Play, Potentiality And The Constitution Of The Net - Pat Kane at www.digitallabor.org

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  • 1. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net PAT KANE www. theplayethic .com Twitter: @theplayethic www.digitallabor.org 14.11.09
  • 2.
    • Berners-Lee and Shirky: net as organisational playspace - net as neo-natural torrent of forms
    • The case of digital critical theory for play as a tool of exploitation
    • My ‘neo-socio-biological’ take on play - as ‘adaptive potentiation’ and ‘neoteny’
    • Brief comparison of Sutton-Smith and Virno on neoteny - Virno’s confusions
    • The challenge of a ‘natural-scientific’ understanding of play to the ‘internet as playground and factory’
    • Brief musings on being a “musical netrepreneur of fan labor”
    Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net
  • 3. Berners-Lee, CNN.com, 21.10.99 What role do network managers serve in the Web-based computing environments of the future? Network managers need to get out of the way and not be seen. The user's job is not to use the network, it is to do whatever they do. Network managers need to create systems where they are not needed for users to create new files, new workgroups or new directories. They should not get in the way of people's creativity. You might want to filter what goes out to a public Web site. But within a company, you need to let people use the Web as a play space. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net
  • 4.
    • Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, 2008
    • HCE - Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker - one key motif in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
    • Shirky’s closing metaphor…
    • figuring out our strategy for the internet is not like driving a car round streets with a map
    • - it’s like trying to stay upright in a kayak on a river, in a turbulent stretch not of your choosing
    Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net
  • 5. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net The case of digital critical theory for play as a tool of exploitation Interaction design encourages a 'naturalised' user response to the environment of the web – where our species-specific sociability and symbolic creativity find a new means of expression and extension. Yet our conviviality-with-digital-tools (Illich) provides market and state enterprises with an ever-subtler flow of psychometric data. “ Insanely easy group-forming tools” (shirky) "you might want to filter what goes out to a public website” (berners-lee)
  • 6. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net The case of digital critical theory for play as a tool of exploitation Play as the lubricant to "a perfected system of second-order cybernetic control over the consciousness of the [developed world's] middle-classes… a kind of world-creating and attention-channeling system [based on] contemporary social media, in its dominant corporate 2.0 forms"? (Brian Holmes)… “PLAYBOUR!”
  • 7. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net “ Internet as Playground and Factory” - can we give the ‘playground’ aspect as much analytical focus as the ‘factory’? What can ‘critical digital theory’ learn from play theory - in all its cross-disciplinary eclecticism? SeanCupitt @ digitallabor.org: “Isn’t it amazing how all these internet regulatory bodies actually hang together - and they work much better than finance and environmental regulators!” Play may explain this…
  • 8. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Brian Sutton-Smith, in his 1997 masterwork The Ambiguity of Play. A non-reductive socio-biological definition of play as "adaptive potentiation" . … . all those experiments, simulations and virtualisations – games, jokes, stories, constructions - that we recognise as play, but which clearly serve an evolutionary purpose: namely, to aid our complex mammalian flourishing. Play is "the stylized performance of existential themes that mimic or mock the uncertainties and risks of survival and, in so doing, engage the propensities of mind, body and cells in exciting forms of arousal” (S-S) We establish zones where we take reality lightly, and joyfully: and we do so in order to master the tensions and challenges of sociable living with other complex, communicating and interiorised human beings.
  • 9. Digital critical theory and play theory overlap… Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net … in the area of NEOTENY “ Neoteny is the evolutionary biological principle that the infant features of a species can evidence themselves in the adults of their descendants” ( www.neoteny.org ) Let’s compare Italian autonomist-Marxist Paulo Virno on Neoteny … and educational psychologist Brian-Sutton-Smith…
  • 10. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net
    • the language faculty leading to…
    • our instinctual non-specialization - makes us polyvalent, generalised, obessive learners
    • Neoteny - “ a chronic infancy is matched by a chronic non-adaptation, to be mitigated in each case by social and cultural devices” (Virno)
    • We don’t ‘fit’ into an ‘environment’, we ‘make’ our ‘worlds’ - “ We w restle with a vital context that is always partially undetermined, a world in which a stream of perceptual stimuli is difficult to translate into an effective operational code” (Virno)
    Paulo Virno on neoteny 'Natural-Historical Diagrams: the 'New Global' Movement and the Biological Invariant", in The Italian Difference , edited by Alberto Toscano, Re-Press, 2009. http://3.ly/virno The human animal is the potential animal - we are in an "unfinished state". Four causes…
  • 11. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Our instinctual non-specialisation? Means we’re ideal flexible labourers - all that matters is the “habit not to have habits, to react promptly to the unusual” Our neotenic forever-youngness , always ready to learn and adapt? Means we are now subject to "permanent formation… what matters is not what is progressively learning (roles, techniques, etc) but the display of the pure power to learn". VIRNO’s Adorno-esque conclusions, in the age of post-Fordism That we fluidly make our worlds , rather than live in our environmental niches ? That serves the "permanent precarity of jobs ”, nomadic in the transnational labour market “ we’re all doomed, Captain Mannering!” … yes, if Virno is right about the ease by which our “mannering” may be “captained”….
