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Feb 25, 2011

Comments

1.

I love the serendipitous posting of this article, since I am just finishing up a chapter of my dissertation, one that involves looking at play as it is translated from online experience to physical expressions. I like your analysis and your definition of the playful/play experiences. I too am looking at the moment when playfulness becomes play - I did an analysis of hours of video, looking at facial expressions and body postures of those enticed into the play event. Your direction with this is spot on, based on what i saw in my research. I found in my research that there appears to be a differing expectation of Huizinga's "magic circle" between online play and physical play, where the players organized initially online see more malleable and fluid borders of the experience than do others - as Auge has it, the frontier is not a wall, but a threshold. Well done, and I can't wait to read any follow-up as you continue this.

2.

Denice,
Thanks for the comments, is any of your work published yet, it sounds fascinating. In sideline discussions during the day I've been using the word 'fluid' more and more. Oddly I have Augé next to me (between Politics of Sport and Boxing) as I started to look into the nature of spaces a little, and of course liminality etc. but I did not want to start to load all that into the discussion here - though clearly the inform my thinking.
ren

3.

Ren -- I can't tell you how excited I am to see this today (as well as honored by the engagement in this long conversation, as always. What a fine antidote it is to the sometimes crippling mood that has lately reigned in Wisconsin, where things look so bleak and wintry. I am digging into it and soon will provide a proper reply.
-Thomas

4.

Interesting read. Your definition seems very similar to Goffman's idea of framing. Perhaps so similar that you could use play and framing interchangeable. What do you think?

5.

*interchangeably - sorry

6.

I like this. I particularly like the fact that you keep a concept of the magic circle, which it's fashionable to dismiss but which (as Slowthought points out) is basically Game Studies' way of referring to what Goffman later called "frames". I also like the fact that you recognise that play is a concept in the mind of the individual player, so we could both be playing what we think is the same game but it differs in some details we're not aware of; indeed, it's possible for me to believe I'm playing a game with you when you've stopped playing (eg. hide-and-seek where you couldn't find me so you gave up and went to sleep).

The only place where I disagree with you here concerns whether you can be forced to play something. In my own definition, play is not play when there is duress or obligation involved; the individual is going through the same process as a player, but in my view they are not playing.

I would also quibble as to where to put rules. Your definition places them in games (a particular kind of play) whereas I would place them in play; this is because some non-game play, for example crossword puzzles, also have rules. Do you have any examples of play that doesn't have rules? Even creative play (Sutton-Smith's "play as the imaginary" rhetoric) involves some self-set rules, doesn't it? Or do you mean that games have codified rules?

Something you have which I haven't come across before and which is likely to be very useful is this notion of ludic capital. For wider society to accept a game, the wishes of society are set against the wishes of the players. Sometimes, society wins (Russian Roulette is not acceptable); sometimes, the game wins (as in contact sports); sometimes, there's a compromise (a role-playing game featuring racism may be accepted if it's being used to train social workers how to deal with racism, but not otherwise). The idea of ludic capital captures this notion quite well. I would caution, however, that sometimes society may find a game morally permissible but individual players don't: you may be fine with an RPG in which your character murders other characters, but not be fine when a quest comes up to rape another character. There's something else at work here, I think, to do with the relationship between a game's designer and its players (what I've called in the past the "covenant").

Overall, though, yes, this is definitely several steps in the right direction!

Richard

7.

I am some what torn about this. Richard has brought up some great criticisms as well as pointing out its good points, and yet I find myself quite taken with this approach. I feel that it tells us a lot about 'playing', but perhaps not so much about the nature of Play. AS a framework I can see it being quite useful in the social sciences and, like Richard,
I believe the concept of Ludic Capital will prove to be valuable. It has made me consider skateboarding, an activity that I have often found difficult to classify until this approach.

As an ex-skater I often find myself communicating urban geography with other skaters in relation to architecture and objects (like others) but within the framework of the new meanings we have ascribed to them, e.g. 7 set with handrail or ledge (most people don't remember the number of steps), or an object that has been utilized in a unique way. These new meanings are generated by skaters when they interact with these objects in unconvential ways, and through repetition they become canonised amongst skaters, e.g. ledges are for grinding, steps for jumping etc.I have often wondered was this regnogation of urban landscapes and geography play, or perhaps more pretentiously, art. Of course we can see present here ludic-meaning and ludic-semiotics, but does this example not reveal that this approach demonstrates a link between play and art, or at the very least that play can be art? Not a new idea of course, but an idea that is certainly quite compatible with your framework.

