For those of you who were not there - we passed out over 2,000 "invisible dog" leashes and had everyone go for a nice Sunday walk in Brooklyn. If you were anywhere within a one mile radius of the Bergen St. stop in Cobble Hill today, you would have seen all types of folks very seriously walking their very silly dogs. The invisible dog toy was invented in the 1970s in the Brooklyn factory that served as our meeting point today.
Agent Lorna reports:
I miss my dog. My favorite was a lady explaining it to her child. She saidÖ. "Yes hon, that is an invisible dog, a very rare breed." lol
Tried to buy a treat for my invisible dog at a pet store and the guy wouldnít let us in. He was a pooper.
At the Barnes & Noble the lady guard asked me what "that" was. I said "My dog." She advised me in the kindest way that I had to leave the second floor because dogs were not allowed up there because of the cafť. lol
Another moment was in the Trader Joes. We were on line and a lady and her son were behind us. (we had 2 maltipoos, Jessica Simpson dog. Her dog was killed recently by a coyote) This boy just got so involved with the dogs. He would pet the dogs and just yell "Öbut I donít feel anything!"
Cool thing was watching people step around our dogs when they went up to a shelf to get something...
"...positive and negative conditional parenting were harmful, but in slightly different ways. The positive kind sometimes succeeded in getting children to work harder on academic tasks, but at the cost of unhealthy feelings of "internal compulsion." Negative conditional parenting didnít even work in the short run; it just increased the teenagers' negative feelings about their parents....praising children for doing something right isnít a meaningful alternative to pulling back or punishing when they do something wrong. Both are examples of conditional parenting, and both are counterproductive."
One more small step for unconditional parenting, unconditional love, unconditional fun.
The play ethic is what comes after the obsolescence of the work ethic. The work ethic is an ideology or belief-system which asserts that any job has dignity and worth, despite how alienated it makes you feel or how disjunct it is from your desires and aspirations, because society recognises this submission to the job as the basis of social order.
The play ethic is an alternative belief-system, which asserts that in an age of mass higher education, continuing advances in personal and social autonomy, and ubiquitous digital networks (and their associated devices), we have a surplus of human potential and energy, which will not be satisfied by the old workplace routines of duty and submission.
The identity of a 'player' - optimistic, willing to try and experiment, open to participating with peers in a multitude of projects - fits this new landscape, this new social order, much better. But we need to forge a convincing 'play ethic', particularly for organisations and government, which will help them to change their structures (or make way for new ones) to accommodate the expanding constituency of networked players.
Every time I read his words, I grow more appreciative of the many gifts he brings to our conversation about the increasing importance of play to the evolution of the human spirit. This latest is especially accessible. Enjoy.
We have a great deal to learn from Africa, about celebrations, about recycling, about living with little, about the generosity of spirit. One of my favorite resources is a site called Afrigadget where I recently learned about a project called: Football Made in Africa.
By focusing on the game of Soccer (which everyone in the world except here calls "football"), Football Made in Africa gives us a window into the joy of sport and the irrepressibility of the need to play. Under development by a talents group of artists called Take Five, the goal is to create 50, 90-second videos, like this one showing how to make a soccer ball out of a condom and some string, documenting the spirit of Africa through the game of soccer. They explain:
With the 2010 World Cup in South Africa just a year away, it seems only natural to talk about Africa. Not the Africa of poverty, conflicts and capable Africa of Football Made in Africa, or the grassroot portrait of a continent that lives, thrives and enthuses on football!
Every episode offers an original angle on a story, a slice of everyday life, where football is present everywhere. From the production of goals in the outskirts of Maputo to the atmosphere in bars where matches are aired on tiny TV screens, the harvesting of rubber tree waste to make balls or the beaches of Cameroon where fishermen use their nets to play. The films are funny and poetic snapshots that reflect the unique imagination and energy of the African continent.
Football Made in Africa demonstrates all the creativity and dynamism of the peoples obliged to deploy a fair amount of cleverness and resourcefulness on a daily basis to be able to indulge in their passion: football.
