Pat Kane: Advocating play - a strategy for playworkers


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Presentation made to Aberdeenshire playworkers on 30th October, 2010, by Pat Kane from

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Pat Kane: Advocating play - a strategy for playworkers

  1. 1. ADVOCATING PLAY: A STRATEGY FOR PLAY- WORKERS PAT KANE Presentation to Aberdeenshire Playworkers, 30th October, 2010 WWW.THEPLAYETHIC.COM
  2. 2. We began with a “Saturday morning cinema YouTube club”, themed on the idea that play is the most natural, and strangest thing that humans do WWW.THEPLAYETHIC.COM
  3. 3. NATURALNESS OF HUMAN PLAY: STUART BROWN ON THE PLAY-BOW (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) The extraordinary space to get a distance from instinct and evolutionary programming that play opens up
  4. 4. NATURALNESS OF HUMAN PLAY: “DOG AND CAT PLAY TOGETHER” (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) The play space for animals in a thoroughly humanised environment. We're getting closer to human culture – and how play and games can help complex organisms figure out to live with each other, to cope with the strengths and weaknesses of other in society. Mark Bekoff claims that ethics/morality begins here, in the play of animals (click for children's book & academic paper)
  5. 5. NATURALNESS OF HUMAN PLAY: “CHARLIE BIT ME!!” (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) Here we are in the next step towards learning about so many elements of human co-existence through a “play-moment' – figuring out the boundaries of the body, registering the feelings (pain!) of others, developing a sense of empathy by test and experiment. All in a safe space that monitored but not controlled. See Gregory Bateson on the bite that's not a bite in animal play
  6. 6. NATURALNESS OF HUMAN PLAY: ETHAN THE LAUGHING BABY (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) So much richness here... Ethan is experiencing the joy of being able to manipulate the physical world, exerting his mastery and skill over it, with a committed and active parent. But in the course of this Ethan falls over on his head four times – the first time alarmingly, the second time less so, third time less so again...& on the fourth time he can maintain his balance. Everything is here about the developmental importance of risk & rough'n'tumble in play.
  7. 7. NATURALNESS OF HUMAN PLAY: BOBBY MCFERRIN ON SCALES (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) How do we begin to appreciate the developmental energies of play in adults? Musician Bobby McFerrin, in a room full of experts at a neuroscience conference, shows brilliantly how deeply rooted play (in this instance musical play) is in the human brain. The collective joy is tangible... and collective joy is undoubtedly an element of adult play (see Ehrenreich)
  8. 8. STRANGENESS OF HUMAN PLAY: X-BOX AD, 2002, 'OPERATING TABLE' (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) The X-Box advert I consulted to, from 2002, banned after six weeks from national television... The demographic is mostly men over 35: for them, a life of play is infinitely preferable to inevitable ageing through a concrete-blocked, over-administered Britain. An example of play as it meets adulthood, language, full cognition, politics, existential dread... (see The Play Ethic)
  9. 9. STRANGENESS OF HUMAN PLAY: OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES: THE POPE (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) Humour and wit can be the most adult form of human play – and on, the humour can be laughter in the dark, gallows humour: the 'making light' of a terrible reality or memory, so that it can be negotiated and lived with. See Brian Sutton-Smith on frivolous play as “adaptive potentiation”
  10. 10. STRANGENESS OF HUMAN PLAY: IBM LINUX AD (CLICK ON NEXT SLIDE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) Another example of adult play – the hackers who built the Linux operating system, out of enthusiasm and the joy of construction (remember Ethan the baby? Clearly a hacker to come...). Here the Linux community is personified as a genius boy, able to absorb and use the very best of human capacities. IBM decided that an “open source” software community was the best basis by which to compete with their rivals. Adult play with the most hardnosed of consequences.
  11. 11. What's the point of this little Saturday morning YouTube club for playworkers? So you can remember that play is elemental to human development, for adult and child – a way of adapting to the complex challenges of living socially with others, whose “potentiations” include light and dark, security and risk, innocence and experience. So you can appreciate the profundity of your domain & expertise
