Sunday, May 24, 2009


"[Pieter Brueghel's] Children's Games opens up to an unbound realm of a winding river and the sea beyond ... [it] is quite uncentered, letting our eyes wander at liberty from one to another of the little groups playing at their separate games ... [it] is not about anything at all. It has been called the only one of Brueghel's paintings with 'no recondite allusions or moral innuendos'. Ritual is centripetal, bringing people together in a concentrated act that creates society ... Play instead sows its seeds across the field of the canvas. Ritual defines boundaries even as it posits wholeness. Play instead opens us to the limitless, even as it organizes its own rule-bound activities."
-- Ritual And Its Consequences by Seligman, Weller, et al.

“Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.”
-- Johan Huizinga Homo Ludens

"Dr Sergio Pellis... has done studies on rats, where he deprives young pups of play. He found that a part of the prefrontal cortex, the brain area right behind your forehead, does not develop normally. This area is important for certain abilities, such as making social decisions and reading social cues - a matter of life or death in an adult rat."
-- CBC Radio Quirks & Quarks: Getting Serious About Play

"Dr. Kalina Christoff considers daydreaming key to creative problem solving. She's recently completed a study that looks at exactly what's going on in our grey matter when we're letting our thoughts drift. Rather than being inactive, Dr. Christoff found that the brain is actually more active when we're daydreaming than it is when we're concentrating on completing a routine task. Interestingly, the areas that are active when we daydream are the same areas that are activated when we're being highly creative."
-- CBC Radio 'Quirks and Quarks: This is Your Brain in Neutral'

"Now we are on the brink of another revolution, as computers invade our everyday lives. The point is not that computers are becoming ubiquitous or ambient or disappearing altogether. Nor am I saying that interaction will be tangible, or that the virtual will merge with the physical. These things may happen, but they’re symptoms — attempts to shortcut technologically the challenges we face. The real revolution is that computing is leaving the confines of task-oriented, rational, ‘left-brain’ work, and is set to join us in our homes, on the street, at parties, on lonely mountaintops – everywhere, in short, where ‘work’ is the stuff we want to get done so we can do what we really want to do.

The idea of Homo Ludens – humans defined as playful creatures (Huizinga, J., 1950) – is an antidote to assumptions that technology should provide clear, efficient solutions to practical problems. From this perspective, we are characterised not just by our thinking or achievements, but by our playfulness: our curiosity, our love of diversion, our explorations, inventions and wonder. An aimless walk in the city centre, a moment of awe, a short-lived obsession, a joke – all are defining and valuable facets of our humanity, as worthy of respect as planning, logic or study. Play is not just mindless entertainment, but an essential way of engaging with and learning about our world and ourselves — for adults as well as children. As we toy with things and ideas, as we chat and daydream, we find new perspectives and new ways to create, new ambitions, relationships, and ideals. Play goes well beyond entertainment: it’s a serious business.

Designing for Homo Ludens means allowing room for people to appropriate technologies. Playing involves pursuing one’s inner narratives in safe situations, through perceptual projection or, ideally, action. If computational devices channel people’s activities and perceptions too closely, then people have to live out somebody else’s story, not their own (c.f. Wejchert, 2001). This might be an interesting possibility – as Dunne (1999) suggests, people might approach computational devices the way they do cinema, borrowing the identities and values they suggest for a short period of time – but in general we should give people the ability to own technology, to bring it into their own complex life stories. I know two primary tactics for doing this. The first is to create ‘suggestive media’ – suggestive in that they are designed to encourage or impel ludic activity, and media in that they are tools through which people experience, create, or communicate freely. The second is to employ ambiguity at all phases of design. Contrary to traditional thinking about interaction, ambiguity is an invaluable tool because it allows people to find their own meaning in uncertain situations. Used in design processes, concepts and products, ambiguity gives space for people to intermesh their own stories with those hinted at by technologies.

... designers should be provocateurs, seeking out new possibilities for play and crafting technologies that entice people to explore them. In the end, designers themselves need to be Homo Ludens. They need to recognise that they are playful creatures, and that their work depends on their play."
-- Bill Gaver. Designing for Homo Ludens

"An important concept in postmodernism's view of language is the idea of "play" text. In the context of postmodernism, play means changing the framework which connects ideas, and thus allows the troping, or turning, of a metaphor or word from one context to another, or from one frame of reference to another. Since, in postmodern thought, the "text" is a series of "markings" whose meaning is imputed by the reader, and not by the author, this play is the means by which the reader constructs or interprets the text, and the means by which the author gains a presence in the reader's mind. Play then involves invoking words in a manner which undermines their authority, by mocking their assumptions or style, or by layers of misdirection as to the intention of the author."
-- excerpt from Wikipedia Manifestations of Postmodernism

"As we become adults, taking time to play feels like a guilty pleasure—a distraction from “real” work and life. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. In fact, our ability to play throughout life is the single most important factor in determining our success and happiness."
-- Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"
–- popular saying

"We are here on Earth to fart around."
–- Kurt Vonnegut

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