Another reason that skateboarding came to mind was because it raises some interesting questions about the link between ludic capital and the magic circle. Normally skateboarding has little to no ludic capital, and it is always outweighed by institutional capital. Hence skateboarders are accused of destruction of public property, and of being trespassers. This however, is not the case in in a skate park. We can see
then that in two separate contexts, the ludic capital attributed to skateboarding differs signicantly. Perhaps then, magic circles themselves carry with them ludic capital, allowing some to be sanctioned and others not. This seems to be true of other forms of play/games/sport. If we imagine a boxing match played on the street with all the gear and under the same conditions and regulations, the legal ramifications of injuries etc, would differ signifcantly from the same game played in a ring. The same is true for soccer played on a street cornor. It seems that the concept of ludic capital necessitates some form of a magic circle (although perhaps not one we are acoustomed to), and you where wise to retain this feature in your anyalisis. Returning to my orginal example, the irony is that skateboarding was born in urban landscapes, and skaters still feel the 'call of the street'. I believe this drive to skate in an urban landscape is because it is only there that they have the possiability to discover new meaning, to do something that has not been done before (as the parks reflect only the cannon), even if their magic circle infringes upon the everyday life of others. This of course takes me to Thomas' point on
play/games, contingency and late modernity

8.

I apologise for how choppy my above ^^ comment was.

9.

Truly a joy to read your piece here, Ren. Here are some of my thoughts in response.

First, about play, playfulness, and games: I must confess that I have yet to see a way to make play a useful category for activities in which we engage, and I think that assumption of play as activity is in the background here. In a post in Dec 2008 (and a paper, later published, in connection with it) I argued in favor of seeing play as a mode of experience or disposition, a way of approaching experience. Such an approach may more clearly be described as being about playfulness, rather than play. I wasn't fortunate enough to have comments from you on that post, so maybe it slipped by you during those holidays. :) The post is here:
https://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2008/12/games-play-and.html

I should also mention that the complementary point to that one about play is that games are quite different, being themselves a "cultural form," like ritual -- a sponsored and culturally shaped event that has a strong but not determinative relationship to playfulness. Just as ritual may (or may not!) bring about a feeling of transcendent belonging, so games may or may not cultivate playfulness.

One of the implications of looking at play as playfulness, it bears noting, addresses the aspect of play that you seek to handle here as well when you say that we can be playing while we're also doing many other kinds of things. I agree that it is vital that our understanding of play(fulness) be able to recognize it wherever it occurs.

As far as what that "it" is, that is a question that relates to a second point of divergence for us, Ren. That is on the issue of meaning. We both agree, I think, that fascinating shifts of meaning happen around play, most obviously in game contexts (where the cultural work of boundary maintenance is often done quite explicitly -- here the Goffmanian idea of framing is quite apt, as I've said before). The examples of boxing and the like point powerfully toward just how distinct such domains can become.

But my concern is that you are reducing games (play, as you put it here) to meaning. For me, playfulness as a disposition is very importantly *not* reducible to shifts in meaning. Playfulness entails a readiness to improvise, such that the basketball player on the court, for example, is situationally playful in how within any given complex moment he or she *acts*, practically. When Oscar Robertson or Julius Erving went above the rim in basketball it was not, primarily, about meaning (although it came to mean something important, of course). It was the doing.

That is not to say that meaning isn't involved in games in a key way. My own view is that games happen to provide a culturally-sanctioned "engine" (in a way) for meaning because of the way they generate legitimately indeterminate events. They also, as I think you are most interested in here, entail a set of understandings about meanings that may lie at odds with meanings in other domains of our lives (what a push means during a hockey game, for example). But if we want to talk about playfulness, then we must have an approach that can cover that deeply practical aspect of the experience of being playful. An approach to the world that is characterized by the expression in utrumque paratus.

10.

Ren:

Just slightly too late for this to fold into my new book, "Imaginary Games" but I can feedback for your future book at least. :)

I was about to attack your definition for the problems in fitting it to animal play, but as I started to write my critique I could see that I spoke too soon: the "purposeful shift in the dominant meaning" is precisely what happens with mammal play (e.g. mounting behaviour usually means sex, but in play it does not), I think this will work with reptile play as well - not sure about invertebrate play, but this has always been a supremely grey area because hermeneutics of insects and arthropods goes *way* beyond the shallow end of ethology! :)

I personally don't like your "ludic-" compounds... That's partly because I feel "ludic" is a word we studiers of games should use like salt - sparingly. Instead, we end up with extremely salty neologisms which make us look insular (which we might be, but do we *want* to be?!)

