4-1 | The Secret World of Doing Nothing

Book Review

The Secret World of Doing Nothing

Billy Ehn and Orvar Löfgren
Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010. Contents, notes, references, index. 269 pp. $21.95 paper. ISBN: 9780520262638

by Ann Marie Guilmette

First Paragraph:

Although this title, while evocative, appears to have little to do with play, its research provides an important framework for understanding and studying play. The authors’ qualitative approach explains how non-events (such as waiting, routines, and daydreaming) are learned, acquired, communicated, and symbolically organized. The analysis demonstrates how individuals transform these inconspicuous activities into culturally comprehensive patterns. Yet, Billy Ehn and Orvar Löfgren ignore the extent to which play literature has already contributed to this understanding. There are people (mostly from folklore studies) who have studied play from a qualitative perspective and who have implemented a fieldwork research paradigm to explore the equally elusive and ephemeral experiences that play can offer. The book would have been stronger if it had noted the work of scholars such as Peter and Iona Opie in Britain; Catherine Garvey, Gregory Bateson, and Jay Mechling in America; Dorothy Howard in Australia (as profiled in Kate Darian-Smith and June Factor’s Child Play book about her playground studies); and the research collective of Brian Sutton- Smith’s students at the University of Pennsylvania (Ann Beresin, Linda Hughes, Felicia McMahon, Alice Meckley, and Diana Kelly-Byrne).