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Towards Day 9 (T, 9/30): Taking play seriously

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
this afternoon's talk (4:30 in Carpenter 21) by Robin Bernstein, about children resisting inherited traditions of play

for Thursday, 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 will help you think about organizing your own papers...).

Does each group have a clear sense of what your next steps in the 10-wk project might be?
do you know how will you spend your required 1-2 hours this week?

For Friday, fifth 3-pp. web-event: a revision of paper #2 (on the contact zone) or #4 (on a keyword),
with a focus on making a claim that arises from the text and sheds a new light for you on a
more general or abstract issue.

II. discussing 3 of your "keyword' papers, in search of how you might
strengthen both your claim and the evidence supporting it:

from Jody's class:
Sherry, Loss
mpatney, Home Sweet Home
Green, Disability vs. Difference

& from Anne's:
Nayanthi and Virushi, Freak
gmchung, Crippling the Norms
wwu2, How to Classify People
Weilla, Body and Soul

III. In the same groups of 2-3 (that we counted off into for Thursday's homework):
each of you read your posting, describing your childhood experience of play, to your group members.
Draw on these three stories (using dialogue, or visuals on the board, or silent pantomine, or...?)
to create a 3-minute enactment of "play."

IV. Juxtaposing our little "plays" with the two texts assigned for today--
Robin Henig, in Taking Play Seriously, and Stuart Brown's talk, "Play, Spirit, and Character"--
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?

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.’’