11 June 2005 | Draft
Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion
Climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance
- / -
Reflections inspired by the Trajectories conference at the Centre
for Alternative Technology (Machynlleth-Wales, May 2005) of which this is
a playfully partial interpretation in the spirit of the transformative approach
Denial: the "elephants in the living room"
Contrasting conventional foci: technology vs gardening
Bridging metaphoric focus -- the nature of engagement
"Playing" with interrelated metaphors
Psychological engagement -- excitement?
Developing playful insight
Vital distinction: gaming vs playing
Games: prime focus of finite players
Play: mediatisation of playfulness -- envirotainment? climatotainment?
Higher dimensions of "game-play space"
Playing with the rules: emergence of infinite players
Playing with the rules: cons and pros
Transforming "game-play space"
Apathy and quenching excitement
Playfully getting things into focus
Entrainment and enactivism
Game of Life and Death: beyond Homo ludens?
Playful exploration of ecopsychological embodiment of climate
Towards Homo conjugens -- humanity as Rosetta stone?
There is rapidly rising concern regarding the effects of climate change --
and their imminence. This has been accompanied by a range of initiatives to
deny or minimize the evidence and the nature of any consequences [more].
Seemingly unrelated to the issue of climate change has been the widespread
rising concern about the need for "new thinking", "paradigm shifts",
and changes away from dangerous "patterns of consumption". These are
understood as being essential to sustainable development and to more effective
responses to the many actual and latent conflicts around the world.
The following is an exploration of the preoccupations of a recent conference
at the Centre for Alternative Technology
(CAT) with climate change. Given the unusually self-reflexive emphasis of the
event, climate change is understood self-reflexively here as a metaphorical
template for new approaches to global governance based on changing the climate
of opinion as a means of effectively engaging with climate change.
At the time of writing, the urgency of a response to climate change is expected
to figure in the declaration of the forthcoming G8 summit (Gleneagles, July
2005). But the leaked draft text for the July summit at Gleneagles was denounced
by environmental groups for lacking substance. It was described by Greenpeace
as "a mush of warm words carefully crafted by civil servants to make sure
no one is committed to anything" [more].
Indeed the politics are such that it is expected that the only outcome will
be ineffectual pious intentions and tokenism -- with little genuine strategic
direction and implementation.
Furthermore it must be said that, although global civilization has a capacity
to articulate and implement strategic plans with a technical focus on material
construction (or destruction), it has very limited proven capacity to undertake
projects with a psychosocial or behavioural dimension. The incapacity to invest
in new approaches to dialogue with those who disagree is an example -- and terrorism
is an extreme result. It could be argued that thinktanks and policy-makers are
unnconsciously recognizing their incapacity to respond to the complex challenges
of global governance -- and that reducing them to simplistic threats, such as
terrorism, is then a convenient way of claiming to do so effectively and responsibly.
The argument below builds on a recognition of a polarization of social processes
into two forms of playing. On the one hand, there is the game-playing that is
so characteristic of political processes and strategic initiatives, and the
mind sets associated with competitive business and sport. On the other hand
there is the pursuit of pleasurable play in its many forms, framed as irresponsible
hedonism by some with incompatible social change agendas. In both senses it
might be said that humans have already evolved from Homo sapiens into
an unfortunate variant of the Homo ludens foreseen by Johan Huizinga
Ludens: a study of the play element in cultures, 1938).
The merit of this approach might be summarized by the adage "if you cannot
beat them, join them". Rather than "pushing the river", and bemoaning
the predilection for playing, there is the possibility of "guiding the
canoe". The argument being that the increasingly evident phenomena of climate
change can provide a carrier for fundamental insights into actions that are
increasingly vital -- provided that these are understood as offering scope for
a more psychologically engaging form of playfulness that would facilitate deployment
of resources in ways responsive to the challenge.
Rather than use threats (such as terrorism) as both a guiding principle for
global governance and as a dubious justification for repressive directives by
the few, there is a case for transforming the "threat" of climate
change in ways that engage meaningful action by the many alienated by current
approaches to governance. The focus here is therefore on what currently engages
the many, rather than on what the few believe the many should be engaged by.
In the regretable absence of a verb form, "climate" is mistakenly
understood as a noun -- as daily adaptation to the dynamics of changeable weather
indicates. Treating it as such is strategic oversimplification relying on statistical
aggregates and averages (which have proven so methodologically inappropriate
in socio-economic response to the marginalized). Similarly "play"
is most meaningfully understood as a verb. Engaging playfully with climate is
therefore more consonant with its dynamics and dimensionality -- and the strategic
opportunities they offer. How this might be fruitfully achieved in relation
to "climate change" is what is tentatively explored here.
Denial: the "elephants in the living room"
Those concerned with the evidence for climate change have caricatured the political
and scientific denial of the phenomenon as a case of having "an elephant
in the living room" that is carefully ignored in a conspiracy of groupthink
by all concerned. It might be seen as a reverse case of the Emperor clothed
in invisible (namely non-existent) clothes. The challenge of such denial is
explored by Rosemary Randall (A New Climate for Psychotherapy? Outwrite,
Journal of the Cambridge Society for Psychotherapy, 2005).
But a similar analysis, and conspiracy of groupthink, applies to unsustainable
consumption patterns -- currently exemplified by mass air travel and 4x4 SUVs.
The degree of awareness may be quite indirect, as is partly reflected in the
nature of concern with obesity.
Ironically the mindsets appropriate to responding to this "elephant"
may be emerging in the living room of policy-makers -- under their noses --
through the insights acquired by their young in assiduously playing interactive
internet games. A second "elephant" -- but in a real rather than a
virtual living room!
As a self-reflexive event, the CAT Trajectories conference of technologists
was necessarily inspired by the kinds of second
order cybernetics with which Gregory
Bateson has become associated. As recorded by his daugher, he concluded
a conference with the statement: "We are our own metaphor." (Mary Catherine
Bateson. Our Own Metaphor: a personal account of a conference on the effects
of conscious purpose on human adaptation, 1972; also We
Are Our Own Metaphor, Whole Earth, Fall, 1999). The conference
therefore called for recognition of its own operation as a metaphor of the challenge
it was intended to face.
The approach there involved exploration of the possibility of activating new
metaphors which could enchant, empower, explain and orient approaches to the
problematique through the user's own comprehension of each metaphor's significance,
whether amongst the governors or the governed. Participants recognized that
they had over-identified with impoverished metaphors and had been unable to
see themselves in perspective.
In that spirit, and rather than an elephant, the challenge for the CAT conference
was to recognize the nature of the MOUSE -- initially understood as Meaningless
Over-Use of System Energies -- with which they were playing, and then to transform
Contrasting conventional foci: technology vs gardening
The Centre of Alternative Technology has put a great deal of effort, over the
30 years of its existence, into "alternative technology" -- as a basis
for alternative, sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns. However the
focus has only been incidentally on the psychology and people patterns fundamental
to any shift in the climate of opinion regarding sustainability. As with the
philosophy of architects, the technology is seen as adequately conditioning
and determining appropriate behaviour. Architects have been obliged to digest
a number of bitter lessons associated with this assumption, but this has only
marginally affected their own behaviour. A more radical approach is called for
-- perhaps implicit in the titles of periodicals by which the participants at
the CAT conference had originally been inspired (Undercurrents: the magazine
of radical science, 1972-1984; Radical Science Journal, 1974-1987).
In the CAT environment, and at similar places around the world, the focus is
on developing, testing and implementing technologies in relation to:
- water (irrigation, conservation, recycling, purification, hydropower)
- wind (windpower)
- soil (renewal, composting, building material, etc)
- energy (solar power, windpower, hydropower, etc)
- waste (composting, recycling, etc)
These technological preoccupations, significantly conditioned by climate, translate
in practice into concerns familiar to gardeners everywhere. It is therefore
natural for CAT to be attentive to the plants, gardens, and ponds that provide
habitats from which its own residents and visitors can derive foodstuffs and
pleasure -- as is the case with even the most modest gardens.
There is however a contrast between the psychology of gardeners and the psychology
of those approaching the same phenomena from a technical perspective. The distinct
psychologies may be co-present in the same individual -- but this may well not
be the case, or the relation may be denied or treated as incidental.
Bridging metaphoric focus
Underlying both the above perpectives, it is argued here that there is a third
perspective that may provide a bridging metaphor -- vital to the approach to
both changing patterns of consumption and in response to climate change. Whilst
the perspective of a gardener may emphasize a higher degree of empathetic engagement
with the processes of the garden, that of the technical perspective necessarily
stresses a more cognitively disciplined, instrumentalist approach to those processes.
Both envisage possibilities of skilled intervention and innovation -- processes
of change and development.
There is widespread recognition that preoccupation with external phenomena
has psychological implications:
- gardeners everywhere have acknowledged the psychological impact of gardens
and gardening, and may well engage in those processes for that reason [more
- there is widespread recognition within certain spiritual disciplines of
the role of gardening and sacred ecosystems (cf Zen temple gardens, sacred
groves and other sanctified ecosystems)
- the psychological impact of technology is discussed in a variety of contexts
Techgnosis: Magic, Memory, and the Angels of Information, 1994/1998),
notably in relation to the development of the web (Sherry Turkle, Life
on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, 1995), and is
even a focus of concern (computer addiction, videogame addiction, etc)
Many do not have access to gardens and the experience of gardening -- but they
may well project their acknowledgement of certain psychological processes into
competitive sport. It is however significant that for a variety of sports, emphasis
has been placed on the "inner game", whether as a key to conventional
success in the outer game or as an experience of significance in its own right
(cf the Inner Game of: Tennis,
The insight has been adapted to competitive economic activity (cf the Inner
Game of: Business,
The same is true of gardening (cf Diane Dreher, Inner
Gardening: A Seasonal Path to Inner Peace, 2002; and notions of an
"inner garden", or a "secret garden").