  • 12. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Neoteny in Sutton-Smith is much more optimistic
    • One evolutionary function of play is the continuation of "neonatal optimism" throughout the life-span.
    • The "unrealistic optimism, egocentricity and reactivity" of the growing child, all of them "guarantors of persistence in the face of adversity" , characterise many of our adult play behaviours.
    • Play brings a sense of joyful indefatigability and energetic resilience, which – like the pleasure of sex for procreation – is evolution's "salute" to the human animal for maintaining a "general liveliness" , in the face of the challenges of existence
  • 13. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Virno is inconsistent on the role of neotenic play in our species being… Multitude: between innovation and negation (2008) Says that language defies our empathic ‘mirror-neurons’ - the Nazi saying to the prisoner, ‘This is not a man’. The joke says, ‘this is not not a man’ - it negates the negation, puts us in a space of sheer possibility, from which ‘innovative political action’ may occur Jimmy Carr’s ‘amputee Soldiers and British Paralympic team’ joke…
  • 14. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net But how can playful potentiation, all that neotenic openness, do both things - - but also trap us in a velvet cage of cliché and compulsive behaviour? [Compared 2 the Situationists, digital critical theory’s in a mess with play…] Intellectually, we need to keep our vista on play’s effectivity in the world as broad as possible - Sutton-Smith suggests seven “ rhetorics of play”, stretching from modern to ancient, autonomous to heteronomous… but there may be many others… - be an everyday linguistic reservoir for political innovation?
  • 15. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net I want to articulate the Net as a tool to serve the expression of human neoteny, a medium for life-long & generic faculties of potentiation … without falling into the idealism of noopolitics or cybernetics… … or falling foul of a critique of digital innovation and playfulness which links it directly to capital accumulation and the subtlest of social repressions Can I? Is it possible? Only one idea I have… The ‘ground of play’ links the constitutive and the constitutional
  • 16. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net The ‘ground of play’ links the constitutive and the constitutional (and may be the deep species-being foundation of the internet (why it is “so amazing” (S.Cupitt)) If our degree of neoteny and potentiation is what makes us human… … then does the internet serve as a continuation & elaboration of those supportive early conditions of developmental play? Both ‘constitutively’ and ‘constitutionally’?
  • 17. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net
    • Is loosely but robustly governed
    • Ensures a surplus of time, space and materials
    • Is a zone where failure, risk and mess is treated as necessary for development.
    A complex-mammalian ‘ground of play’--- Play, in terms of ethology, presumes a degree of developmentally-oriented governance or structural support!
  • 18. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net So the ' constitutive' power of play in humanity – that neoteny-driven potentiation that excites both autonomists and socio-biologists… … seems to also require a 'constitutional' dimension: a protocol of governance securing certain material and emotional conditions, to enable a rich plurality of playforms. We constitute ourselves through play - but we are constituted by the ‘ground of play’ also
  • 19. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Lawrence Lessig still a helpful thinker for me
    • Net as "innovation commons”
    • - perfect consilient description of the ground of play
    • Net as an "architecture of value"
    • play and net are both discernable zones of rough-and-tumble activity in which our social-ethical identities are forged.
    • Net allowing ‘hybrid’ enterprises
    • - a presumption that a ‘play space’ is open to ALL adaptive potentiations - market or non-market, exchange, gift, or sharing…
  • 20. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Brief musings on being a “musical netrepreneur of fan labor”? Leave that for the bar…however… We did get this Situ/Gramsci-inspired chorus onto Vice FM in new GTA game “ Withdraw my labour of love/Gonna strike for the right to get into your cold heart/Ain’t gonna work for you no more!” But It May Not Be Enough… :-)
  • 21. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net Thank you! PAT KANE www. theplayethic .com Twitter: @theplayethic www.digitallabor.org 14.11.09