Football Made in Africa is a canvas on which African society is painted. The different episodes are the colours, applied one by one, that produce a diversified picture of today's Africa.
And, of course, the insights go way beyond Africa, far further than country or continent, exploring the geography of the human soul.
I am still very uncomfortable using the word "retired" to describe myself. I have to admit, it's a lot easier than describing what it is I actually do - but I've always had that problem, pretty much since I started working for a living. (There's another strange expression, worthy of much collective contemplation - "working for a living" - or, for that matter "making a living" - is "living something other than life? something more than earning money? is it something you make? you work for?)
But, I have two problems with applying the word to myself. The first, is the definition. According to Webster's, retired means "having concluded one's working or professional career." And, believe you me, I haven't done either, and don't intend to, until my conclusion is ultimate. The second is the word itself. Especially the "tired" part. Was I tired before? Did I stop being tired? Am I tired all over again?
Well, one thing I do get exceptionally tired of is the whole "getting and spending" thing. And now that we are old enough for social security and medicare, and have downsized from a home by the beach near LA to a little house near our daughter and her family in Indianapolis, it feels a little different - a little less about survival. It's clear that the money thing isn't going away. There are still worries - they're just a little different. Health worries, for example. Long term care. Funeral expenses. The kids. The grandkids....
And as for the work thing, it's still very much a pursuit (funny how the founding fathers missed that one - the pursuit of work - meaningful work.)
So, like I said, I'm still uncomfortable about that "retired" thing. But things have definitely been redefined. Like work, for example.
My work now is about finding people, like you, probably, who think, like I do, about fun. About bringing more fun to the world, to the people who aren't having as much fun as they so very easily could be. About making games more fun, playgrounds more fun, toys more fun, about making work more fun, school more fun, healing more fun. People who have found that the way for them to have more fun is to be bringing more fun to others.
I don't have money to give you, but I have time, and everything I've learned over the last 40-some years, and a little more wisdom than I had when I started.
So let me know about you. About your gifts and the gifts you are bringing and the fun you want to bring and the people you want to bring it to. I'm not retired. And I have the time. Who knows? Maybe I can help.
Ask me what game - of all the wacky and sometimes profound works of play art that I've created in my 40-plus years of wacky and profound play art creation - I played with the top creative people at LEGO.
Earlier this year, at the LEGO Design Conference, it and I reached some kind of apotheosis. It had a lot to do with our reaching the right audience at the right time. One of the participants, Lucius Margulis, took copious photos of the event. Here is his post, and below, a compilation of his photos and clips.
Found Object Tabletop Olympics event is based on the approach to play and creativity I described in Junkyard Sports. But it is the first Junkyard Sport I designed where the materials (junk) are truly "found objects" - totally random, collected from whatever the participants happen to have with them at the time, or can find in the room.
It was a big step for me, letting go of deciding exactly what junk people will get to play with. I had built the book and the concept around the art of assembling just the right collection of materials that would help get people to play and think together. And then discovering that without any special junk it was just as much fun and just as profound - and much, much easier to produce. I'm not saying that it's better - assembling a collection of the "right" materials is an art in itself - just that it works, that it's still fun, still meaningful. A different kind of meaning, though, because the "junk" comes from what people have, and what they are willing to share, and what the people who provide the room leave around.
So the whole thing takes on an extra meaning - letting people find their own junk helps them discover the wealth of what's around them, at their fingertips and in their very pockets. Helps them discover the wealth of resources they have to play with, and the people, too.
Last weekend was Rosh Hashana for some, the end of Ramadan for others, and, for the fortunate few, PARK(ing) Day. According to the folk at parkingday.org:
PARK(ing) Day began in 2005when Rebar, a San Francisco art collective, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco that is underserved by public open space.
Back then the project was named simply PARK(ing), and was devised as a creative exploration of how urban public space is allocated and used. For example, up to 70% of San Francisco's downtown outdoor space is dedicated to the vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm. Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis. What is the range of possible activities for this short-term lease?