But a bigger problem in this regard is that you're talking about 'play', and whatever "ludic" may have meant to the Romans, "ludic = game" by most common usage today. :( You can attempt to "reclaim" the word - but then you expend effort fighting against the tide, and this sort of Canutism is a waste of academic time in my opinion.

If it were me, I would resist the urge to "go Latin" and simply compound the word you mean - I know academics like to think that using Classical Language makes one look clever, but honestly what I think it actually does is make one look pompous. (I appreciate my minority status here!)

So I suggest you 'go simple':

play-meaning - the meaning that has been shifted or attributed
play-semiotics - the system of the signs product through play
play-capital - the degree to which these play-meaning and semiotics are operational in a given context e.g. when set against institutional-capital.

Doing this means you gain instant clarity, lose any pomposity and escape any Canutish battles to reclaim terminology. Looks like a win-win to me. :)

Well those are my first blush thoughts - hope they're useful!

Best wishes,

Chris Bateman.

11.

Richard,

>I like this.
yay

>I particularly like the fact that you keep a concept of the magic circle, which it's fashionable to dismiss

Indeed, I think I’m a founder member of the ‘save the magic circle society’


>but which (as Slowthought points out) is basically Game Studies' way of referring to what Goffman later called "frames".

Basically yes. I’m going to do a longer reply covering Goffman and maybe some others in that area.


>I also like the fact that you recognise that play is a concept in the mind of the individual player, so we could both be playing what we think is the same game but it differs in some details we're not aware of; indeed, it's possible for me to believe I'm playing a game with you when you've stopped playing (eg. hide-and-seek where you couldn't find me so you gave up and went to sleep).

Agreed


>The only place where I disagree with you here concerns whether you can be forced to play something. In my own definition, play is not play when there is duress or obligation involved; the individual is going through the same process as a player, but in my view they are not playing.

This one is tough (this must be my 10th re-write of this bit of the response). I think we are both right and I think I contradicted myself in the original post.

In short: if you are being forced then the thing you are doing might look to everyone to be play, and may function just the same as play for may practical purposes, but would not itself be play. It would be something like hollow-play.

I has given the reason for this, and then forgot it midway through my own writing; the key is “contextual attribution of value”. The play that is forced is like the person buying the bus ticket. They are giving meaning and value to things like the ball going through the net, but the primary value of those things is so they don’t get shot if they don’t play. But, so seductive is play that they might forget that and start to genuinely play.

The reason that I’d moved away from this latter in the post is because intentionality is a very slippery thing generally and particularly in play. In my response to Thomas’s definition I added the notion of ‘ludic intentionality’ - an attitudinal stance to acts of playful intent. This has come in and out of my definition here. One reason is simply circularity, I don’t want to say that play is the thing you do when you are playing.

However I think I’ve put in sufficient mechanics to cover this without needing to label the attitude within the definition. That is, this attitude is one where we really are giving primacy to the internal (i.e. contextual) over the external (i.e. extra-contextual) value of the act.

So I think I want to resurrect ludic-intentionality, but re-define it as the intentional attitude we hold towards acts where the internal meaning and value we attribute to them has primacy over external ones.

I think also we have: ostensible-play or hollow-play. Which is play where the intentional attitude that we hold towards acts holds the external value of those acts over the internal values and meanings.

As noted above, in many cases we may not know which one of these is going on as the different is one of intentionality. But again this very much accords with what is going on with some court cases involving violence within contact sport. As, the hard tackle of A on B might just have been hard or it might have been that A knows that B is sleeping with A’s ex-partner.

What’s more ostensible play can have ludic-capital just in case it looks sufficiently like play for the institutions to apply their usual heuristics. Also spectators might be fooled also – though we do have cases where people thing that sports people are ‘just going through the motions’.

Lastly, and I’ll just tack it on here, this got me thinking about the use of the phrase ‘game playing’ in every day speech. It seems to me this picks out where people are shifting value to either an internal value of a context or what is widely thought to be an inappropriate external one – see ‘institutional politics here.