It is worth reflecting on the extent to which "gardening" corresponds
to the "agricultural" phase of human community development in contrast
with the "hunting" phase more appropriately corresponding to competitive
sport. These therefore reflect contrasting dispositions between which some form
of "marriage" is called for -- to enable a coherent new response to
the challenge of the times. At present "gardening" corresponds to
the kind of strategic process that sustains "business as usual", whereas
"sport" (notably in the form of competitive ball games) corresponds
to the kind of strategic process characterized by "point scoring"
and "fast footwork". It might be argued that any "marriage"
between them has so far proved to be infertile.
The question in what follows is whether gardening and/or sport, as processes
with which people everywhere have a degree of psychological engagement, may
not prove to be the key to changing the climate of opinion at this crucial period
in the history of humanity and the planet.
If a technical justification for the argument that follows is necessary, this
may be found in the isomorphism in the systemic relations between these phenomena
and processes in different contexts, as understood in terms of general systems
theory (cf James Grier Miller, Living
Systems, 1978). Possibly more pertinent is the extent to which the
role of metaphor is now considered fundamental to technological creativity and
innovation -- metaphor has itself even been considered as a technology (cf Laura
as Technology, 2003). But in addition, technology is itself considered
as a powerful source of metaphor (cf Robert D Romanyshyn. Technology as Symptom
and Dream, 1989; David Weinberger, Technology
as Metaphor). It is from these perspectives that the alternative technology
explored at CAT can be fruitfully used as a template for alernative insight.
"Playing" with interrelated metaphors
For the success of this approach, it would appear vital that there be a playful
quality to its implementation. People are weary of being told what they ought
to do and how they ought to do it -- whether by religious, political, scientific,
commercial or other authorities (cf Liberating
Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005). The
credibility of these authorities is now fundamentally suspect through their
complicity in unfortunate initiatives which have not been of benefit to the
planet or to the species on it.
A playful approach is essentially participative and interactive -- with a high
degree of personal initiative and choice, however much people engage in groups
to enhance the ludic quality. The case for playfulness has been argued in detail
elsewhere (Johan Huizinga, Homo
Ludens: a study of the play element in cultures, 1938; James Carse,
Finite and Infinite
Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1986). It is a feature
of neurolinguistic programming (cf L. Michael Hall, The
Inner Game of Frames, 2000; Michael Hall. Meta-States
and the Inner Game, 2003).
With respect to the environment, there is a recognition of distinct processes
involving "water", "air", "soil" and "energy".
These each have their psychological counterparts -- even their traditional symbolic
counterparts for some (notably the multitudes intrigued by astrology).
The scope for play in the "inner game" relating to the environment
is therefore indicated by the characteristics of:
- "water": how to respond in the "inner game" to analogies
- water shortage, thirst, and aridity
- water pollution
- waste water and the need for recycling
- "air": how to respond in the "inner game" to analogies
- air pollution
- rising dust levels
- soil: how to respond in the "inner game" to analogies of :
- soil pollution
- soil compaction
- soil infertility
- energy: how to respond in the "inner game" to analogies of:
Biometeorologists have noted that morale and state of mind can be affected
by changes in the weather, with a recognzied range of weather-related phobias
one extreme being seasonal affective disorder. Alan E. Stewart (Assessing
Human Dimensions of Weather and Climate Salience, 2005) concludes that
human experience of weather and climate conditions may affect attitudes and
behaviours on issues such as global warming and climate-change.
John Fraim (Symbolism
of Place: the hidden context of communication, 2001) provides, in a
chapter on the Place
of Phenomena, a valuable review of examples from literature and symbolism
of the way in which climate and weather (specifically: clouds, rain, snow, wind,
hurricanes and tornados, thunder and lightning, fog, shadow, cataclysmic phenomena)
affect mood. In a chapter on the Place
of Elements, Fraim argues that:
However, the four elements still maintain a powerful symbolism within the
overall realm of imaginative experience possessing a strong correspondence
to internal states and emotions. In this sense, although the world may be
created from many different elements their effect on the individual is subject
to a type of classification based around the four elements. [more]
Fraim notably points to one of the greatest studies of the correspondence between
the basic elements and internal psychological states as undertaken by French
philosopher Gaston Bachelard
in a succession of books (Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of
Matter, 1942; Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement,
1943; The Earth and the Reveries of the Will, 1948; The Earth and
the Reveries of Rest, 1946; and The Psychoanalysis of Fire, 1938).
Another valuable source, from a strategic perspective, is that of Miyamoto
Musashi (Go Rin No
Sho or A Book of Five Rings): The
Ground Book, The
Water Book, The
Fire Book, The
Wind Book followed by the The
Book of the Void. Such sources are notably cited by technopaganists
in their enthusiastic use of symbolism in internet games [more].
J Wyatt Ehrenfels (Fireflies
in the Shadow of the Sun, 2003), on the assumption that the life of
the individual has similarities to the weather, sets out to identify the recipes
for life's "weather events" and climatological shifts through a discipline
named as experiography [more].
With respect to governance, such perspectives may be consistent with advocacy
activism and aikido
entrepreneurship as explored by Reed Burkhart.
Depth psychologists, for example, have recognized the psychic importance of
the symbolism of such "elements" to individuation processes. Weather
metaphors are frequently used to characterize moods or individuals ("sunny",
"icy", "glacial", etc). Ecopsychology
is a prime focus for reflection on the relationship between mental and physical
well-being and the natural environment, provides insights into how to reconnect
with innate abilities to live in harmony and balance [more].
Dennis Merritt (The
Dairy Farmer's Guide to the Universe: Jung, Hermes and Ecopsychology,
2004) uses archetypal motifs of the weather, climate and seasons -- together
with land forms, water resources, flora and fauna -- to this end. The International
Community for Ecopsychology explores the synergistic relation between planetary
and personal well being -- the needs of the one as relevant to the other. Ecopsychology
Online defined its focus as:
- the emerging synthesis of ecology and psychology
- the skillful application of ecological insight to the practice of psychotherapy
- the study of our emotional bond with the Earth
- the search for an environmentally-based standard of mental health
- re-defining "sanity" as if the whole world mattered
Andy Fisher (Radical
Ecopsychology: psychology in the service of life, 2002) specifically
explores the psychological roots of the current ecological crisis. This perspective
is endorsed by David Abram (The
Spell of the Sensuous, 1997) who argues that:
The body is the location of all knowledge. What we "know" comes to us through
our senses, through our contact with physical, earthly experience. That experience
invariably shapes what we perceive. Perception is inherently participatory.
To the body, the world is not "object." There is no "me" apart from an "other."
Everything is animate for the sensing body. Touch a tree and the tree is touching
you back. That we no longer know this is part of the tragedy. [more]
As a philosopher, and from a phenomenological perspective, Don Ihde (Whole
Earth Measurements) makes the point in a different way, contrasting
arguments of Husserl and Heidegger, with regard to detection of the greenhouse
effect on the climate using technoscientific enhancement of human imaging capacity.
It is worth recalling that the four elemental systemic phenomena above are
fundamental to many symbol systems, including some that have been embodied in
interactive game-like devices (cf Tarot, astrology, I Ching).
These have the considerable advantage over official policies -- in response
to climate change and sustainable development -- that they continue to engage
the attention of people at all levels of society around the world.
Whilst such devices have no formal role in official policy-making in the West
(in this period), concern with the auspiciousness of a moment of decision remains
a preoccupation in many cultures -- even at the highest levels. Given the apathy
and cynicism with which official initiatives are currently confronted, the potential
role of such devices in engaging attention in relation to climate change should
not be neglected. There is even the possibility that they reflect psychological
phenomena that have been marginalized -- aggravating the apathy that is so widely
Psychological engagement -- excitement?
The challenge of the times in official eyes (reinforced by the perspective
of economists) is that of "energy" -- especially in the light of the
depletion of oil resources and the controversies over nuclear power. But curiously
the challenge of the times for most people is not energy but "excitement".
Energy resources are notably depleted to sustain the pursuit of excitement in
all its varied forms. Air travel and the use of private vehicles provide obvious
illustrations; drug and alcohol use provide another.
Game players tend not to respond to the preoccupations central to politics.
Young people respond in significant numbers to the successors of Dungeons
and Dragons and other games (see John Borland and Brad King. Dungeons
and Dreamers, 2003). Through the imaginative and mythological content
of games, it might be argued that young people are training themselves for Armageddon
-- after the enraptured have left [more]
-- rather than for the implementation of the United Nations Agenda
21 and its Millennium Development
Goals. Curiously they are activating, and connecting with, cultural symbols
that otherwise would be largely considered meaningless in modern civilization.
This suggests that for the climate of opinion to change, excitement of some
kind needs to be a focus; hence the call here for new kinds of game and play.
But for this to have any effect on climate change, then such playing needs to
"connect" psychologically with consumption patterns at the personal
level and with policy processes at the collective level.
It might be said people are stuck in bad or impoverished "games"
that are in many ways a reflection of the inappropriateness of consumption patterns
and official policies:
- participation in many competitive sports has been transformed into a spectator
process, emphasizing the visual dimension. Other processes, inadequately provided
for, overflow in an unchannelled way into associated violence
- policy debates are themselves increasingly perceived as "games"
(eg of "political football"), even "theatre", excessively
emphasizing the visual dimension to the point that future planning is focused.
To what extent should international organizations, engaged in the processes
of global governance, be considered as institutionalized games?
From this perspective, planetary and psycho-social challenges need to be designed
into games. But, the games available to people may be increasingly inadequate
to the degree of excitement required to sustain their engagement in society.