Since 2005, the project has grown into PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide phenomenon, created independently by groups of artists, activists and citizens.
Oddly (or perhaps, predictably), some of the most exciting innovations in sports are not coming from athletes or physical educators, but from artists, like Tom Rusotti, through his Aesthletics Institute.
Hoop Gardens was a commissioned installation in the summer of 2006 in Washington Square Park. The project developed from a Project for Public Spaces report on Washington Square Park that listed sports facilities as the most desired and lacking element of the park. As well, the triangular grass spaces carved out by the radial footpaths were the least used areas of the park. A game was the perfect solution for both engaging the space and bringing physical activity to the park.
The idea to put basketball on grass was influenced by the multi-surfaced courts of tennis, and also by the scorching hot conditions of New York City blacktops in the summer. A site specific game called Lawn Basketball was developed in the triangular space; three teams competed against each other at the same time on three hoops using two balls.
The idea of three teams playing each other is meant to challenge the often simplistic model of one-on-one competition presented by modern sports. One of the main and accurate criticisms of sports is that they symbolize an us versus them, black and white mentality that gives refuge to neo-fascist ideology. One just has to look at English football supporter clubs to confirm this link. Three teams playing against each other discards this notion, presenting a more challenging yet accurate cultural system in its reflections on competition and power.
Hoop Gardens also successfully proved the hypothesis that competitive desire trumps fashion sense (As if professional sports hadnít proved this already). Grown men and women, starved of fun, competitive outlets, gladly suited up for the Butterfly, Sunflower and Tomato teams, each with their own Hawaiian board shorts to battle it out on the lawn of Washington Square. Hoop Gardens also marked the introduction of the Instituteís man on the microphone, Mike McDonald.
Surprisingly, my grandmotherís priest saw footage of Hoop Gardens and decided the activity would be suitable for a church picnic. The Institute obliged, creating teams worthy of the affair: the Cardinals, Saints, and Padres.
Clearly, the sports/arts connection is a fruitful, and, now that you think about it, obvious resource for sport innovation. It is closer to the way we played as children, when the divisions between games and art and playfulness were less distinct, and, when we were young enough, non-existent. Perhaps we should consider introducing sports design to our art school curriculum, and vice versa.
So far, I've written about two people who have deeply impacted my understanding of the play/science connection. One of those mentors was my high school physics teacher. Another, Dr. Olga Jarret, my daughter's play/science mentor at the University of Georgia, recipient of the Defender of the Playful award, and who recently invited me to speak at the 2010 conference for The Association for the Study of Play.
I wanted to put both of them together in one post, to commemorate their contribution to my life, and, hopefully, to enlarge theirs to yours.
In my article describing Dr. Jarret's work, I quoted from one of her manuscripts:
Counting takes on new meaning when children count the spots on ladybugs to determine if they all have the same number...
(use) measuring sticks, thermometers, scales and timers (to) determine without guesswork who has he longest hair, how long a worm is when stretched out/scrunched up, how fast a pumpkin grows...." "see how many drops of water you can drip onto the face of a coin before it runs off. Then flip over the coin and try the other side."
And here, from my article Teaching Games, what I learned from Mr. Bush:
...we were about to start playing with our cloud chambers. Mr. Bush had already made one, and we were looking into it, watching these strange contrails zipping across the inside of the bowls, appearing like messages from the unknown.
Mr. Bush stopped us, then turned off the lights, opened the shades and closed the binds so that only a little daylight came into the room. We could see beams of light cross the ceiling, reflected from the windows of passing cars. We spent a couple minutes watching those familiar, yet suddenly strange patterns of light race across the ceiling. Mr. Bush, in a quiet voice, asked us if we could figure out what kinds of cars made those reflections. We laughed in shared puzzlement. And then we watched some more. I thought I recognized the shape of a Kaiser - because of its weird front window. But, of course, I couldn't really tell.