>I would also quibble as to where to put rules. Your definition places them in games (a particular kind of play) whereas I would place them in play; this is because some non-game play, for example crossword puzzles, also have rules. Do you have any examples of play that doesn't have rules? Even creative play (Sutton-Smith's "play as the imaginary" rhetoric) involves some self-set rules, doesn't it? Or do you mean that games have codified rules?

I was a little imprecise in my wording here and I need to keep at the difference between play and games. I was trying to make the latter point. I was just not explicit about it. I think play does have rules but games codify them. In play the rules are more fluid – see my example of whether the thing getting knocked over is or is not defeated. I need to work up a term for the axis here. Maybe: rule-plasticity, or rule-foregrounding captures it.

>Something you have which I haven't come across before and which is likely to be very useful is this notion of ludic capital. For wider society to accept a game, the wishes of society are set against the wishes of the players. Sometimes, society wins (Russian Roulette is not acceptable); sometimes, the game wins (as in contact sports); sometimes, there's a compromise (a role-playing game featuring racism may be accepted if it's being used to train social workers how to deal with racism, but not otherwise). The idea of ludic capital captures this notion quite well. I would caution, however, that sometimes society may find a game morally permissible but individual players don't: you may be fine with an RPG in which your character murders other characters, but not be fine when a quest comes up to rape another character.

Thanks. This stuff very much came from my research into Duelling and Boxing. Again maybe I was not carful enough in that I think that ludic-capital certainly does operate in the way you mention i.e. different players have differing attitudes. As I understand it this is how the theory social-capital operates i.e. it’s not just a relation between an individual and society it is very much down to the situation in which it is operating (vector like maybe).

>There's something else at work here, I think, to do with the relationship between a game's designer and its players (what I've called in the past the "covenant").
Yes, I’ve not looked at that in a great deal of detail. I’ve certainly thought about games that are co-designed by peer participants and ones where there is an intuitional notion of design such as in organized sport. But I’ve not looked at the kinds of relations in the middle where we can sensibly talk about a player-designer relationship. I like ‘covenant’ but I’ll have to think about it a bit more.

>Overall, though, yes, this is definitely several steps in the right direction! Richard
yay

12.


Thomas,

>Truly a joy to read your piece here, Ren.
Yay

>First, about play, playfulness, and games: I must confess that I have yet to see a way to make play a useful category for activities in which we engage, and I think that assumption of play as activity is in the background here. In a post in Dec 2008 (and a paper, later published, in connection with it) I argued in favor of seeing play as a mode of experience or disposition, a way of approaching experience. Such an approach may more clearly be described as being about playfulness, rather than play.

In my clarifications to Richard I have re-looked at my own definition and realized that I had included intent in it in respect of our stance (as I’m going to talk about Goffman and Gumperz soon I worry about using that word, I’m not using it here in it’s sociological / socio-linguist sense) to acts.

From an interior point of view I think I probably agree with you that play is ‘indeed a mode of experience or disposition’ however where we disagree is that I think as a matter of practice we do characterise activities and I think that we can sufficiently bring these two things together so the definition can usefully encompass both. However as I’ve noted in the post and the reply to Richard it is exceedingly hard to be sure we are accurately picking out the right things as member of the category – but as we know from epistemology, anything that involves intentionality falls beyond the sceptical gap. I should write a paper called Zombie Football just on this last point (c.f. David Chalmers).

So it might just be that I’m taking a more pragmatic stance to the definition – this did come from a need to explain some points in my analysis of law.


> I wasn't fortunate enough to have comments from you on that post, so maybe it slipped by you during those holidays. :) The post is here: https://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2008/12/games-play-and.html

Sorry about missing that one at the time and not linking to it here – which is really odd as I had it on my screen while editing my post, I’ll add it to our conversation list above.

> I should also mention that the complementary point to that one about play is that games are quite different, being themselves a "cultural form," like ritual -- a sponsored and culturally shaped event that has a strong but not determinative relationship to playfulness. Just as ritual may (or may not!) bring about a feeling of transcendent belonging, so games may or may not cultivate playfulness.

Again in my response to Richard I talk about Ostensible-play – this is something that people may very well be engaged in when engaged in the game.