Why are some better nourished by "SUV games" than by "Agenda
21 games"? If official games were as exciting as they need to be to engage
people, then surely more people would play them. There is therefore a basic
distinction to be remembered between:
- games people ought to play, and
- games people actually choose to play
Developing playful insight
There is a curious irony to the fact that it is academic and military disciplines
concerned with strategic policy-making that lay claim to serious examination
and implementation of game theory in pursuit of strategic advantage -- especially
through the thinktanks on which they depend. Complex models are used to simulate
some strategic decisions. It is far less evident that models are used to explore
the participatory processes through which democratic support for comprehensive
strategies is sought -- or for constitutional innovation as in the case of Europe
of Participatory Democracy with International Institutions: Attitudinal, Quantitative
and Qualitative Challenges, 2003).
The irony comes from the extent to which young people -- under the noses of
their elders -- explore games calling for strategic thinking in spaces of greater
complexity than those explored in such official initiatives. As noted by Steven
Bad is Good for You, 2005) with regard to computer-mediated games:
Not only do most games require you to remember multiple combinations of buttons
(and use them fast), but often there are few established rules. Adults are
likely to say: "What am I supposed to do?" "It's as if each
time you start a game of chess, the moves have been scrambled and there are
no instructions," says Johnson. "When you make a move, you get feedback
and you have to work out the moves and the rules as you play the game."
Johnson calls this process "probing". It is followed, he says, by
"telescoping" - prioritising multiple objectives into a scheme to
get you to the final goal. "These are raw skills that can be applied
to other parts of life," he says, "core building blocks of what
it means to be smart. People who are successful in life are good at these
Widespread interactive internet games involving many players provide a form
of training in group dynamics to respond to shadowy opponents variously organized.
One might ask whether the mind sets developed are of greater or lesser relevance
to such opponents than those of accredited experts. Policy-makers care little
for what the young (possibly including their own) consider to be relevant, but
the reverse is also true -- and the young are indeed the future.
According to Steven Johnson (Everything
Bad is Good for You, 2005):
Recent research shows that video games can improve visual intelligence and
hand-eye coordination, but Johnson goes further. He thinks they increase IQ.
There is an upward trend in American IQ scores - the kind based on abstract
graphics and pattern-spotting - and Johnson believes this is due to the nature
of modern popular culture, to the brain development gained from interactive
There is every possibility that computer games -- beyond "shoot-em-ups"
-- may be providing the first steps towards giving form to a template, or model,
fundamental to more complex and richer modes of interpersonal interaction (cf
James Paul Gee and Tashia Morgridge. Video
Games, Mind and Lerarning, 2004). Elsewhere, Gee (2003) sees:
Academic areas, like biology or history, are themselves like games.... Scientists
act and interact in terms of certain identities and values and use knowledge
and information to accomplish certain sorts of goals. So learning science
should be about learning how to 'play the game' of science. Games could do
this as well, since they are based on taking on distinctive identities in
order to act and value in certain ways.
This trend may be vital to effective responses to the strategic challenges
of the future.
The UN World Summit on Sustainable
Development (Johannesburg, 2002) effectively raises the question of whether
it was a meeting of people who thought they ought to have been playing "Agenda
21" but had found other games they preferred to play. The challenge is
to determine what makes available games that people ought to play so boring.
Is it possible that for many their boredom relates in some way to what some
find particularly boring in games such as tennis, bridge, scrabble, etc.? It
is also important to recognize that the game for some includes getting others
to play their game -- to play with them. Why is it that some:
- move on to new games, whereas others
- cultivate old games
Why and how may depend on where the person is centred when they play the game,
namely what aspects of their psyche are engaged in the space in which the game
is played. What then is the space or centering that would transform a game perceived
as boring into one that is perceived as exciting? (see Apathy and quenching,
It is also useful to recognize that it is less frequently the case that a person
would want to play the same game all the time. Rather than preferring a single
game, the pattern seems to be to shift between a set of games from which excitement
is derived. This compensates for the tendency of excitement to wear out when
a game is played for too long -- when do we stop playing tennis and shift to
scrabble or bridge? Perhaps such a set of games should be understood like a
set of vitamins vital to psychic health.
Vital distinction: gaming vs playing
Games are necessarily strongly associated with "playing". But there
is an important distinction between "playing" and "gaming".
"Play" may only be understood as the curiously missing verb "to
game"; "game" as the rules governing any resulting form of "play".
Some games are played very "seriously" and may then not involve much,
if any, "playfulness". A different attitude is evoked by playfulness
from which serious game players may wish to be somewhat, if not completely,
dissociated. Part of the distinction is captured by the notion that games are
play that is formalized -- possibly to a high degree. Playfulness may be characterized
by a relative lack of rule-based formalization.
Key theories in this respect are those of Jean Piaget (Play, Dreams and Imitation
, 1951) and Lev Vygotsky, as reviewed by Celia Hoyles and Richard
with (and without) words
According to Piaget, play is driven by pleasure: the young child plays in
order to disassociate from the immediate and concrete; it frees her to engage
in behaviours particularly fantasies which would otherwise be too demanding
(Piaget, 1951). For Piaget, the development of play progresses from a purely
individual process and private symbolism to social play and collective symbolism.
Crucially, there are rules underpinning play and these are classified into
two types: those handed down from above and those constructed spontaneously.
It is, according to Piaget, by distinguishing between these two kinds of rules
that the child learns that rules are not sacred and untouchable but can be
modified and adapted. To sum up the Piagetian view, play helps transform the
child's thinking from the concrete to the abstract, and proceeds from the
individual to the social.
In the case of Vygotsky:
Vygotsky argues that play always consists of two interrelated components:
an imagination situation, and rules governing the interactions within the
imagination. What changes over time is the explicitness of the rules. In early
pretence play, the overt imaginary situation is governed by a covert set of
rules: children begin to learn that individual satisfaction can be enhanced
by co-operation in rule-governed activities. At the opposite pole, there are
games in which the imaginary situation is covert and the rules overt. For
Vygotsky, the long term development of the child is from pretence play to
games with rules, from games with covert to overt rules.
|Table 1: Combinations of Winning and Losing
Orthogonal plane to Table 2 -- transforming its contents in a third
in which both have fun)
||win-win (both have fun)
|lose-lose (both have fun, possible because winning
was not a necessity)
||lose-win (special relationship in which loser benefits
from losing, eg a grandparent "losing" a chess game with a grandchild)
The above table may be seen as a representation of two orthogonal axes (Winning-Losing
I, Winning-Losing II) and may be compared with the system developed by Edward
of the structure of Mendeleev's periodic table, 1972) to map pairs of
interacting biological species in terms of the nature of their transaction or
"game". This gave rise to a "coaction cardioid" discussed
Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart
of sustainable relationship, 2005). This approach may be used as the
basis for distinguishing "playing" from "gaming" in Table
|Table 2: Playing games with Game-playing
Adaptation of Table 1 -- distinguishing combinations of playing and
|High Playfulness /
(fun and "heart" interest; timelessness,"infinitude")
(heat, fire, "in the flow")
|Low Competitive Gaming
(indifference to winning/losing)
||Unstructured play (fooling
||Exciting games through which
both win and have fun ("win-win")
||High Competitive Gaming
("head" interest in winning)
|Boredom (no fun; no games)
||Serious games with an emphasis on winning/dominance
(structured to the point of minimizing fun)
|Low Playfulness / Enjoyment
(low fun; timebound; "finitude")
The above table may be seen as a representation of two orthogonal axes (High
Play -- Low Play, High Gaming -- Low Gaming). It may be used to position any
combination of play and game. For example, in the bottom right quadrant might
be found highly competitive games typical of business or diplomacy -- low on
playfulness and fun. On the other hand the top left quadrant is high on playfulness
with a low level of competitive gaming. There is however the question of different
perceptions of the degree of play or game in any game-play combination -- in
the eyes of the beholder. As shown in Table 3, the axes might be compared with
cooperation vs competition.[more]
Game theory is the systematic study of decision-making given a set of rules
and opponents whose interests are more or less adverse. In a zero sum game the
winner takes all; thus it pays to be competitive. In a nonzero sum game, the
players end up better off, on average and over the long run, if they adopt a
cooperative strategy. Robert Wright (Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny,
2001) takes game theory and embeds it in a Darwinian framework. He proposes
a kind of meta-game theory wherein competing strategies vie for players in the
real world. Because nonzero sum games yield a higher average payoff over the
long run, they attract more players. They are more fit in Darwinian terms. Go-it-alone,
win-at-all-costs strategies might yield a high immediate payoff, but they are
disadvantaged in the long run. [more]
Games: prime focus of finite players
Game theory has a long mathematical history. However game studies and game
design -- notably with respect to interactive internet games -- have become
specialized fields calling upon disciplines from psychology to game theory,
information theory, systems theory, semiotics, mathematics, etc. For example,
Katie Salen and Eric Zimmermann, Rules
of Play: game design fundamentals, 2004) aim to identify the actual
conceptual tools that are relevant to games. Rules account for "the organization
of the designed system", whereas play accounts for "the human experience
of that system", and culture accounts for "the larger contexts engaged
with and inhibited by the system." The systemic nature of games becomes
evident from the framework that the three constitute.
Salen and Zimmerman elaborate on the concept of "magic circle" of
Johan Huizinga (Homo
Ludens, 1938) that is created by playing a game -- creating new reality,
the place apart from ordinary life where play occurs. They make make two claims
about it, one that it is actually a circle and another that "the term magic
circle is appropriate because there is in fact something genuinely magical that
happens when a game begins". This highlights the transformative power of games.
It accounts for the "second-order reality" (cf Roger Caillois, Man,
Play and Games, 2001) or "holding power" (cf Sherry Turkle, Life
On the Screen, 1995).
The "magic circle" may be understood as a "Dionysian zone",
a concept from social science with a history going back to antiquity, the zone
is a point in time and space where Dionysian urges rule the ground and normal
social rules do not apply -- where the players through fictive personae may
behave in a way not acceptable in the normal society without repercussions.
