Following is a brief presentation of a kind of "playology" that was developed through the work Ive been doing for many years with children and adults and.... it is continuously evolving.
Play researchers around more or less agree on the following criteria regarding Play:
PLAY IS PLEASURABLE. You must enjoy the activity or it is not play.
PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED. People engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.
PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED. When playing, the means are more important than the ends.
PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN. It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a you are pressured, you will likely not think of the activity as play.
PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED. Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.
PLAY IS NON-LITERAL. It involves make-believe.
So: Playing is not about WHAT you do but HOW it is done..
There is a huge literature with reports, studies, observations and thinking regarding play, what it is, when and how.
It comes through different traditions like the classical/philosophical, the evolutionary/biological, the cognitive/developmental, the every-day-psychological, the communication-theory, the phenomenological, the psychoanalytical, the sociological, the cultural and through brain research. Schiller, Eberle, Huizinga, Fagen, Burghardt, Diamond, Panksep, Bergström, Pellegrini, Frost, Gray,
Vygotski, Knutsdotter Olofsson, Brown….to name a few important contributors.
So a lot of knowing about play that is.
Let us make clear that there is a distinction between play and playfulness. Playfulness is that thing that makes a playing (free play or facilitated play), a game or any other all daily activity playful. The more playful the more it meets the above mentioned criteria for play.
So the question is: What is playfulness? How can I understand playfulness? What are the elements that contributes to playfulness? How can I make something more playful?
Are there any good practical tools I can use?
Yes, there are!
Through years of being out in the field as a teacher and facilitator being on the floor with thousands of children and adults I have had the opportunity of studying play and playfulness. I wanted to understand what it basically is that makes a playing or any other situation playful.
The question in my daily work was: What was it that made a game or a situation playful AND when it didn't feel playful, what elements where missing out?
And this is what I found:
When something is playful you always find four specific elements present: Interactivity, Presence, Flow and Dynamics. When its not playful there is always some of them missing.
The unique and good thing with the Playology model is that it both serves as an understanding of the situation, at the same time you know what to do. It is very pragmatic. You have the tools available. Of course you need to understand them first the way I use them.
PLAYFULNESS always have:
If you are experiencing the moment of playfulness in your life there is always those 4 elements present. If you're not, then one or more of those is lacking.
Those 4 parameters is good to have as checkpoints when you lack playfulness - in your own life as well as when you are facilitating a group of children or adults.
Find and develop them in order to enhance playfulness.
The Playology terminology, the way I use them :
- INTERACTIVITY: is about having the ability to connect and to be able to perceive and give in a communicative and balanced, yet dynamic, way as required to the actual moment - meaning: every moment requires its own kind of balance.
- Interactivity requires willingness to connect, willingness to mutuality and willingness to perceive the resonance in you and the willingness to hear the other and how it resonates in him/her/it.
Connecting. To connect has a will-aspect (to take initiative for connecting) and a willingness-aspect (to handle and deal with whatever comes and stay connected with it)
Resonation. To be aware of how the incoming informations resonates and triggers reaction in you and to allow the resonation in you and the other.
Mutuality. To establish an ongoing communication on one or the other level needed, where status or other hierarchical values are set aside (handicapping). To be mutual means to be in a balanced, yet dynamic, state of giving and receiving together with your play partners whether it be a person, an object or a situation.
- PRESENCE: is about having the ability to connect, to stay connected aware and attentive.
to know what to focus and to stay present with (outside yourself)
internal silence: to keep disturbing inner comments, judgements, conclusions etc away and simply stay with whatever informations rises through the presence.
- FLOW: is about having the ability to let go and allow any internal or external impulses and informations to be handled in a non-blocking way.
You are experiencing Flow if:
-You’re consumed with a task
-You’re not thinking about the future or the past
-You’re not questioning if you like what you’re doing
-You’re neither bored, nor stressed
a YES! - meaning: the approach and attitude of doing something with anything that comes to you and to never block or stop the flow.
- DYNAMICS: is about having the ability to shift between different dynamic polarities following the information of what is needed right now. Dynamics Requires : Intuition and internal listening.
The DYNAMIC POLARITIES are:
CHAOS - STRUCTURE
ON - OFF
INTENSITY HIGH - LOW
CHAOS: Everything is possible but not yet manifested. There is awareness, consciousness and its more about the experience of Periphery than point and more about the In-between than the fact.
STRUCTURE: The focus is whats manifested...in terms of rules, relationships, props, specific actions etc. There is cognition and analyze involved. Its more about the experience of Point than Periphery and more about the Fact than the in-between.
WILDNESS: Approaching the unknown, testing and playing with the limits, the Doing
STILLNESS: Moving inside the limits, being in the safe zone, the Being
ON: Having FOCUS, concentration, getting it, remember, bringing up, higher awareness and/or cognition
OFF: having UN-FOCUS, being Off, letting go, leaving behind, forget, expansion, lower awareness and/or cognition
INTENSITY: higher or lower intensity...in terms of energy, concentration, attention, doing......
But what then doesn't allow playfulness to happen?
Mind reflections, inner comments, judgements, conclusions etc always blocks or make it hard to interact, to stay present, to allow the flow or to perceive the adequate informations regarding dynamics.
As we now know, interactivity needs good connection. Reflective mind activities however more or less isolates and creates distance between you and the person/situation/object you wish to interact with. Thinking and reflecting do require that inner distance. It is just the way it is. And sometimes you need to do that. But generally we do it to much, don't we?
Awareness however is another way to stay awake, conscious and perceptive and doesn't disconnect you with the world but takes you deeper in to it.
A key, in your personal life or when you facilitate a group, is Tempo. To find the right tempo of the action is quite crucial. Your personal tempo right now or the tempo of the group.
The "right" tempo is the tempo that makes you the most present. Neither stressed, neither bored, neither thinking ahead, neither drifting away of... but....PRESENT in what you are perceiving and in what you are doing.
As you may discover all the four elements needs each other!
They are interdependent.
If one of them is treated badly, the quality of the others will decline.
But because of this you can increase the playfulness by focusing just one of them.
E.g. you notice Un-Playfulness….you identify lack of presence…..you may then take a decision of interact or you may notice that you need to shift Dynamic. And so on and so forth...
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From time to time I am facilitating workshops in Playology. Keep updated for the next one!
Kefas Berlin Juli 2018