In that response I was focused more on the play bit than the game bit. So I agreed that in the case of any given individual there is a contingent relationship between play (their disposition) and game (the cultural form). However, where I see the stronger link between the concepts is in the characteristic of the cultural form. That is, when an institution looks at something and categorises it as a game I suggest that and necessary and essential thing that is going on is that they are categorising it as a form of play that has the internal normative characteristics that I’ve outlined. One reason I look at law here is because I think it illustrates this well.

So I think that the concept of game relies on the concept of play, but that an instance of characterising a given set of activities as a game does not rely on the actors playing. That even hurts my head.


> One of the implications of looking at play as playfulness, it bears noting, addresses the aspect of play that you seek to handle here as well when you say that we can be playing while we're also doing many other kinds of things. I agree that it is vital that our understanding of play(fulness) be able to recognize it wherever it occurs.

ok

> As far as what that "it" is, that is a question that relates to a second point of divergence for us, Ren. That is on the issue of meaning. We both agree, I think, that fascinating shifts of meaning happen around play, most obviously in game contexts (where the cultural work of boundary maintenance is often done quite explicitly -- here the Goffmanian idea of framing is quite apt, as I've said before). The examples of boxing and the like point powerfully toward just how distinct such domains can become. But my concern is that you are reducing games (play, as you put it here) to meaning. For me, playfulness as a disposition is very importantly *not* reducible to shifts in meaning. Playfulness entails a readiness to improvise, such that the basketball player on the court, for example, is situationally playful in how within any given complex moment he or she *acts*, practically. When Oscar Robertson or Julius Erving went above the rim in basketball it was not, primarily, about meaning (although it came to mean something important, of course). It was the doing. That is not to say that meaning isn't involved in games in a key way. My own view is that games happen to provide a culturally-sanctioned "engine" (in a way) for meaning because of the way they generate legitimately indeterminate events. They also, as I think you are most interested in here, entail a set of understandings about meanings that may lie at odds with meanings in other domains of our lives (what a push means during a hockey game, for example). But if we want to talk about playfulness, then we must have an approach that can cover that deeply practical aspect of the experience of being playful. An approach to the world that is characterized by the expression in utrumque paratus.


It is difficult to argue this point as we both think there is a lot in the other’s view but we place the primary emphasis on different parts. It might be that one or both of us has un-expressed elements of our respective definitions that the other is finding it hard to see.

I say this because when I look at my definition as a whole I feel that the notions that you talk about above, such as improvisation, are taken into account, or at minimum I see things as supervening (that might not be the right term) upon the practice.

You say “When Oscar Robertson or Julius Erving went above the rim in basketball it was not, primarily, about meaning”. I don’t know who these people are or what they did. A google inspired guess would be that they were basketball players who were notable for scoring by putting the ball down into the basket and mb doing something after that or doing it in a theatrical way. If so – why were they putting the ball through the hoop if it did not mean something?

It might be that for me ‘meaning’ is a pretty foundational concept that I find necessary at the heart of many things I discuss – I think to explain this I’d have to take a side road down into a bunch of philosophy.

13.

Dean,

> I am some what torn about this. Richard has brought up some great criticisms as well as pointing out its good points, and yet I find myself quite taken with this approach.

I hope in my reply to Richard I’ve closed the gap.

> I feel that it tells us a lot about 'playing', but perhaps not so much about the nature of Play.
This may be true, as I note there is a lot that I have not said and a lot that this approach probably does not help with, but I hope that other approaches are at least compatible with this one e.g. if we talked about the phycology of play.

>AS a framework I can see it being quite useful in the social sciences and, like Richard, I believe the concept of Ludic Capital will prove to be valuable. It has made me consider skateboarding, an activity that I have often found difficult to classify until this approach. As an ex-skater I often find myself communicating urban geography with other skaters in relation to architecture and objects (like others) but within the framework of the new meanings we have ascribed to them, e.g. 7 set with handrail or ledge (most people don't remember the number of steps), or an object that has been utilized in a unique way. These new meanings are generated by skaters when they interact with these objects in unconvential ways, and through repetition they become canonised amongst skaters, e.g. ledges are for grinding, steps for jumping etc. I have often wondered was this regnogation of urban landscapes and geography play, or perhaps more pretentiously, art.

I did have some of this in mind, hence my reference to the built environment. As a one time skater myself (tho not a good one) and someone that’s ARG’d a little and of course played things like Foresquare and with Layer, I’m interested in this notion of the built environment being a pay space and being able to move in and out of these views of the world.

