Volume 9, Number 1
Lou Marinoff is Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York, where he also teaches courses in Asian Studies. Trained originally in chemistry, computing technology, and theoretical physics in Canada, he studied at the Hebrew Univer-sity of Jerusalem and obtained his doctorate in the philosophy of science from University College London. At City College he practices what he calls “stand up philosophy” as he teaches a variety of courses that include decision theory, ethics, Buddhism, Chinese philosophy, and philosophical practice. Marinoff is founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association and editor-in-chief of its journal Philosophical Practice. He is the author of, among other works, Plato Not Prozac: Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems; The Middle Way: Finding Happiness in a World of Extremes; Therapy for the Sane: How Philosophy Can Change Your Life; and Fair New World, a novel. He is a classical guitarist, nature photographer, film director, and three-time Canadian Open Table Hockey champion. In this interview Marinoff discusses his playful approach to philosophy, the rise of humorlessness and the decline of hilarity, censorship, virtue, and the counseling profession he helped invent—philosophical practitioner. Key words: applied philosophy, ethics, philosophical discourse, philosophical practitioner, play, political correctness
For Sigmund Freud, the terms “dreamwork” and “jokework” denoted the process by which the mind displaces social and psychological anxieties and permits them to emerge disguised in dreams and jokes. This article posits a similar process for “sandwork.” Examining the ways people play with sand in its three basic states—dry sand, wet sand, and mud—the author looks at photographic evidence and makes direct observations on California beaches and at lake beaches in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There, the author reads what he calls sand play “texts” for their coded meanings, most fundamentally in the contrast between clean and dirty. Among his findings, the author notes gender differences in the ways individuals play with sand. Key words: beaches; gender; mud; photography; sand; sandwork; World Technique
The author argues that children’s books are not, as commonly held, either didactic or entertaining and that successful juvenile literature teaches what Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in Wonderland, termed “mental recreation.” Pendlebury contends that learning and play, far from being opposites, can closely resemble one another and sometimes even seem indistinguishable. Using Carroll’s works as an example of the delight possible in conceptual play, she explores how his Alice stories teach readers to engage in mental recreation by using defamiliarizing reversals and inver-sions, offering riddle-like conversations, demonstrating how to play with words and ideas, and eliciting the basic pleasures of music through language. Key words: children’s literature; mental recreation; play with ideas; play with words
The authors explore the use of three basic tenets from Self-Determination Theory—competence, relatedness, and autonomy—for a definition of play that resists the current popular call for play to be freely chosen. They explore whether free play truly exists and whether complete choice constitutes an absolute requirement for children to consider themselves at play. In the course of doing so, they consider two subtheories—Cognitive Evaluation Theory and Organismic Integration Theory. Ultimately they propose substituting adaptable choice for free choice as a defining characteristic of play because it makes for more ready support of children’s play in various professional contexts. Key words: adaptable choice; Cognitive Evaluation Theory; free play; Organismic Integration Theory; Self-Determination Theory
The authors investigate the links between playfulness and creative organizational climates established by other research, using play cues—objects and sweets—they provide participants halfway through workplace meetings. Their findings suggest such cues significantly enhance the creative climate and playfulness in workplace meetings without risking meeting productivity. Key words: adult playfulness; cre-ative climate; organizational behavior; play and productivity; workplace meetings
Let us play a game. Let us imagine you, the reader, are playing a game that I, the author, designed. I set up particular sys-tems intended to constrain the arena that you can play in—in this case, by explic-itly laying out the contract between you and me and the piece you are reading. I determined pacing, sections, and the over-all narrative of this piece; I worked with English on paper or a digital medium and within the limits of this genre. Let us call these constraints the “phase space” that you occupy through engagement with this piece. You, however, anticipate the next move, imagine intent, and predict topics and discussion points. You move within the phase space, such that, at any given moment, your possible moves shift, limited by your immediate circumstances. We will call all your possible moves at any given moment your “horizon of action” and your set of desirable moves your “horizon of intent.” As you read, you will make decisions that explore your horizons and move you to new places within the overall phase space. Maybe you will skip ahead, maybe you will reread sections to gain new insights, or maybe you will just keep reading while also reflecting on how this piece relates to others you have read or designed. If I did my work right, you will want to keep playing and reading, to continue exploring the space, to discover what is possible, possibly to come up with some interesting moves within our explicit contract. If I designed the game well, engaging with this reading has enough variability, predictability, and uncertainty to sustain your play-read. As you interpret this piece in very specific ways depending on your background experiences and your playing nature, maybe you will get out of this something worthwhile. And maybe that is how you generally approach new experiences.
The study of leisure and the study of play have followed different tracks in the past, in terms of both disciplinary involvement and intent. Robert A. Stebbins’s latest work attempts to rectify this by demonstrating the overlapping of play with leisure and, more specifically, by making an argument about what he calls “augmentative play.” His work begins by looking at the scope of both fields, leisure and play, and raising the question why both areas of research have followed such different paths.
Moira Marsh’s Practically Joking contrib-utes significantly to the history of play and the study of humor. The book establishes practical jokes as worthy of investigation while also suggesting the necessity for sub-sequent inquiry.
