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Play Matters

Play Matters

Miguel Sicart
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Play Matters
    Book Description:

    What do we think about when we think about play? A pastime? Games? Childish activities? The opposite of work? Think again: If we are happy and well rested, we may approach even our daily tasks in a playful way, taking the attitude of play without the activity of play. So what, then, is play? InPlay Matters, Miguel Sicart argues that to play is to be in the world; playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and a way of engaging with others. Play goes beyond games; it is a mode of being human. We play games, but we also playwithtoys,onplaygrounds,withtechnologies and design. Sicart proposes a theory of play that doesn't derive from a particular object or activity but is a portable tool for being--not tied to objects but brought by people to the complex interactions that form their daily lives. It is not separated from reality; it is part of it. It is pleasurable, but not necessarily fun. Play can be dangerous, addictive, and destructive. Along the way, Sicart considers playfulness, the capacity to use play outside the context of play; toys, the materialization of play--instruments but also play pals; playgrounds, play spaces that enable all kinds of play; beauty, the aesthetics of play through action; political play -- from Maradona's goal against England in the 1986 World Cup to the hactivist activities of Anonymous; the political, aesthetic, and moral activity of game design; and why play and computers get along so well.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32595-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. On Thinking Playfully
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jesper Juul, Geoffrey Long and William Uricchio
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Instructions for Reading This Book
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Play Is
    (pp. 1-18)

    Think about play, and what it means to you.

    What comes to mind? A pastime? Games? Childhood activities? The opposite of work? A source for learning? What you’d rather be doing now?

    Think again: How much do you know about play?

    Let’s start with a simple exercise. List your daily activities, the tasks that structure your day, from work to leisure to those things you have to do that are neither, yet youhaveto do them.

    How do you do these tasks? If you are happy and well rested, you may approach your day in a playful way, enjoying...

  7. 2 Playfulness
    (pp. 19-34)

    An iPhone is just a rectangular piece of metal, glass, and plastic; a machine with few moving parts, it does not hint at its potential functionality when it is turned off. But when it’s turned on, when software appropriates the hardware,¹ an iPhone is a machine of almost limitless capabilities. It is a tiny computer equipped with a web browser, a music and video player, a gaming console, a lever, a calculator, a camera, and any other thing that Apple allows it to be.² An iPhone, or any other smart phone, is the ultimate toy: an empty shell ready to...

  8. 3 Toys
    (pp. 35-48)

    We first get to know what toys are as children, when they are our most coveted treasures. Toys for children are hopes and refuges, aspirations and disappointments, gates and guardians. With play, we discovered toys, and in that relation we slowly became who we are. When we grow up, toys change, but we never outgrow them, because toys are the purest things for play.

    Play is a constant in our lives, an activity threading our being in the world. Play should not be seen in isolation. It is not an activity that can be easily detached from its context, its...

  9. 4 Playgrounds
    (pp. 49-60)

    The ship is sinking! Fast, let’s run to the moai. We will find shelter there from the pirates … but where are you? Around which corner? Ah! There you are, hiding in the open belly of the ship! That was a good scare! What now?

    All of these things happened to my oldest son and me on the same day in Copenhagen.

    On a playground.

    Our adventure took place in alegeplads(a Danish word that literally means “a playground”) in the East of the city on a warm autumn day.¹ On our way to a family event, we had...

  10. 5 Beauty
    (pp. 61-70)

    We have so far covered play as expression, through toys and in space, as an activity or an attitude. Now I focus on why play is not only important but also beautiful. Let’s talk about beauty. And let’s start by making things complicated: since I wrotebeauty,let’s talk art.¹ Is play an artistic manifestation? Are playthings, from toys to games, “art”? To be honest, and a bit of a tease, I don’t care, so I will stay away from that discussion. The type of understanding of play I advocate is obviously “artistic”: it is in the roots of a...

  11. 6 Politics
    (pp. 71-82)

    Tommie Smith. Jesse Owens. Diego Armando Maradona. Martina Navratilova. All of these athletes transcended their role as players, giving their performances a political meaning, whether voluntarily, like Smith, or involuntarily, like Maradona.¹

    Let’s look at Maradona’s historical peak, the second goal against England in the 1986 Soccer World Cup in Mexico.² In what has been described as the goal of the century, Maradona took the ball in the midfield and dashed across the pitch, dribbling half of the English team until he scored. This Argentinian from the slums humiliated England as England had humiliated Argentina in the Falklands.³

    I am...

  12. 7 Architects
    (pp. 83-92)

    Sometimes the beauty of play resides in the tension between control and chaos. Sometimes playing is voluntarily surrendering to form; sometimes it is being seduced into form, being appropriated by a plaything. Some other times, the pleasure comes from the appropriation of those forms, breaking and deforming them to play with them.

    By “the form of play” I am referring to games more than to toys, which tend to be freer and less formal.¹ To these artifacts we surrender ourselves to being seduced. Form implies that it can be communicated, transmitted, fixed and polished, and adapted and modified.² The form...

  13. 8 Play in the Era of Computing Machinery
    (pp. 93-102)

    What have computers ever done for us? They might have helped develop health care, security, commerce, transportation, and education to an extent that marks an era of prosperity and wealth previously unimaginable. But besides that, what have they ever done for us?

    Well, they are the key elements of digital toys and digital games, which keep us, the modern developed world, entertained when we are not working. They have also become machines that can sense, interpret, and communicate with the environment, thus enriching the playful possibilities of toys and work devices. Computers have revolutionized play as much as they have...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 103-142)
  15. References
    (pp. 143-156)
  16. Index
    (pp. 157-158)