Then he added: "trying to figure out what car made that light is exactly like what scientists do when they try to understand what kind of particle made that trail in the cloud chamber." And then he was silent, letting us look at the light from the passing cars some more, wondering, experience the wonder that drives the science.
Take a minute to imagine what it might be like to climb, bounce, or just lie down and dream in this amazing net sculpture in Japan's Takino Hillside Park.
Compare this to the kind of dreams you might find on what has become the ubiquitous commercial playground. Sure, there's fun happening, but what kinds of fun? What kinds of dreams? What kinds of people get to play together there?
It's not just about architecture, not even just about play. It's about community, really. About inclusion. About experiencing the extent of the human family, and claiming your part in it. About how much higher we can grow up when we can grow up together.
As is my stated mission, I scan the Internet from time to time for signs of playfulness. I sometimes check for tweets that cite the aforementioned. A few days ago, I found a link to an article by Sarah Mahoney's called "Top Consumer Trends: Trust, Control, ... Playfulness? " in which she observes that people are, among five other things, "looking to up the fun factor in their lives." She writes:
I have to admit that I found it somewhat humorous to learn, at least to the marketing world, that consumer playfulness is measured by the purchase of giant cheese balls, lip gloss and dog bubbles.
Were I measuring consumer investment in playfulness, I would investigate the amounts invested in things like the Maxflight Glow-in the Dark Frisbee, or perhaps a game or two - Connect 4x4 maybe, or the significantly silly game of Curses - or on events like Burning Man, or the ticket sales at local Fringe Festivals, or attendance at the igfest, and, OK, dog bubbles. But I, for one, would not want my playfulness measured by the size of my cheese flavored snack balls.
I am fortunate to hear from people like Phil Smith - artists, thinkers, players who are busily creating new invitations to deep fun. I last wrote about him and his book here.
Some of what Phil has been sharing with me since follows:
This link and this herald, very minimally, something that I hope will be along either before the end of this year or at the beginning of next.
A book with my Crab Walks scripts and an extended essay on walking and performance has just been published: it's called Walking, Writing and Performance (Autobiographical Texts by Deirdre Heddon, Carl Lavery and Phil Smith) and is edited by Roberta Mock.
The connections between play and culture are wonderfully profound. Whether they are actual or not, they've led to centuries of sometimes remarkably penetrating thought. Most notably, a book called Homo Ludens in which the author, Johan Huizinga, famously attributes the source of all human culture to play. And far less notably to my book, The Well-Played Game, wherein I draw the connections between play and games to community and the pursuit of personal excellence.
Recently, our favorite musician/play theorist Pat Kane published another densely thought-provoking article, this time on the topic of Play and Transhumansim. Whether you think of the idea of transhumanism of imminent concern or as an intriguing fantasy, Pat's article helps us understand why our explorations of the evolving meaning and significance of play become increasingly relevant to personal, social and technological co-evolution.
Here's a taste:
"Yet transhumanism, it seems to me, almost transcends these familiar political uses of evolved human nature - in the sense that it asks us to squarely face our increasing ability to transform that very nature itself, intentionally and by design. And if play operates as dynamically and unpredictably in our unamended nature as I suggest, we are in a moment where we will have to begin to imagine what kinds of 'politics' or 'ethics' are possible, when play's energies are given the most powerful of chariots to drive.
igfest is Bristol's very own interesting games festival - street games, outdoor spectacles, mass social interaction, the reclamation of public urban spaces for play and adventure. Last year saw its successful birth with 23 games and over 1000 players. This year its back and is bigger better and more diverse.
Our games are different. These games are all about unique connections between people and places. We play games in and with the real world. We play games in the city, on the streets and in unusual buildings and places. Some game are high tech and some are no tech. Some games last for minutes and others hours. Some are rich and challenging and some are just senseless fun.We believe games can be as exciting and engaging as the cinema or theatre. igfest is a chance to play some of the best games from artists and game designers from across the world.
Should you need more evidence of the breadth and depth of the playfulness intimated thereby, you might note the presence of Circle Rules Football amongst igfest's panoply of invitations to functionally festive fun.