This sort of stuff makes me think about work done by geographers like David Phillips (https://mediaresearchhub.ssrc.org/david-phillips/person_view) who talk about thinks like queer geography i.e. being able to read an urban environment is a specially cultural way, but I digress…


> Of course we can see present here ludic-meaning and ludic-semiotics, but does this example not reveal that this approach demonstrates a link between play and art, or at the very least that play can be art?

I’m actually writing a paper on the aesthetics of games – in short I argue that gameplay is a distinct category of aesthetic experience, and (Richard might like this) I get very much into the relationship between designer as artist and player, and the co-creative nature of the experience.


> Not a new idea of course, but an idea that is certainly quite compatible with your framework. Another reason that skateboarding came to mind was because it raises some interesting questions about the link between ludic capital and the magic circle. Normally skateboarding has little to no ludic capital, and it is always outweighed by institutional capital. Hence skateboarders are accused of destruction of public property, and of being trespassers. This however, is not the case in in a skate park. We can see then that in two separate contexts, the ludic capital attributed to skateboarding differs signicantly. Perhaps then, magic circles themselves carry with them ludic capital, allowing some to be sanctioned and others not. This seems to be true of other forms of play/games/sport. If we imagine a boxing match played on the street with all the gear and under the same conditions and regulations, the legal ramifications of injuries etc, would differ signifcantly from the same game played in a ring. The same is true for soccer played on a street cornor. It seems that the concept of ludic capital necessitates some form of a magic circle (although perhaps not one we are acoustomed to), and you where wise to retain this feature in your anyalisis.

Indeed I was trying to keep hold of the idea that the ludic capital is very much depending upon the given network of actors and given situation. I think, I think that things are the other way round from the way you put it, I think that the term magic circle is a way of pointing out where ludic-capital is operating.

> Returning to my orginal example, the irony is that skateboarding was born in urban landscapes, and skaters still feel the 'call of the street'. I believe this drive to skate in an urban landscape is because it is only there that they have the p ossiability to discover new meaning, to do something that has not been done before (as the parks reflect only the cannon), even if their magic circle infringes upon the everyday life of others. This of course takes me to Thomas' point on play/games, contingency and late modernity

As I’ve noted in the post and above, I’ve not gotten into why people play or the many benefits that they gain from it. That’s not because I don’t think these are important it’s just not the work I was trying to do here.

As it happens I agree with you that what non-skaters often don’t get about skating is that gives us fresh and exciting access to oft familiar environments and enables us to stand in a different relationship to the environment. Trying also to bring all this together I think this is exactly what the modernist view of art was about i.e. that it gives us access to seeing things differently. But that’s just me talking not theorising.

14.

PS we need to get Jim (https://jimpurbrick.com/) back here so we can have a thread just on skating :)

15.

Chris,

>Ren: Just slightly too late for this to fold into my new book, "Imaginary Games"
Doh

And if only commentators could use the ‘shameless self promotion’ tag too – a find TN tradition ;)

>but I can feedback for your future book at least. :)
yay

>I was about to attack your definition for the problems in fitting it to animal play, but as I started to write my critique I could see that I spoke too soon: the "purposeful shift in the dominant meaning" is precisely what happens with mammal play (e.g. mounting behaviour usually means sex, but in play it does not), I think this will work with reptile play as well - not sure about invertebrate play, but this has always been a supremely grey area because hermeneutics of insects and arthropods goes *way* beyond the shallow end of ethology! :)

As I noted I’m not 100% sure about the application of what I’ve said to either animal play or early infant play. I’m not saying it does not apply but rather that these are areas that I don’t have sufficient knowledge to make strong claims about. But I’m happy that you seem to go along with me at least in part.

I look forward to reading you work – I really need to get my paper on games and aesthetics out. I started it a year ago but life got in the way and I never completed it. I might put the essence of it in a post so we can all argue about it here.