This is contrasted with an "Apollonian zone", where rule of law and
reason prevail. [more]
"Meaningful play" refers to actions and outcomes within such a "magic
circle" that add to the emotional and psychological experience of playing
the game. It is characteristic of the actions that the game system affords the
player that seem enticing and make sense in pursuing the goal(s) of the game.
From such a perspective, games are understood as "transmedial" entities,
a term that ludologist Jesper Juul
has used to describe the tendency of games to shift between different media
and technologies (cf The
Game, the Player, the World: Looking for a Heart of Gameness, 2003).
Many attempts have been made to design serious games, notably those emphasizing
cooperation over conflict. For example Social
Impact Games (Entertaining Games with Non-Entertainment Goals, 2003)
provides links to many games, notably in the categories of:
Ian Bogost, a games designer and theorist concerned with "games
with an agenda" has worked on a series of games designed to help voters
and citizens get to grips with policy issues in the USA [more].
Bogost considers that games could play a part in integrating real use of abstract
knowledge since The best educational games, like Civilization,
are procedural representations of systems which let people play around with
elements of a system to see how they combine to generate effects and structures.
With similar intent, the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars has a Serious
Games Initiative headed by David Rejeski, director of the Center's Foresight
and Governance Project. The initiative focuses on uses for games in exploring
management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. Part of its overall
charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry
and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and
public policy. It organizes an annual Serious
Much is made, for example, of the innovative breakthrough in the use of artificial
intelligence in a game designed by the chess master Demis
: The Revolution, 2003) [more
| more]. An
older game Diplomacy,
commands respect for its coalition-building challenges amongst multi-player
aficionados similar to the respect accorded to chess amongst two-player games
With respect to the theme explored here, there are three "serious"
questions to be addressed in relation to such initiatives:
- why is it the impact of such games on public policy debates is so little
in evidence? Middle East? Climate change? Corruption? Drug trade? Sustainable
development? Terrorism? More specifically, in the latter case, how do they
address the need for dialogue in dealing with value systems and initiatives
that appear to be fundamentally opposed, resulting in strategic dilemmas,
if not violence?
- to what extent do such initiatives facilitate the emergence of games that
make a nonsense out of statements to the effect that: "no stone has been
left unturned" in seeking solutions to the Middle East crisis (Bill
Barak); the reasons for targetting the UN Mission in Baghdad in 2003 were
"senseless" (according to the UN) [more];
there is no "Plan B" for Europe if the proposed European Constitution
is not accepted by the public [more]?
- in claiming to be "serious", to what degree do they address the
disaffection of those who obtain greater pleasure through playing less "serious
games"? More specifically how do they address the need for public engagement
necessary for fundamental changes in behaviour?
The symptom of the gap to be addressed, and bridged, is that between worldwide
engagement in mass audience phenomena (eg Olympic Games, football championships,
Eurovision Song Contests, beauty contests, etc) and the alienating debates in
plenary assemblies through which strategies vital to the future of humanity
take place. Ironically, other than the question of scale, the architectural
layout required for the dynamics of each is often similar -- and strangely reminiscent
of the Roman Coliseum. Game-playing processes are central to both: political
football? political song and beauty contests? One is engaging to the many, the
other only to the few -- who usually benefit excessively from the process. Neither
benefits significantly from the cognitive processes and aesthetic symbolism
associated with a third category of event held in similar arenas: opera? music?
Play: mediatisation of playfulness -- envirotainment? climatotainment?
The immediate future will see a further convergence, or confluence, of "exciting"
technologies and ways of interacting with them -- of which significant traces
are already evident:
- interactive games (internet, videogames)
- simulations of policy options, notably in think tanks, corporations and
- interactive media (TV/movies/video)
- sophisticated multimedia shows
- sophisticated multimedia representations of policy options (for policymakers
or the public)
- portable devices (including implants) interrelating a variety of communication
The emergent effects of artificial intelligence and cyborgization are already
recognized. Whether for industrialized or impoverished environments, these technologies
will prove to be major attractors as a source and means of sustaining excitement.
One study by David Bosshart and Karin Frick (Megatrends
and Countertrends for Business Society and Consumption, 2003) notes
that the struggle to attract attention and overcome boredom is resulting in
the emergence of new communication contexts and media genres (with distinctly
unattractive names): Infotainment, Edutainment, Sociotainment, Shop-o-tainment,
Architainment, Tittitainment, Eatertainment. This range is notably recognized
in German neologisms.
- Edutainment: The overlap between education and entertainment
in a television programme, game or website [more].
- Infotainment: Here information is combined with entertainment,
whether in a television programme (such as popular fact-based shows), or on
a web site feature. [more]
- Politainment: There is already discussion of the overlap
between politics and entertainment. As "politainment",
for some this is s seen as: "A form of public entertainment in which
current events and issues are presented in a simplified, distorted, or often
polarized manner for purposes of passive consumption". It may however
be a feature of political campaigns (cf It's
politainment, with George 'n' Al. The Guardian, 6 November
2000; Andreas Dörner. Politainment:
Politik in der medialen Erlebnisgesellschaft, 2001), especially in
the process of creating an image with the help of professional advertising
agencies (as compared by the Goethe Institute with the skills of Hitler) [more].
It has also been recognized in the following terms as noted in The Japan
Times (17 May 2005):
- Politainment is the mixing of politics and pop culture, where politics
is presented in a very simplified way. It is a feature of 2004, and a
good example is Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
Politainment can be entertainment that is influenced by politics -- such
as the recent American tour of major musicians protesting against Bush.
The term can also refer to the attitude of the public: that politics is
a form of popular entertainment. For example, The 9/11 Commission Report
(the official documents published by the officials investigating the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks) can be considered politainment because it is a best-selling
- Militainment: Now recognized as an overlap between entertainment
and military activity. It arose as a variant of reality television, notably
as a means of sustaining public interest in potentially unpopular military
conflicts -- potentially as a form of propaganda [more
The operational context for military engaged in active combat may even be
converted into entertainment -- as footage from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit
9/11 indicated with tank commanders playing music to accomapny their mission
- Relitainment and spiritainment: Described as "a feel-good
faith; a fun kind of spirituality, and emphasis on emotions and fellowship"
- Psychotainment: Notably through the psychological insights
purveyed through popular talk shows and increasingly seen as legitimate outlets
for psychological science [more]
- Sociotainment: In which social reality is coupled with
entertainment, notably as seen in "reality shows"
With respect to the climate change theme explored here, there is a case for
exploring analogues in the form of:
- Envirotainment: Aspects of this genre may be seen emerging
through documentaries on wild life, bush survival and ecotourism.
- Climatotainment: This dimension is as yet relatively unexplored,
despite documentaries on freak weather phenomena. More relevant will be those
which explore the interrelationship between wealother and psychology -- exemplified
by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The question is how "sunny"
personalities are to be contrasted with "glacial", "wet",
The key question however is how the movement of memes within the individual
and collective psyche is sustained by these devices. Specifically the question
is how the relation between the virtual and the actual is managed in terms of
psychic engagement. How indeed can the exploratory ludic strengths and skills,
discovered primarily by individuals in groups, engage with the operational needs
required in practice -- notably by larger collectivities and preferably in the
light of acceptable consensual processes? The major crisis over the acceptability
of the European Constitution in 2005 is a small indication of the challenge
and the risks of unacceptable tokenism.
Higher dimensions of "game-play space"
The two-dimensional plane of "game-play space" outlined above in
Table 2 does not adequately hold the experiential environment of those engaged
in play. In particular it fails to capture:
- time (game-time and play-time),
- what are understood as "meta-games", or
- experiential aspects of the game and its context.
These are embedded or implicit in the planar representation. Also conflated
into the planar representation are associated polarities:
|Infinite (cf "infinite games")
||Finite (cf "finite games")
||Experience ("age", maturity)
The four sectors of game-play space in Table 2 may thus be understood as compacted
representations of higher-dimensional experience. This higher dimensional experience
may in part be associated with degrees of mastery of a game -- of which "levels"
in a game are some indication. This progression to higher levels may be briefly
summarized in Table 4, where each column would be positioned on one of the four
quadrants of Table 2.
|Progressive cognitive self-reflexiveness
||Progressive increase in flow
||Progressive increase in sense
The increasing dimensionality represented by Table 4 is associated with an
experiential melding of the polarization indicated in Table 3. For example,
much is made in martial art philosophy of the existential melding of self and
other in higher-order combat situations. The melding of individual and collective
would be another example. Higher dimensionality is then about increasing engagement
with the pattern in the "plane" represented by Table 2 -- as higher
orders of "ex-planation". Table 4 could also be represented as concentric
circles of "mastery" increasing dimensionality centering on a common
focal awareness -- of greater "mystery", in contrast with "mastery".
Time and "recycling": Time in a game context has
been explored by Jesper Juul (Introduction
to Game Time / Time to play: an examination of game temporality, 2004).
The time dimension is particularly important to the sense of Johan Huizinga's
"magic circle" (described above), given the following distinctions:
- Games: Here time is to a high degree focused on linear time, namely the
beginning, middle and end of the game. It is essentially timebound with a
winner and loser as the outcome.
- Play: Here the focus is on a quality of timelessness without any particular
goal beyond the pleasure of the moment.
But in both cases there is a broader context which brings in a quality of cyclic
- Games: Here there is often the sense that, having won or lost one game,
there will be another. Battles may be lost, but not the war -- notably in
the case of ritualized tribal warfare (and the "war against terror",
expected by some to last "50 years" [more]).
- Play: The cyclic quality of play time processes may be felt to be what sustains
and refreshes the pleasure in the moment.
Time might indeed be treated as a third axis in relation to the planar representation
of Table 2. This would allow shifts across that plane to be indicated with the
passage of time. It might not however enable cyclic time to be adequately captured
-- the sense of "recycling" and renewal that is part of the context
of playing particular games (and where vital cycles may actually be more appropriately
understood as third or fourth-dimensional phenomena). This contrast has been
emphasized by James Carse (Finite
and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1986).