Circle Rules Football (soccer) wins Come Out and Play Best Sport award
It removes significant plaque from my playful heart when I learn that Circle Rules Football was recognized as "Best Sport" in the recent Come out and Play festival here in the States. (Read the well-illustrated rules here.) Not because it's any less competitive than soccer or any less demanding of teamwork or significant athletic prowess, but simply because it's new. Because, as a new sport, it's still free from all those commercial/official interests that turns sport into something other than an invitation to play.
And maybe just a tad because it uses a "a swiss ball, a body ball, a yoga ball, or an exercise ball, whatever you want to call it." Todd Strong and I and Human Kinetics chose to call it an "Activity Ball" in our soon-to-be-published Great Games for Big Activity Balls - a collection of significantly fun games to play with the aforementioned. Which, in retrospect, makes the success of Circle Rules Football even more celebration-worthy, for Todd, myself, our publisher, the manufacturers, distributors and owners of these over-sized bouncy wonders, and especially for those of us who get to play with them.
This is the kind of stuff that gives me chills, that makes me just about want to pray to the spirit of play, if you know what I mean, if there is such a thing. Double Dutch, from 4 corners, while balancing a ball on one foot. And, o, wait. Isn't the girl in the middle also jumping her own rope while she's jumping the two crossed ropes while keeping a ball balanced on her foot? How utterly accomplished is that? How fun, how lovely, how spiritual, how miraculous how the spirit of play has moved these girls to such profound and practiced depth!
Today, I thought I'd put that together with something else I wrote, more than 30 years ago, in a book called The Well-Played Game about a game of, yes, ping pong:
Whenever thereís a moment of excellence, whenever one of us has to stretch beyond in order to keep the game going, we can both tell it happens. And each time it happens, that particular experience of excellence, it seems to happen a little more obviously. We seem to be getting better at playing well together. We can feel it now. We know what it is. Itís no longer an idea, itís what weíre actually doing with each other. And because we know what it is so intimately, we seem to be able to stay there longer.
I was hoping this would make a connection for us - to something even more connected.
For people in the US, Labor Day commemorates our more or less continued victory in what is at heart a heart-breaking struggle. For centuries, we have been trying to protect laborers from being abused by the people who hire them. And these efforts seem especially heart-breaking today, because for the remarkably many who don't have work, it sometimes seems that tolerating the abuse is a better alternative.
On Labor Day, having fun at work is one of the last things we tend to think about. We think about having work. And we think about getting paid. And we think about getting benefits. And we dream about our once closely-held illusions of things like job security and company loyalty. But not about fun.
And yet, as much as work can sustain us, fun sustains our work.
And, hopefully, now I've found you, who, on this day commemorating the victories and ongoing struggles between labor and management, also affirm the struggle for work sustains us and that we can sustain - work that is as fun as it is profitable.
Let's divide everything we do into two categories:
The things we have to do
The things we want to do
Over-simplistically speaking, fun is why we want to do the things we want to do.
Sometimes, all too rarely, if you ask me, the things we have to do and the things we want to do are the same. Then the fun we have is very deep, in deed. Often, those of us who pursue the Playful Path deem the merging of 1.0 with 2.0 our personal apotheosis.
Now, let's divide the things we want to do (2.0) into two more categories:
The things we want to do because they will lead us to the things we really want to do
The things we want to do because we O so really want to do them
The things of the 2.1 variety are often endorsed by social and cultural forces of great purport. Frequently, they come in the guise of jobs and community service and good citizenship and generally all require what the psychologists understand as the ability to "delay gratification."
These other things (2.2) are what we do for fun, what we think of, what we mean when we say "fun." We're not talking about awards or rewards. Just doing them is all we ask. Just experiencing them. Just feeling them. Jumping in them. Lying in them. Rolling in them.
