Re: First LCHC Play Discussion Notes

From: Marie Judson (
Date: Fri Apr 15 2005 - 10:26:16 PDT

Thanks for providing such great notes, Robert!

The discussion of animals and play puts me in mind of
my 4-year-old cat, who flips a bottle cap
strategically into the center of a crumpled up
sweatshirt and then proceeds to stalk it. She makes it
more and more difficult for herself, pushing the
*mouse* more and more deeply into the folds if she
seems to be fetching it out too easily.

She'll also play a sort of "peek a boo" with it by
batting it under a door and then going to the other
side to find it and play with it some more, just in
the way cats will "play" with their prey, hooking it
and flipping it with her claw, then pouncing on it,
and so forth. In this way, she gives it life so she
can pursue it. It definitely seems like tool use and
imagination to me.


> ------------------
> Play worlds Meeting at LCHC
> April 11, 2004
> Sonja Baumer Presenting
> Readings:
> Lindqvist The Aesthetics of Play (Chpts. 3-5)
> Elkonin The Psychology of Play (Appendix)
> Present: Mike Cole, Deborah Wilson, Elaine Parent,
> Virginia Gordon,
> Xavier, Beth Ferholt, Kristen Clark, Sonja Baumer,
> Kelli Moore, Robert
> Lecusay, Christian Simmoneti, Lars Rossen, Neils
> Pederson, Koichi Haishi,
> Don Schumman.
> Sonja began by asking everyone at the meeting to
> write on a piece of paper
> their intuitive definition of play. She collected
> these and read some,
> noting that some people defined play in terms of
> their own experience,
> others negatively as the opposite of work, and
> others in terms of
> suspension of disbelief. Here are some samples:
> "embodiment of imagination"
> "the absence of stress, fun"
> "free departure from everyday life"
> "freedom, enjoyment, pleasure"
> "unconscious, fictional, pretense"
> "informal setting, another reality, lack of
> incentives"
> "separation from everyday reality."
> Sonja defined play as a state of mind, an
> experience.
> Mike asked about the difference between games and
> play, to which Sonja
> responded with a comparison of Piaget and Vygostky's
> ideas. Unlike play,
> Piaget saw games as rule-bound. Vygotsky, on the
> other hand, viewed games
> as another stage in the development of play humans
> enact scripts that
> pertain to stereotypes and narratives of a
> particular character role.
> Sonja concluded by defining games as characterized
> by explicit rules and
> implicit imaginary situations, play by implicit
> rules, and explicit
> imaginary situations.
> Deborah asked about the progression of puppy play
> (which seemed to have no
> mental element) to play that did involve some kind
> of mental element (play
> with humor)
> Sonja responded by highlighting an example from
> Bateson's What is Play?
> (to be posted on XMCA): Chimps giving eye signals
> that communicate that
> their biting is playful biting. This is a
> paradoxical frame in which the
> playful bite stands for a bite but does not denote
> pain.
> Mike brought up Burke's "Dramatic No" (Being Human)
> Sonja continued by talking about historical changes
> in the perceived value
> of play, noting that with the emergence of
> capitalism, play came to be
> associated with childishness , whereas before (e.g.
> medieval), play was a
> privileged activity for adults.
> Mike asked what the difference was between rules and
> a frame. What about
> peek-a-boo? Is it play?
> Sonja argued that there are some rules, expectations
> that are non-verbally
> negotiated in peek-a-boo.
> Mike told the story of a girl (participant at the
> Fifth Dimension) who
> engages in elaborate and spontaneous pretend play
> that reflects her
> difficult situation at home.
> Deborah asked if in play, the back and forth between
> emotional and
> intellectual states was engaged in order to
> eventually gain a clear
> definition of each state.
> Mike then discussed instances in which adults could
> be put in positions
> where they were uncertain about the reality of the
> moment (Alfred
> Schutz?). He continued by asking, "What is it that
> allows people to create
> and work with certain frames?" Then offered two
> examples: a memory of his
> son playing a fantasy baseball game (not an actual
> game, but the
> recreation of specific moments of a game, playing
> the parts of specific
> ball players), and an anecdote about a time in U.S.
> baseball history when
> travel was such that teams couldn't travel around as
> much as they do
> today, and so radio reenactments of the games were
> staged (the issue of a
> fully engaged audience).
> Sonja added the example of radio audiences writing
> letters to characters
> asking for advice (e.g. asking the character of a
> doctor for medical
> advice). Mike brought up an example of a soap opera
> viewer who physically
> attacked an actress from the show because of the
> evil things she had done
> on the show. Sonja: "How are people seduced into
> acting these ways?"
> Beth, returning to the example of a person writing
> for medical advice to
> someone who plays the character of a doctor, said
> that part of the healing
> process for people is grounded in the trust one
> develops for the doctor.
> She went on to highlight similar examples from the
> Narnia play world.
> Kelli argued that in this situation of
> audience-actor, the actor, who is
> also engaging in play, is also actually learning
> something when he/she,
> for example, researches his/her part. She brought up
> the example of a TV
> actor who when interviewed said that he found
> himself able to answer
> medical questions from fans.
> Mike: this brings up the question of imitation
> Sonja brought up Stanislavsky: the notion that when
> trying to act out an
> emotion, one needs to locate that emotion in oneself
> (a personal memory
> that causes one to re-experience the emotion). In
> light of this, Sonja
> noted that it was not chance that she plays the role
> shoe does in the
> Narnia play world. Mike noted the Eisentstein, Stan,
> Vygotsky were all
> contemporaries.
> Mike next discussed transition phenomena kids who
> are beginning to
> engage in games with rules. He offered an example of
> a kid playing pool in
> the Fifth Dimension who created new rules within the
> rules of the game
> that were to his advantage (e.g. yelling "Chancies!"
> gives one the
> opportunity to take another turn).
> Sonja spoke about the relationship between
> imagination and thought,
> highlighting Vygotsky's notion (discussed in
> Lindqvist's article) that
> adults have more imagination than kids as a
> consequence of the fact that
> they have had more experiences than kids, and thus
> have more resources to
> draw on. Sonja argued that the research does not
> support this.
> Next Mike introduced the Russian term voobrazhenie
> (into image making)
> as a lead-in to a discussion about the necessity of
> separation from the
> world in order to have an experience of contrast,
> and
=== message truncated ===

Marie Judson
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Communication
UCSD, Mailcode 0503

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