Time may also be important where decisions have to be made rapidly rather than
at the rate at which a condition (like climate change) is monitored with a view
to elaborating recommendations for appropriate strategic action sometime. This
is as much the case in interactive internet games as it is in live combat situations
and political "fire-fighting" -- and potentially in response to catastrophic
climate change and tsunami-like disasters. Aron Katsenelinboigen (The
Concept of Indeteminism and its Applications: economics, social systems, ethics,
artificial intelligence, and aesthetics, 1997) notes:
Analysis of systems characterized by relatively fast-paced change has been
impaired by the application of methods suitable for systems that feature slower
rate of change. More specifically, research into biological, socioeconomic,
artificial intelligence, art, linguistics, and other such systems is affected
adversely by the use of the methodology more suitable for such extensively
explored systems as the physical system. The investigation of the universe
aims to uncover the laws that govern the physical processes. This methodology
was deemed appropriate because the physical system was perceived as changing
very slowly (in time and in space).... This raises the following question:
What are the specific features regarding fast changing systems that preclude
the use of the methodology that is widely adopted in physics
"Meta-games" and "Meta-play": The planar
"game-play space" also has implicit in it the possibility of its own
manipulation and transformation, notably through "playing with the rules".
The "game-play space" (as a kind of psychological "flatland")
may in this way be warped into a third or higher dimension and wrapped around
the player -- as an attractor? It is such warping that draws the player from
linear time into cyclic time. In a sense the "magic circle" becomes
an enveloping "magic sphere" -- perhaps to be understood as a creative
corrective analogue to reductionistic concerns with "globalization"
that exlcude the psychological dimensions of well-being. Such a "magic
sphere" might fruitfully be explored as a higher, emergent form of order
-- transcending the Apollonian-Dionysian polarity of game-play.
Understandings of meta-games are first discussed below, before exploring the
ways of playing with the rules that may be a characteristic of meta-games.
Beyond the mathematics of game theory, meta-game theory is an even more rarefied
mathematical preoccupation. In a classic study, Nigel Howard (Paradoxes
of Rationality: Games, Metagames, and Political Behavior. 1971) aimed to
produce a technique that could be used to resolve real-life, real-time conflict
situations and to investigate political and social interactions between decision
makers. He includes an analysis of the Vietnam conflict. Elements of this perspective
are to be found in another classic study of Vietnam by Scott
Boorman (The Protracted
Game: A Wei-ch'i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy, 1969).
As noted by Chris Langan (Levels
of Rationality: Metagames and Mega. Noesis: the journal of the
Mega Society, 1997), in arguments
of relevance to strategies negligent of climate change:
Nevertheless, there are some major practical contexts to which the theory
applies. Consider the Wallet
Paradox itself. Like the Tragedy of the Commons, it centers on a "micro-economy"
in which total wealth is limited; in light of this limitation, the theory
of metagames generates higher-level information that reveals that the decision
to play leads to a "false optimism". Such paradoxes describe other
kinds of economy as well, including the global free market economy of the
modern world. Even now, individuals, nations and international consortia are
playing all kinds of "wallet games" with far-reaching implications
for present and future generations of humanity. Unfortunately, the players
often neither know nor care what long-term paradoxes might lurk within their
strategies, ticking away like time bombs set to go off on the poor unborn
souls who get stuck with the monetary and environmental tab.
Given the neglect of higher dimensionality, it is therefore extremely curious
that "meta-games" and "meta-gaming" are a major preoccupation
of designers and players of interactive internet and role playing games -- although
"meta-play" is variously used to name an activity in its own right
may indeed be confused by some with "cheating" (see Queasy
Games: exploring player-game interactions; Meta-Gaming:
Definition ). According to Nathan Barnes (Dispelling
Meta-Gaming Myths, 2002), "meta-gaming" means many different
things to many different people. He endeavours to address the misconceptions
about "pre-game alliances", "old boys clubs" or "CareBear
Alliances", among groups of players. Emphases included:
- application to the psychological side of gaming. What players say to each
other in the in-game chat is not part of playing the game as such, but it
does effect how other players behave while playing, and therefore effects
the outcome of playing, [more]
- meaning different things to different people, and more importantly, the
line where it becomes odious or a problem is specific to the individual.
- using the knowledge that it is a game to make decisions.
- understood in terms of players producing new content for a game.
- the conversation that goes on around the game, becoming a form a multiplayer
conspiracy theory game.
- the process of trying to force someone to behave in accordance with another's
wishes by using threats of actions which will be taken/not taken outside the
context of the current game.
Live Action Role-Play (LARP) is a form of role-play where the participants
(termed players) take on fictive personalities (called roles or characters)
and act out their interaction in a predefined, fictive setting. In a description
of the game, Petter Bøckman (Dictionary
In: As LARP Grows Up: The Book
from Knudepunkt, 2003), such "meta-playing" by "larpers"
is described as:
An expression covering a situation where a player is taking non-diegetic
actions as a part of playing the role. [NB: diegesis is an expression from
film theory, denoting the totality of the story and possible truths within
it. In a larp that will translate to "all that is true to the roles"].
This may occur when two players need to sort out technicalities of game mechanics...
or when play has broken down to such an extent that there is no longer is
any point to playing in character.... However, meta-actions are always taken
in the interest of the role, so that normal play may resume as soon as the
situation is resolved. Meta-play is thus the direct opposite of meta-consideration,
where the actions is diegetic, but the reasons are not.
Such insights could be usefuilly explored in relation to the political game-playing
("behind the scenes") relevant to climate change.
Jason Newquist explores such strategies (Meta-Gaming
Strategies) and has a very helpful tabulation of them (Meta-Gaming
Strategies: Categorization). There is much concern with how to constrain
them (cf How
To Minimize Meta-Gaming: GM Mastery, 2004):
Meta-gaming (the use of information possessed by the player for the gain
of his\her character that the character couldn't have known) is a force that
has managed to fray the temper of many a good GM and is responsible for the
breakdown of many RPG campaigns. Harried GMs are always looking for ways to
minimize the effect meta-gaming has on their games without the need for time
consuming practises that destroy suspension of disbelief.
There would seem to be a degree of isomorphism with studies of multi-agent
systems fundamental to emerging insights into agent technology. For Peter J.
Animal-like and Humanoid Agents and corresponding Multi-Agent Systems,
We claim, that these notions are the most visible signs of a not yet clearly
visible revolution in the ways in which modern intelligent software systems
are going to be analysed and designed. We intend to direct attention to the
shift in perspective which is fundamental for the description of a system
as consisting of relatively autonomous agents. After discussing the different
possible kinds of cognitive "make-up" of agents (plant-like, animal-like
and humanoid), we deal with the more communicative/organisational viewpoint
of a Multi-Agent System. The concept of "commitment" will be seen
to play a crucial role here. Finally, we pinpoint some rather new ecologically
inspired, "open-systems" approaches within Distributed Artificial
Intelligence with a sure impact on computing in general.
The relevance to action in social projects, such as action on climate change,
is evident in Braspenning's further remarks that:
Finally, a separate place is taken by those approaches which make use of
game theory in order to let the agents make decisions about future actions.
By introducing utilities for the players in a common move, it may become easier
to reach co-ordination of actions more effectively, while taking into account
communications taking place and possible binding promises which agents have
made to each other. Even meta-game theory has been used... to allow an agent
to model the decisions of other agents (which are also based on their perceptions
of the multi-agent situation). Further, one has put quite some effort in developing
voting mechanisms to ensure that agents collectively as a group are able to
incrementally update their plans and in that way are directed to reach a state
in which social welfare is maximised... The latter purpose has also been explored
by using the auction metaphor in a computational context.... in order to realise
socially optimal re-allocation of (indivisible) resources among the agents.
Variations of games that themselves develop are examples of emergent metaplay,
the predominant catalyst of the evolution of new games:
Emergent behavior is also important in games and game design. For example,
the game of poker, especially in no limit forms without a rigid betting structure,
is largely driven by emergent behavior. For example, no rule requires that
any player should fold, but usually many players do. Because the game is driven
by emergent behavior, play at one poker table might be radically different
from that at another, while the rules of the game are exactly the same. [more]
Playing with the rules: emergence of infinite players
There is an obvious contrast between "playing within
the rules" and "playing with the rules".
Sivasailam Thiagarajan ("Thiagi"),
is a prolific writer, and designer of some 120 games and simulations with a
focus on improving human performance effectively, efficiently and enjoyably
-- on getting the learners engaged. Through his training sessions he stresses
that the way people prefer to play games depends on their cultural values and
beliefs -- even those determined by discipline:
Any game I play, I have at least a dozen different modifications, plus many
more I can make up on the spot to increase or decrease the level of competition,
to increase or decrease the level of self disclosure, touching, physical movement,
cognitive complexity, and so on. You can make these changes even while you're
playing the game. [more]
Eric Nehrlich (Playing
with Rules, 2003):
D&D and other role-playing games.... let the young nerd explore other
worlds, other rulesets, other possibilities, and grow comfortable with those
possibilities. By altering the world rules, and by letting the participant
construct an alter ego, it permits the telling of a story that would not be
possible under the rules of the real world. These stories are often very powerful
to the participants, and my current theory is that this is because it lets
them assert aspects of themselves that are not available under the real world
ruleset. But by playing with the rules in this virtual way, they can discover
these aspects that they can then apply in the real world.
Nehrlich then argues that:
Taking the playing with rules idea to an extreme are games like Nomic,
where changing the rules is the whole point of the game, or Mao,
where discovering the rules (and later adding to them) is the point. There’s
also a fascination with game design; figuring out how to tweak the rules to
make them fairer or more interesting.