Sometimes, also all too rarely, the things that we want to do because they lead us to the things we really want to do (2.1) are also fun (2.0). They may not be as much fun as what we really want to do, but they are more fun than the things we really have to do (1.0). Like joking around with strangers in the dentist office. Or trying to meditate while the dentist is getting the needle ready. (Listen, for example, to this.) These things, whilst not exemplifying the sheer delights of fun of the 2.2 variety, often characterize the more mature approach to the fun available to the more, shall we say, mature. This kind of fun, as exemplified by dentist-office humor, has been most thoroughly and inspiringly explored by my friend David Naster.
Further explication of the meaning of fun will be available by request. If you haven't already, see also this.
3. Be Ready for Non-Stop Cornhole Action. This weekend is all about cornhole so you'll be playing a lot! This ain't your typical double-elimination tournament. When you play in the Worlds, you play a lot!
4. Full concessions available. The crew at Metro Sports Center will be serving up the concessions and Beef O'Brady's will be onsite with some delicious wings!
5. Have fun but please Keep your Cool. The competition is fun but please don't take yourselves too seriously and go sideways on us. If you do, we will make fun of you on the PA for everyone else's amusement.
6. Lets have some fun! Rick and I have been working on this thing for more than a year and we are ready to have some fun and host a great event. Yeah, I'm sure we'll have a few hickups here and there (we always do) but hang with us and we'll make sure it all works out!
The World Championship of Cornhole crew is pleased to announce that ESPN2 will be covering the Beef O'Brady's World Championship of Cornhole on Sunday, Sept. 6. Producers will be filming the event and talking to players for the new sports magazine show E:60.
Bring your A-Game 'cause you might just be featured on national television!
"...I think that all behavioral scientists agree that evolution has primed young animals to learn from play. That tells us that this constitutes the most deeply embedded and thus energy-efficient way to teach animals new things. And because we know that domestication more or less suspends an animal in a physiologically and behaviorally immature state, this link between learning and play most likely lasts throughout a domesticated animal's life. Second, whatever else play in adult wild animals might denote, in many cases it signals an animal who has established and protected a territory, found food and water, mated , reproduced and raised young with energy to spare. If this weren't the case, the potential for adult play wouldn't exist in the gene pool. That says to me (and I admit that some anti-adult-animal-play scientists don't agree) that a playful adult possesses more confidence and ability to cope with stressful situations than a nonplayful one." (italics are mine)
I find this theme - the connection between playfulness and the ability to cope with stress - often repeated in psychological musings on the benefits of adult play. The calming effects of playing with pets are even more often cited. I know that it is possible to become more playful. But it certainly makes one think that it might be more than fun to try.
About 14 years ago, I wrote an article called "Learning by Dying." It was a response to a worried parent who was concerned about the kinds of games her kids were playing on the computer (this was in '95). I was writing, as I oft do, from the perspective of a play advocate. I wanted her to help her embrace her the relevance of fun, at least in her children's lives. What's been especially reassuring to me is that what I wrote in response is at least as relevant now as it was then, and not just to the nature of kids' computer games, but to some very fundamental principles of user interface. As the following from an article about the design of the iPhone so clearly describes:
"Any new system or gadget has a learning curve, but where the iPhone differs is that the nature of traversing that curve is more fun than frustrating. You swipe and pinch and tap and shake your way to familiarity instead of pressing awkward buttons and navigating byzantine menu structures. You learn the iPhone by playing with it, which encourages interaction because humans are built to play. Even in a system like this, we could quickly be dissuaded from doing so if wrong actions had negative consequences, such as getting online or sending messages accidentally. The iPhone is mostly devoid of these sorts of consequences. The only time Iíve run into this is repeatedly calling people I didnít want to call while viewing my Recent Calls list.
"The iPhone goes further than encouraging play; it rewards play. If you explore the phoneís applications, you will often find them anticipating your needs. When viewing a video youíve shot and press the action button, you can email it or upload it to YouTube. If you try to email it and the video is too large, it will ask if you want to send a smaller clip from the video instead of preventing you from sending it. The iPhone then presents you with the UI to trim a clip and continue with your message. The original video remains untouched. Simple, sensible, satisfying."