  12. 12. My definition of play: “play is taking reality lightly” (distilled from Plato, Schiller, Sartre, Huizinga, Erikson, Winnicott, Baudrillard, many others…)
  13. 13. - apparently purposeless (done for its own sake) - voluntary - inherent attraction - freedom from time - diminished consciousness of self (flow) - improvisational potential (open to chance - as a result we stumble upon new ways of being) - continuation desire (the infinite game. And addiction?) Stuart Brown’s definition in “Play” (2009)
  14. 14. Two big stories about the power and potential of play in our society and culture Play is the most natural thing we do Play is the strangest thing we do
  15. 15. Play is the most natural thing we do (1) v=XKQxpJRHGec
  16. 16. Play is the most natural thing we do (2) v=cXXm696UbKY
  17. 17. Play is the most natural thing we do… … because play is core to our development as social, cognitive and emotional beings …it’s a zone where we test out potential scenarios for living, without cost, without fear/with joy, because we want to
  18. 18. Play’s the most natural thing we do - sports and the arts - creativity in organisations - family & communal festivity - irony, jokes, flirtation - daydreaming, visualisation ..we constantly “take reality lightly” - all day, every day
  19. 19. …Play as way of realising our true nature as healthy, sociable, capable human beings From “Building the curriculum - active learning”
  20. 20. Another story about play…. Play is the strangest thing we do When we think about who is a “player” (other than sports)… Not very positive connotations… For masculinity, politics or business…
  21. 21. Another story about play…. Play is the strangest thing we do Information and bio-technology - making our fantasies into realities… Will they be good fantasies? Who shapes the soul of the player?
  22. 22. Do we need a “play ethic?” Only one story about play - like sleep or nutrition, it functions to generate human adaptability through potentialising… what happens when we have tools to make those potentials real?
  23. 23. ‘Active learning’ should be about shaping and forging that play ethic But you must be aware of the complex, ambiguous nature of play…
  24. 24. ‘rough-and- tumble-play’ (boys), ‘mean girls’ (girls), bullying how to distinguish between… - the necessary turbulence and negotiation and social learning of rough play - and hurtful dominance The challenge of play to active learning
  25. 25. A school - or a ‘shkole’? The challenge of play to active learning Shkole did not just mean “having time”, but also a certain relation to time: a person living an academic life could organise one’s time oneself - the person could combine work and leisure the way they wanted --- Pekka Himanen
  26. 26. The challenge of play to active learning It’s not so idealistic …take ‘s 20% rule A ‘ground of play’ at the heart of their organisation… Shouldn’t we prepare kids for this future? Play for all stages of learning, not just “early” learning… why should it stop?
  27. 27. *** Be advocates of play -- to other care professionals -- to clients (parents) -- among yourselves
  28. 28. *** tools of advocacy - be able to convey the health, learning and civic benefits of early-years play from the latest research and findings Neuropsychological/neurophysiological (Melvin Konner, Stuart Brown) Learning: LTS, Cambridge Group Civic: Richard Sennett, Pat Kane
  29. 29. *** tools of advocacy -- be able to convey the core truth of your profession /occupation to other stakeholders (care professionals, parents, media) - what I learned from social work - "our domain is relationships" – your domain is the "ground of play"
  30. 30. *** tools of advocacy -- be literate and self-aware of your own play capacities - what play occurs in your life? - what are the balances of forms of play that you think are healthy?
  31. 31. *** tools of advocacy -- use social media to conduct a "public conversation" about playwork - share examples of good practice, use blogs to keep people informed about stuff you find in the media - displays your occupation well to the wider society [[who's the blogger in the office???]]
  32. 32. *** thoughts for the break - If someone asked you at a party, “so you're a playworker – what's all that about?”, what's the single definitive story you would tell? - What are the three things you can say you know & understand about play? - Write this on a sheet of paper – then make an aeroplane out of it...