The occult tradition of magic, whose symbolism has inspired some role playing
games (and technopaganism),
also features an understanding of "playing with the rules", as argued
in a review of Peter Carroll's Liber
Null and Psychonaut (1987):
Carroll posits a universe which is an expression of Chaos. That which is
"real" is just a small part of chaos. There is a vast realm of possibility
which doesn't exist, except in a realm of "aetherics" (or at least
this appears to be the gist of what Carroll says. He is known to self-contradict
on occasion). Magick involves playing with the rules of the universe, to get
an end achieved. Think of it as getting away with cheating whilst playing
a board game.
In the chaos worldview, no paradigm is strictly true. Chaos contains all
possibilities, whereas paradigms involve the denying of some qualities while
embracing others (for example, one cannot be both monotheistic and polytheistic).
The chaos magician does not believe in the inherent truth of anything, but
selects certain beliefs which will help him to conduct an operation.
The contrast between "playing by the rules" and "playing with
the rules" is explored by Celia Hoyles and Richard Noss (Playing
with (and without) words, 1999):
There are some recent attempts to exploit children's engagement at the [computer
interface] surface with the deeper issues underpinning design and therefore
learning..... The message of this and related research is clear. In designing
computer games children have the opportunity not only to create, modify and
adapt rules to structure the forms of co-operation and competition, to decide
what is a fair result, to begin to appreciate causality and conditionality
but they do so in the context of a formal system. Can digital games be exploited
for learning? Can we build systems which possess the immediacy of the computer
game, the richness of interface design with deeper goals for learning? Can
we get behind the interface without destroying what makes it work?
In distinguishing two kinds of games, James P. Carse (Finite and Infinite
Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1986), characterizes two
types of players:
- Finite players play within the rules, infinite players play with the rules.
- Finite players play to end the game (with their victory), infinite players
play to continue the game (by whatever means they see fit).
- Finite players play to win, infinite players play to keep playing.
Inspired by this perspective, Alicia Smith (Games
are a Reflection of Behavior, 2005) applied the insights in a penal
So if our true nature comes out in a game, what can we do with that information?
Can we transform situations so that we can be true to our nature? Can we make
a game out of real world situations to allow our true nature to flourish?
Smith showed that the players who "get it" are "playing with
the rules looking to transform a finite game into an infinite one."
Playing with the rules: cons and pros
Cons: In the "real world" however, concern at the
problematic consequences of "playing with the rules" has been expressed
in relation to:
- Corporate governance: According to Alan Greenspan (Corporate
Governance Improved following Enron, 2002) "Regulation has,
over the years, proven only partially successful in dissuading individuals
from playing with the rules of accounting" -- otherwise known as "creative
accounting". Cartel formation and price fixing rings may well depend
on this capacity.
- Politics: Skilled politicians, political parties and political
agents may be accused of "playing with the rules". This is a typical
characterization of dictators and despots.
- Terrorism: Concerns have been expressed that the USA has
been "playing with the rules" in its response to terrorism [more].
On the other hand terrorists, when successful, might themselves be understood
as playing with the rules -- playing more complex meta-games. It is indeed
the case that players of meta-games may be experienced as terrifying
- Crime: Almost by definition, criminals do not behave by
the rules and see every means of manipulating them. Those accused of war crimes,
such as Slobodan Milosevic, are perceived as "playing with the rules"
- Drugs: Not only is the drug trade subject to observations
similar to crime, but use of narcotic drugs is ironically a way in which people
empower themselves to "play with the rules" of cognition and their
perception of the environment.
- Corruption: Bribery and corruption in many cases involve
different strategies for "playing with the rules" to the advantage
of those who engage in them.
- International treaties: The EU has expressed concern at
the tendency of member countries to "play with the rules" in connection
with environmental treaties [more].
Similar comments are made with respect to treaties governing trade and non-proliferation
of nuclear weapons [more].
- Illegal actitivites by government agencies: The US House
of Representatives' Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence indicated that:
"The CS [clandestine service] is the only part of the IC [intelligence
community], indeed of the government, where hundreds of employees on a daily
basis are directed to break extremely serious laws in countries around the
world...A safe estimate is that several hundred times a day (easily 100,000
times a year) DO [Directorate of Operations] offices engage in highly illegal
activities (according to foreign law)... " (IC21:
The Intelligence Community in the 21st Century, 1996).
These examples are indicators of the significance of "playing with the
rules" -- "beyond the law" or "above the law". The
"bad guys" would seem to be operating in a higher dimensional space
-- and with the freedoms that it offers (cf The
"Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring,
2002). It is therefore a social tragedy that such capacity is not a much sought
skill for those who would constrain them. Regrettably those who are acquiring
insights into some of those skills are those who have been marginalized into
a world of interactive gaming, especially the young.
The relation of cheating to rule breaking is explored in a healthy perspective
by one of the most important thinkers within the Situationist
Revolution of Everyday Life, 1967):
Every game has two preconditions: the rules of playing and playing with the
rules. Watch children at play. They know the rules of the game, they can remember
them perfectly well but they never stop breaking them, they never stop dreaming
up new ways of breaking them. But for them, cheating doesn't have the same
connotations as it does for adults. Cheating is part of the game, they play
at cheating, accomplices even in their arguments. What they are really doing
is spurring themselves on to create new games. And sometimes they are successful:
a new game is found and unfolds. They revitalise their playfulness without
interrupting its flow.
Pros: By contrast, there are several sectors where "playing
with the rules" is highly valued as a mark of creativity:
- Design: Successful designers play with the rules previously
considered appropriate, possibly by deliberately seeking a new "metaphor".
It is in this way that innovative designs emerge.
- Entrepreneurship: This may be characterized by innovative
"playing with the rules" to open up a new opportunity for which
constraining regulations have subsequently to be adapted -- stretching the
envelope. Even "creative accounting" may be highly valued.
- Military strategy: Unconventional strategies, "playing
with the rules" of engagement may be highly valued if they result in
success (although they may be a source of considerable embarrassment, if they
have not been "programmed" into war games, as with the success of
General Paul Van Riper
- Espionage: With counter-espionage, this has been recognized
as the "great game"
in which "playing with the rules" is necessarily a fine art -- to
be appreciated as heroic or condemned with horror, depending on whether one
is the beneficiary or victim
- Science: Innovation in physics, "playing with the
rules", is illustrated by the classic tale of a lecture in which Wolfgang
Pauli proposed a new theory of elementary particles and came under heavy criticism.
Niels Bohr summarized this by saying "We are all agreed that your theory is
crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have
a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that is not crazy enough."
- Adjudication: This may be characterized as a "rhetorical
language game of justification" which requires a "choosing among
values in contingent circumstances" as those values relate to both "playing
within the rules" and "playing with
the rules" of interpretation -- and then attempting to justify one's
value choices rhetorically. Adjudication is therefore "playful,"
in an important sense, precisely because there is so much "play"
in the rules and because, as a result, the successful pursuit of the judicial
craft requires virtues associated with "play," such as imagination
and creativity, in additional to "technical" legal skills.
- Arts: Many of the arts (poetry, literature, painting, etc)
would vigorously claim to be "playing with the rules", notably through
the use of metaphor. Whole generations have been influenced by science fiction
in this respect, for example.
- Humour: Jokes are successful because they play with the
rules of language, often in ways that suggest new relationships. In some spiritual
traditions, humour is used precisely for this reason to elicit new levels
of insight (cf Mulla
Nasrudin, Taoist "crazy wisdom", or the deadly paradoxes and
savage black humour of Tukaram,
etc). In contrast to these exceptions, it is curious that sacred literature
in general tends to be totally lacking in humour -- implying that deities
do not play with their own rules! Note howver the humorous, yet eminently
practical parables, based on real problems by real managers (cf Russell L.
Ackoff, Ackoff's Fables: Irreverent Reflections on Business and Bureaucracy,
1991) or the challenges of the diplomatic world (cf V S M de Guinzbourg. Wit
and Wisdom of the United Nations: Proverbs and Apothegms of Diplomacy.
New York; United Nations 1961)
- Leadership: As argued by Chris Patt (The
Court Jester as a Metaphor for Learning and Change. Team Management Systems):
"Organizations need 'rule breakers' to challenge assumptions about how
things are done. They also need to look at how rule breakers are traditionally
seen in their midst and question the support or lack of it that is usually
afforded these people".
- Humanitarian initiatives: Much appreciation may be due
to those who -- faced with forbidding bureaucratic complexities preventing
a timely appropriate response to peoples in need -- find ways to "play
with the rules" to create loopholes that ensure assistance is nevertheless
In both problematic and creative cases it may argued that a cognitive "space"
is transformed or "twisted" in some special way that merits exploration
with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees
of twistedness, 2004).
Transforming "game-play space"
The previous arguments highlight the degree to which the cognitive environment
may be considered plastic. Learning tends to be associated with acquisition
of skills to mould and shape that cognitive environment. This becomes evident
as people rise to the higher levels of any organizational hierarchy, whether
in public organizations or in semi-secret societies (as with the "processing
levels" of scientology or the "degrees" of freemasonry) [more].
It is recognized in the process of becoming "street-wise" and gaining
"respect". Such a person may then be recognized as a "player".
The higher they rise in any hierarchy, the more they can "bend" the
rules and exploit "secret" loopholes. An analogous process occurs
in interactive games, notably on the internet, through acquisition of skills
and "powers" as the player rises through "levels" -- also
effectively gaining "respect". In some groups these transitions may
be marked by ritual "initiations".
Similar skills may be learnt in order to manipulate the physical environment.
In a subsequent section the intimate relation between these two sets of skills
Here the concern is with how patterns of categories can be transformed and
reconfigured -- the more plastic they can be considered to be.
Boundary transformation: How the boundaries of a game are
defined or redefined may offer opportunities for transforming "game-play
space". Christopher Robinson comments (2002)
on a section of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical
Investigations (1953) as follows:
Remark 68 moves us again away from notions of uniformity and parameters in
and between games. Wittgenstein investigates how we use the word "game."