In The High-Performing Preschool: Story Acting in Head Start Classrooms, Gillian Dowley McNamee uses Lev Vygotsky’s social learning theories to invite readers to think critically about early literacy through Vivian Gussein Paley’s practical curricu-lum on dramatic play and storytelling. McNamee, a Paley apprentice, describes her own research observing urban Head Start children and their teacher, and she illustrates the reciprocity of teaching and learning between child and adult. She tells Paley’s story, her own, and that of many teachers who invite children into “a very important space for teaching and learning: the line between our real individual lives and thinking on the stage—the shared space inside the square” (p. 122). In the preschool classroom, this space may be physically constructed of masking tape, but it represents an important space where children can find their public voice among peers within focused zones of proximal development. These public voices are part of school performance.
Several architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Buckminster Fuller, and Charles and Ray Eames, have credited Friedrich Froebel and his Kindergarten Gifts with their professional pursuits. As such, what formative influences do toys possess? Responding to this query, Professor of Architecture at Cooper Union Tamar Zinguer seeks answers in her book Architecture in Play. Defining construc-tion toys as “kits consisting of individual parts that can be assembled into some-thing larger” (p. 7), she confirms that they imitate as well as intimate architecture—a term suggested by Anthony Vidler, Profes-sor and Dean of the School of Architec-ture at Cooper Union. More than teaching historical or contemporary architectures, playing with these artifacts teaches chil-dren who tinker with blocks a process of experimentation familiar to designers.
How Games Move Us is the latest addition to MIT’s Playful Thinking series, a collec-tion of compact, interdisciplinary books designed not for a specialist audience but rather for the generally curious. In the words of the series editors, the Playful Thinking line of books is “for any reader interested in playing more thoughtfully or thinking more playfully” (p. ix).
As the video game industry ages, the need to discuss game designers and their contri-butions becomes paramount. While there are several ways of looking at and con-textualizing past milestones in the game industry—such as the books in the MIT Press Platform Studies series—Jennifer deWinter and Carly Kocurek’s Influential Video Game Designers series, published by Bloomsbury, is an attempt to move for-ward the conversation between the design-ers and their games over an entire career.
Judd Ruggill and Ken A. McAllister’s Tempest: Geometries of Play presents a book-length study of the titular Atari arcade game Tempest, a 1981 3-D vector graphic shooter. Ruggill and McAllister provide both a close reading of Tempest and a wide sweep of its cultural context. Geometries of Play is an essential book for anyone interested in Tempest and a useful contribution to the underdeveloped history of video games prior to the Nintendo Entertainment System era. If the book has a failing, it sometimes overreaches on its claims to the game’s influence, but this overreach is always tempered by the authors’ emphasis on historic milieu over direct inspiration and an extension of the discussion into fruitful directions.
Eva Hoff is Associate Senior Lecturer for the Department of Psychology at Lund Uni-versity in Sweden and serves as an advisor for doctoral projects. She has coauthored dozens of articles on creativity and its relationship to imagination, motivation, and self esteem. Her work has appeared in The International Journal of Creativity & Problem Solving, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Creativity Research: An Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Research Handbook, and other publications. Ingegerd Carlsson is Professor for the Department of Psychology at Lund University. Her specialties include creativity and its effects on personality, development, and neuropsychology. She has written extensively on REM sleep and the role it plays on creativity and problem-solving skills, and she has coauthored more than fifty articles for such publications as Creativity: Theory and Practice from the Psychological Perspective; Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams; and Journal of Sleep Research. Samuel West is a licensed clinical psychologist and doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Lund University. Currently, he is developing a theoretical model to study the effect of play on creative thinking in the workplace.
Peter King is Lecturer of Public Health, Policy, and Social Sciences at Swansea University in the United Kingdom. He has spoken on childhood studies and play across child-care services at national and international conferences and his research on the topic has appeared in such publications as The Excellence of Play (4th edition), Children and Society, Journal of Playwork Practice, and The Psychology of Education Review. Justine Howard is Senior Lecturer of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University and also serves as program manager for its master’s programs in developmental and therapeutic play and childhood studies. She is the coauthor or coeditor of Play and Learning in the Early Years: Research into Practice; The Essence of Play: A Practice Companion for Professionals Working with Children and Young People; Play Therapy Today: Contemporary Practice with Individuals. She has also authored or coauthored numerous articles for such periodicals as Early Childhood Development and Care, European Early Childhood Educational Research Journal, and International Journal of Play.
Jay Mechling is Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Past president of the California Folklore Society, past chair of the California Council for the Humanities, and past editor of Western Folklore, he is an award-winning author and has written widely on the boy scouts and on American popular culture. His publications include On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth and Children’s Folklore: A Source Book.
Kate Pendlebury is a recent doctoral graduate of Childhood Studies at the University of Pittsburgh specializing in in children’s literature and its relationship to cultural values and education. She is a former contributing writer for Kidsburgh, a community blog that focuses on creative learning, health, and child advocacy. She also serves as a grant writer for a non-for-profit Catholic organization.