In today’s scandal-ridden environment, one might think that the title of my blog refers to the recent tales of our politicians’ sexual machinations, which reporters and bloggers have so voraciously been fleshing out (no pun intended). In fact, the inspiration was wholly otherwise.Â
It so happened that this adorable picture of my youngest grandson, Kaydon, arrived just as I was reading Johan Huizinga‘s Homo Ludens (1971). In this book, Huizinga makes the case that play is not a reflection of culture, but rather culture is the outcome of play. As evidence, he points out that all animals play, even though no one teaches them the rules of the game: to the contrary, the rules–that is to say cultures–evolve in the course of the play.
An interesting argument–but for me, the picture of Kaydon, with the spoon affixed with oatmeal to the end of his nose, was more telling. I could imagine his mother Sarah laughing at the silliness of it all, which made me wonder, what is this game? Don’t all children play it? How was it invented? As well, who in this situation is making up the rules–Kaydon or his mother? Don’t you suspect it was both?
I had to wonder, where did this game come from; who is making up these rules?
It wasn’t much later that my grandson Ben tramped through the woods to our porch, clenching a water pistol in his fist, and looking suspiciously all around. What’s up, I asked? “Nothing much,” he said. “We are playing Cops and Robbers.” Having fun, I continued? Oh, it’s okay, he said. The problem is that Brody is breaking the rules. He’s supposed to be a Cop, but he is playing on the Robbers’ team. Hm, I thought–what rules? Where did they come from–culture? Which comes first, the culture or the game? The truth be told, they must emerge, co-evolving together.
As one might deduce from the content of my blog, as well as the previous one, I continue to play around with my colleague Garrison Le Masters trying to find a good way to relate standards to play and virtual worlds. For my part, it requires testing the waters of cultural studies, reading outside my field, and translating an entirely new vocabulary into something that I am familiar with. So far Garrison and I seem to be converging around some of Durkheim’s ideas: For Garrison, it’s the notion of wholeness, integration, what he calls the sacred. For me, its quite similar. I am drawn to the concept of emergent holism–the outcome of symbolic interaction (R. Keith Sawyer)
For now, we are still thinking it through–book by book. In the meantime, thank goodness that I have my grandchildren to help me sort out what play is really all about! .