Our perspective is one of players within a game. The view from this playing
field does not include boundaries. Boundaries can be drawn, but the perspective
that leads to the drawing of boundaries is different from that of the player.
Umpires or referees worry about boundaries; players play. But even this distinction
in perspectives within the playing field does not hold generally. Everywhere
in the game are "unregulated" or unboundable areas. The game of
tennis, for example, "is not everywhere circumscribed by rules; but no
more are there any rules for how high one throws the ball in tennis, or how
hard; yet tennis is a game for all that and has rules too."
I think about the skill of the player in terms of playing with the rules.
In ice hockey there are rules against elbowing, spearing, slashing, high sticking,
and so on. However, great hockey players have always known that these rules
apply only to those stupid enough to get caught. There is an art to breaking
the rules that is very much part of the game.
Geometric transformations: A valuable guide in this respect
is the understanding of the conditions under which various geometric and topologically
transformations become structurally permissible according to the dimensionality
of the space.
The geometric transformation of shapes to obtain visually interesting or mathematically
useful results is a common process that has long been explored. It is particularly
significant because of the facility with which highly accessible computer software
encourages people to comprehend these various transformations. Users are able
to generate complex forms by application of geometric transformations to elementary
shapes and tessellations, especially by use of novel combinations of transformations
(cf Leo S. Bleicher. Serial
Polar Transformations Of Simple Geometries, 2002). Use of polar coordinates
may provide an imaginative locus for the situation of an "identity"
in a space -- or a reconfiguration of its dimensions.
Such transformation is particularly interesting in the light of understandings
of how spaces may be "warped". Whereas this is clear in the case of
astrophysical gravitational attractors operating in space-time, the possibility
that an identity (a "player") may act as an attractor to warp "game-play
space" merits further attention. A form of such warping is a characteristic
of the communication space around a celebrity. In this light an "identity"
may indeed be an "attractor" around which "game-play space"
is somehow "wrapped" -- perhaps in concentric spherical shells corresponding
to any notion of emergent levels. Furthermore, one or more game-play processes
may themselves be understood as attractors around (and between) which players
Whilst the formal understanding of these transformations by players may be
limited, their understanding in practice may be of a surprising level (notably
in the light of a developed kinetic intelligence from sports such as skate boarding).
Furthermore they tend to have been subject to extensive exposure to computer
graphic representations of complex transformations or to imaginative descriptions
of them (as in science fiction). In a very real sense players may operate their
avatars in a space of a higher complexity than might be assumed.
The possibility that humans are not effectively constrained to three dimensions
has been formally explored as q-analysis by mathematician Ron Atkin (Multidimensional
Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space? 1981). Q-analysis
is a combination of geometric and algebraic tools for studying relationships
and connectivity among entities in a complex system as traffic through hypergraphs.
Peter Jackson (The
Geometry of Intention - Values in the creation of curriculae) offers
a speculative exploration of Atkin's insights that is relevant to the knowledge
of a player.
Topological transformations: A player may work with topological
transformations that are therefore important to any understanding of navigation
in higher dimensional spaces. Barry Smith (Topological
Foundations of Cognitive Science, 1994) concludes that:
Topological structures play a central role also in studies of naive physics,
not least in virtue of the fact that even well-attested departures from true
physics on the part of common sense leave the topology and vectorial orientation
of the underlying physical phenomena invariant: our common sense would thus
seem to have a veridical grasp of the topology and broad general orientation
of physical phenomena even where it illegitimately modifies the relevant shape
and metric properties.
Smith sees topology as providing a unifying framework:
In talking somewhat grandly of 'topological foundations for cognitive science',
now, we are contending that the topological approach yields not simply a collection
of insights and methods in selected fields, but a unifying framework for a
range of different types of research across the breadth of cognitive science
and a common language for the formulation of hypotheses drawn from a variety
of seemingly disparate fields.... One rationale behind the idea that the inventory
of topological concepts can yield a unifying framework for cognitive science
turns on the fact that, as has often been pointed out..., boundaries are centres
of salience not only in the spatial but also in the temporal world (the beginnings
and endings of events, the boundaries of qualitative changes for example in
the unfolding of speech events...). Moreover, topological properties are more
widely applicable than are those properties (for example of a geometrical
sort) with which metric notions are associated.
Smith's final point is relevant to any further understanding of future navigation
of "game-play space":
Given the pervasiveness of qualitative elements in every cognitive
dimension, however, and also the similar pervasiveness of notions like continuity,
integrity, boundary, prototypicality, etc., we can conjecture that topology
will be not merely sufficiently general to encompass a broad range of cognitive
science subject-matters, but also that it will have the tools to do justice
to these subject-matters without imposing alien features thereon.
The topological perspective is also relevant to the connectivity of social
networks within so-called "small worlds" (cf Duncan Watts, Small
Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness, 1999;
Nexus: Mark Buchanan, Small
Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks, 2002; Albert-Lázló
Barabási, Linked: The New Science of Networks, 2002) [reviews].
Metaphoric transformations: The argument here is based on the distinction
made above between zones of "game-play space" as having qualitative
attributes contrasting to the same degree as "earth", "air",
"water" and "energy" -- physically fundamental to issues
of climate change. In purely physical terms these distinctions are a consequence
of the nature of the bonds and the dynamics between the atoms in each case.
As noted above, such four-fold distinctions are fundamental to the symbolism
of various kinds of symbolic games. In exploring metaphoric transformation,
as it may prove meaningful in such games, distinction can be usefully made as
in the table below.
(the subject from which the attributes are derived)
(the subject to which attributes are
(eg ice vs liquid water)
(eg ice to water)
|caterpillar to butterfly*
(vital to any identification)
The above table is important in providing a link between the concept of "rules"
and that of "play". In effect, in the four-element metaphor, the "rules"
are associated with the rigidity of the molecular bonds (being most rigid in
the case of crystalline ice). However "play" is associated with the
degrees of freedom of the molecules -- which increases through transformation
to water or to "fire" (where they are positively or negatively ionized).
The contrast in a political sense is seen between a rule-bound society and one
in which there is a high degree of "freedom of association" -- whatever
the risk of disruptive crowd behaviour.
As explored elsewhere (The
Isdom of the Wisdom Society: Embodying time as the heartland of humanity,
2003), what might then be the stages of reification as the quality of knowing
in the moment "hardens" into objective reality -- passing through
analogues to the states of matter (plasma -- gas -- liquid -- solid):
- wisdom as a plasma stage? This analogue is consistent with the often
fiery quality of wisdom in the heat of creation through which structures are
envisaged, formed and reformed
- tingle within an individual / group
- play like birdsong echoing -- resonant structures
- entrains in a dance -- birthing and rebirthing
- knowledge as a gaseous stage? This analogue is consistent with recognition
of the "hot air" so often perceived to be characteristic of knowledgeable
discussions ("up in the clouds")
- associated pigeonholes -- pattern language
- semantic web
- information as a liquid stage? This analogue is consistent with the
recognition of "information flows"
- grid structure
- data arrays
- data as a solid stage?
A possibly more fruitful metaphor than this linear sequence is that of a phase
diagram such as that for water [more].
This is a representation of the states of matter (solid, liquid, or gas) as
a function of temperature and pressure. Lines separating the regions of space
indicate the pressures and temperatures where phases can coexist and are in
equilibrium with one another. Lines in the phase diagram may intersect at a
point where solid, liquid, and gas all coexist -- a unique "triple point".
Similarly a "critical point" may exist that is characterized by large
fluctuations between the liquid and vapor states. Such diagrams are also used
in describing the conditions of plasma -- understood as an ionized gas [more].
Plasma is however characterized by much higher temperatures and pressures.
A highly simplified diagram of that type is adapted below to show the variety
of relationships between the different forms of insight -- especially indicating
that the transition from data to knowledge may not necessarily
pass via information. It suggests possibilities for resolving definitional
ambiguities associated with any assumed linear progression between them..As
the extreme ionization of gas, plasma is not directly represented in the diagram
(it would be far to the right). The diagram does however suggest possibilities
of exploring the ionization metaphor in relation to knowledge -- and the corresponding
implication of the bonds in the case of solids, liquids and non-ionized gases.
The adaptation calls for a metaphoric equivalent to temperature and pressure
-- which are both commonly used metaphorically in insight-related processes
(eg "feeling the heat", "under pressure", etc).
Table 6: Data -- Information -- Knowledge
Tentative adaptation of general phase diagram (for water)
to suggest non-linear relationship between them
|Curves: Indicate the conditions of "temperature"
and "pressure" under which equilibrium between different phases
of insight can exist
Critical point: The "temperature" above which the gas cannot
be liquefied no matter how much pressure is applied (the kinetic energy
simply is too great for attractive forces to overcome, regardless of the
Triple point: The particular condition of "temperature"
and "pressure" where all three states are in equilibrium
NB: Phases may be subdivided into a complex pattern of sub-phases (exemplified
by the variety of forms of ice as solid water) [more]
Of special interest are the implications for the transitions across the boundaries,
such as sublimation (from data to knowledge) and deposition (from knowledge
to data). The more tenuous bonds between elements of knowledge (corresponding
metaphorically to atoms or molecules in a gaseous state) call for exploration
in the light of implications of some equivalent to ionization. Aspects of this
may be intuited in language used to describe the degree of "excitation"
of a debate, whether academic or otherwise. Note that such excitation in an
exciting meeting, for example, does not necessarily make for the conditions
with which wisdom is associated. This may be more closely associated with the
intensity of that excitation and how its focus and coherence can be sustained.
Apathy and quenching excitement
The concern here is with sustaining, and even enhancing, the excitement sought
by people in "game-play space". The challenge is one of boredom and
apathy -- of being "turned off". Curiously this can be explored further
using the above metaphor in relation to the so-called fifth form of matter,
namely plasma. This is the focus of major investments in fusion reactors as
a source of energy. The technical challenge is to prevent the plasma from being
"quenched", preventing the fusion reaction from taking place -- as
with "throwing cold water" on a new insight. It might be argued that
this is a perfect metaphor for exploring the energy challenges in relation to
climate change. Furthermore, in many symbols systems it is of the highest value
in relation to insight.
