to mental suppleness and a broader behavioral vocabulary, which in turn helps the animal achieve success in the ways that matter: group dominance, mate selection, avoiding capture and finding food…..”children do not have unlimited imagination…Their make-believe and, by extension, other play forms, is constrained by the roles, scripts and props of the culture they live in.’’

Playing might serve a different evolutionary function too, he suggests: it helps us face our existential dread. The individual most likely to prevail is the one who believes in possibilities — an optimist, a creative thinker, a person who has a sense of power and control. Imaginative play, even when it involves mucking around in the phantasmagoria, creates such a person. ‘‘The adaptive advantage has often gone to those who ventured upon their possibility with cries of exultant commitment,’’ Sutton-Smith wrote. ‘‘What is adaptive about play, therefore, may be not only the skills that are a part of it but also the willful belief in acting out one’s own capacity for the future.’’