Thursday, March 4, 2004

PLAY

It's been a long time since I've talked with Stewart, but we've always shared an interest in play and the belief that it is integral to social interaction - so I was happy to see he has posted slides and comments on Ben, Eric and his presentation at ETCon.

Transcendent Interactions: Collaborative Contexts and Relationship-Based Computing

Valuable social bits:

Play is often about building things [including places] collaboratively ... Often the state of play arises spontaneously, especially in contexts where creative collaboration takes place ... The most expressive forms of play involve improvisational collaboration and sharing ... In any case, there is always some larger context than the one in which play occurs ... The rise of the network meant that there were, as often as not, humans on the other end of our computing activities ... We use computation to extend our relationships with others. Our computational acts and the objects they generate exist in the context of a relationship with another person or group ... The exchange of ideas between people flows through all aspects of our lives. Relationships are dynamic knots in those flows, which cannot be represented inside the architecture of a single application.

Valuable design bits:

Transcendent interactions refers to the goal of designing and developing software with the explicit understanding that any given interaction may exist outside the applications and systems produced ... Don't build applications. Build contexts for interaction ... The more the software acknowledges the human behind the user (or the player behind the character, or the person behind the database record), the more value will find - and create ... The [GNE] players had their own ideas. We learned what services to provide by watching their hacks ... Applications, like architecture, can shut down possibility ... The real action of inter-relation happens in the spaces between these monolithic structures. Play, improvisation and communication don't need containers, they need platforms.

Good stuff. And since my dissertation looks at playful mobilities, I will come back to related ideas in the coming months.

Update 04/03/04: Drawing on this post by Bill Burnham, Diego looks at the problem of "pure-play" social networking apps - or applications with "no stated purpose beyond the network itself." I've often thought that is a distinct flaw in social networking sites but I wish it wasn't characterised as "pure-play." It makes playfulness and creativity sound entirely frivolous and non-productive, and maintains a peculiar distinction between work and leisure. At the same time, I understand play to be more generative or performative than productive, and a process or practice to be distinguished from games or entertainment. That's not to say there isn't overlap (and in many languages no distinction whatsoever) but games have something to do with rules (including breaking them), and I think the concept of play is more ambiguous.

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