> I personally don't like your "ludic-" compounds... That's partly because I feel "ludic" is a word we studiers of games should use like salt - sparingly. Instead, we end up with extremely salty neologisms which make us look insular (which we might be, but do we *want* to be?!) But a bigger problem in this regard is that you're talking about 'play', and whatever "ludic" may have meant to the Romans, "ludic = game" by most common usage today. :( You can attempt to "reclaim" the word - but then you expend effort fighting against the tide, and this sort of Canutism is a waste of academic time in my opinion. If it were me, I would resist the urge to "go Latin" and simply compound the word you mean - I know academics like to think that using Classical Language makes one look clever, but honestly what I think it actually does is make one look pompous. (I appreciate my minority status here!) So I suggest you 'go simple': play-meaning - the meaning that has been shifted or attributed play-semiotics - the system of the signs product through play play-capital - the degree to which these play-meaning and semiotics are operational in a given context e.g. when set against institutional-capital. Doing this means you gain instant clarity, lose any pomposity and escape any Canutish battles to reclaim terminology. Looks like a win-win to me. :)

The ludic is in part branding. I think that ludic-capital is find as there I am mainly talking about games and not play. You are right that play-meaning and play-semiotics are more precise terms but I’m not sure I’m a big fan of how they sound – which really is just personal stuff. I’ll think about the best terms.

16.

Ren: yes, it never occurred to me that comments might benefit from tags before now, but I couldn't resist a little SSP here since I read your post literally *minutes* after sending off my manuscript for feedback. ;)

Getting terminology that you are comfortable with is half the battle; getting terminology that other people will be happy with is the other half. This task is always entirely impossible. :p

If I see anything on game aesthetics on Terra Nova you can bet I'll wade in, so go ahead if you have the time to set it up!

All the best!

17.

Ren>In short: if you are being forced then the thing you are doing might look to everyone to be play, and may function just the same as play for may practical purposes, but would not itself be play. It would be something like hollow-play.

Yes, you'd be going through the motions but not actually playing. It's not just duress where this can happen, of course - you might be "pretending to play" for some reason (eg. undercover research) but all the while not actually playing.

>the key is “contextual attribution of value”. The play that is forced is like the person buying the bus ticket. They are giving meaning and value to things like the ball going through the net, but the primary value of those things is so they don’t get shot if they don’t play. But, so seductive is play that they might forget that and start to genuinely play.

Yes, I agree they could actually start to play, in the same way that an undercover cop could "go native" and subscribe to the views of the people being surveilled.

>this attitude is one where we really are giving primacy to the internal (i.e. contextual) over the external (i.e. extra-contextual) value of the act.

Hmm... So what about the case of a parent whose child asks to play Snakes and Ladders? The parent knows there is no skill involved and it's a boring game, but decides to play because they like to see their child happy. Are they truly playing, though? It's unlikely that they could ever really get into the game enough to give it contextual value, because they know it's completely random (the child, of course, doesn't know this and is playing by any definition of the word). I'd say that the parent probably is playing, because they're doing it willingly and for some perceived benefit (they like to see their child happy); under your definition, it wouldn't be play, though? It looks like what you call "ostensible play".

>Also spectators might be fooled also

Heh, yes, my grandfather used to watch the wrestling on TV and thought it was actually a contest...

>I think play does have rules but games codify them.

OK, I'll go along with that.

>I like ‘covenant’ but I’ll have to think about it a bit more.

I mentioned it in Magdeburg a couple of years ago. Academic publishing being what it is, the book containing the formal paper isn't out until later this year, but the slides are here.

Richard

18.

Ren!

So glad you chased down the Goffman. I'm jotting this quickly before I head off to lecture, so I apologize if duplicate an recommendations already made.

I'll share via email a syllabus for a graduate seminar I teach on performance and practice theory that gets at the very questions you are left with, in particular the notion of *process* that you so rightly want to capture in your model but which, to a significant extent, Goffman has trouble handling.

In the meantime, the next thing you might want to look at which follows from a develops the Goffman is a book called Verbal Art as Performance, by Richard Bauman. It's a very slim, readable book that pushes these ideas toward an idea of performance as *emergent*, that is, as processual. Here's a link to the Amazon page for it:
https://www.amazon.com/Verbal-Art-Performance-Richard-Bauman/dp/0881330485

One other note: Yes, you are right to see that you diverge from Goffman on the issue of the centrality of meaning. That is because his fundamentally dramaturgical metaphor (introduced in his landmark The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life) inevitably incorporates the practical (and material!) aspects in any given interaction that contribute to what he calls the "definition of the situation."

On that score, as you know, I'm prone to "side" with Goffman, but as you say, we don't really disagree – it's simply that you are particularly interested in the shifts of meaning that become possible under conditions of playfulness. I applaud that; I'm just trying to make sure that our understanding of these phenomena leaves enough room for all the work that needs to be done.

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