As discussed elsewhere (The
Isdom of the Wisdom Society: Embodying time as the heartland of humanity,
2003), what is effectively the "magic circle" of Johan Huizinga is
surrounded by what may be termed a "quenching" boundary. Its "magical"
nature is "quenched" by any encounter with the cognitive "not-ness" of conventional
understanding of space-time. This is the problem for players in "virtual
life" in responding to "real life".
The metaphor of quenching derives from the research on nuclear fusion (in contrast
with nuclear fission). This fusion process is dependent on plasma that can only
exist under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure and is "quenched"
when it comes into contact with the container in which the fusion reactions
take place. Many decades of research have been devoted to the design of a container
capable of containing plasma -- in order that nuclear fusion can take place
as a prime source of energy for the future. The art has been to contain the
plasma within a "magnetic bottle" such that magnetic field effects repel the
plasma from any part of the encircling container wall. In the larger scheme
of things, it is perhaps no coincidence that such research is now entering a
new phase with the construction of ITER as
a major international project to demonstrate the scientific and technological
feasibility of fusion energy. This work on the "governance" of fusion processes
essential to economic development may be as valuable as a metaphorical pointer
to governance of psycho-social processes of sustainable development.
Understanding "plasma" as a quality of intensity, of attention, it might then
be understood how the high energy "is-ness", characteristic of the state of
being within the "magic circle", can readily be quenched by contact
with any mundane cognition. Sustaining interaction within the "magic circle"
therefore calls for an analogous existential technology to maintain the detachment
of being from that containing spatio-temporal world. This existential technology
may be considered as having been identified in many spiritual disciplines (see
Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through
movement, 2002; Psychology
of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
Playfully getting things into focus
The above challenge of fusion is one of focus -- through which "unlimited
energy" is released to sustain the global civilization as we hope it might
be. Metaphorically it is this focus which is vital to sustaining excitement
which would make life in that civilization meaningful rather than alienating.
The future tends to be explored through a single sense, exemplified by use
of "vision" and "foresight" -- implying an inability to
sense around obstacles or through obscurity, in contrast with other senses.
The vision metaphor -- basic to "focus", and the associated use of
"foresight" -- suggests the need to explore metaphorically the known
defects of vision -- as recognized by opthalmologists and opticians. As suggested
elsewhere, these include the possibility that social visionaries, and their
audiences, might explore metaphorical variants of myopia, presbyopia, colour
blindness, astigmatism, etc -- and their policy consequences. (cf Metaphor
and the Language of Futures, 1992)
In a world in which other senses most certainly have a role to play, what is
to be learnt from analogues to vision-based policy in the light of sound, touch/feel,
taste/smell -- all important to navigating the world of "earth", "air",
"water" and "fire", namely the world of climate change?
Confronted by appeals to "envision" the future, what of the insights
from "ensounding", "entouching" or "entasting"
it, despite their limitations? Indeed rather than "insights", is vital
understanding to be acquired and held in terms of "insounds", "infeels"
This is most obviously relevant in commentary on the political "vision"
associated with the proposed European Constitution -- which acknowledges that
politicians may be seriously out of "touch" with the attitudes of
citizens. Having lost meaningful "contact" with citizens -- is it
politicians or citizens that need "contact lenses"?
Politicians are said to have failed to "listen" to the objections
of citizens to the "vision" as it is explained to them (in texts too
long for even the motivated to read) -- despite consultations through numerous
"hearings". This complaint is rejected, notably by the European Commission,
with the assertion that it is the citizens of Europe who fail to "listen".
The efficacy of such "hearings" -- and the possible need for modern
"hearing aids" -- or "interpreters" -- is never questioned.
Can the "listening" of such institutions be compared metaphorically
with selectively listening to a radio -- namely to predetermined channels at
certain times, or possibly only within certain wavelengths (FM, SW, LW?). How
is such listening to be contrasted, metaphorically again, with the full-spectrum
listening and transcription practiced by satellite-enhanced surveillance services
of government -- and considered vital to national security (cf Echelon)?
The possibility is ignored that many citizens may oppose the "vision"
presented by politicans, not because it is not appealing as a vision (as in
a glossy presentation), but because -- undetectable by "vision" --
for citizens it "stinks", is of questionable "taste", or
"sounds" wrong. The possibilities complementary to "foresight"
-- "foretaste", "foresmell", "forelistening" (and
"foresound") -- would necessarily be open to exploration in innovative
play in the kinds of games now being designed. It should not be forgotten that
options envisioned for responding to the climate change challenge might result
in a future that "stinks" -- however good it "looks".
Why do Live Aid concerts give such worldwide focus to popular concern -- most
recently as planned to communicate such concerns to the G8 Summit (Gleneagles,
Given the obvious popular appeal of the annual Eurvision Song Contest, how
is it that the European Commission did not endeavour to set its proposed Constitution
to song, or to music, to anchor it mnemonically symbolically in the imagination
of people? (cf Structuring
Mnemonic Encoding of Development Plans and Ethical Charters using Musical Leitmotivs,
2001). Curiously there is seemingly so little distinction between "signing"
a Constitution or a Declaration -- and "singing" it.
How did Beethoven's Ode to Joy get chosen as the most appropriate anthem
for Europe? How symbolically significant to the choice is his deafness at
the time he composed it -- and the fact that he himself had ceased playing for
the public? What are its cognitive implications and connotations for the young?
(cf Jacques Attali. Noise:
The Political Economy of Music, 1985) How is it that it is essentially
the static quality of the EU structure that is emphasized in 448 articles of
legalese -- rather than the dynamics, perhaps playfully, through interactive,
participative games that would have enabled people to get a "feel"
for the operations of the structure and would engage their imagination in its
possible development? (cf Animating
the Representation of Europe, 2004; Using
Research in the Participative Orchestration of Europe, 2004)
Is it possible that there is a significant correlation between those that identify
more with the monolithic coherence of the orchestrated polyphony of the unchanging
score of the Ode to Joy and with those who voted "Yes" for
the European Constitution. How would this compare with the correlation between
those who identify more with the participatory evolving chaotic diversity of
the European Song Contest and with those voted "No"?
But, given these various metaphorical possibilities of engaging in an exciting
manner with change, how has "focus" been lost -- to employ the vision
Such defects of "vision" might become more evident, and more widely
comprehensible, through a metaphorical equivalent of those detected (and corrected)
by ophthalmologists and opticians. Itonically some of these are often explored
in distorting mirrors at amusement parks or through games. "Blind Man's
Buff" might, for example, offer interesting insights into problematic strategy-making..
Entrainment and enactivism
An earlier section indicates an increasing propensity to reframe communication-related
activity -- even including warfare -- in terms of some sense of play. The challenge
of climate change is how to make rising levels of engagement with environmental
processes more attractive than competing attractors. How is the environment
to be meaningfully embodied by the player in order to sustain healthier relations
with it -- precisely because it is a more challenging game with the potential
of greater excitement?
One indication is provided by Jane McGonigal (A
Real Little Game: the performance of belief in pervasive play, University
of California at Berkeley, Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies):
Ubiquitous computing and mobile network technologies have fueled a recent
proliferation of opportunities for digitally-enabled play in everyday spaces.
In this paper, I examine how players negotiate the boundary between these
pervasive games and real life. I trace the emergence of what I call "the
Pinocchio effect" -- the desire for a game to be transformed into real
life, or conversely, for everyday life to be transformed into a "real
little game". Focusing on two examples of pervasive play -- the 2001
immersive game known as the Beast,
and the Go Game, an ongoing urban superhero game -- I argue that gamers
maximize their play experience by performing belief, rather than actually
believing, in the permeability of the game-reality boundary.
Another lead is offered by Alessandro
Ludens: on the play-element in inductive logic, 2001):
As multi-agent systems are becoming more and more important, my strong belief
is that it is important to develop a theory of learning agents in strategic
processes, a theory that would explain how an agent's beliefs about the environment
(which includes the behavior of others insofar as it affects him) evolve until
they have come to agree with the actual properties of the environment. This
opens new perspectives on the interaction of game theory and learning theory.
Yet another lead into participative democratic processes is provided by Daniel
Roberts and Mark Wright (Object
Oriented Prompted Play (O2P2): a pragmatic approach to interactive narrative.
Edinburgh Virtual Environment Centre, University of Edinburgh):
This paradigm occupies the middle ground between open-ended play and structured
narrative. Our goal is not to create a system which encodes, models, understands
or generates a definitive narrative, but to create a system that facilitates
collaborative play from which improvised narrative emerges. The narrative
is object oriented in the sense that behaviours, attributes, and most importantly,
stories are attached to objects in the scene. An object oriented architecture
is appropriate for improvisation because its distributed nature does not impose
much predefined structure.
The argument here might well be described in terms as a metaphor based on the
physical and biological processes of entrainment (cf Attitude
Entrainment: Communicating thrival skills and insights, 2004)
The interactiove processes of play might be understood as having resonant effects
fundamental to such entrainment. In terms of enhancing human well-being in relation
to the challenges of sustainable development and climate change, consider the
arguments of D Talbot (Psyche
and Play: Homo Ludens cavorts on the playground of capitalism, Doctoral
dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2004):
Frederich Schiller determined that an individual was not "fully a human
being" without play; this dissertation is a treatise on the role of
play in the quest for completeness or wholeness. Play becomes the tool for
not only healing the fractured psyches of the postmodern age but also the
fractured cultural stories or myths.
Play is as polysemous as the gods that populate the archetypal realm. The
Notion of play sifted and shaped within these pages is frivolous and wise,
childlike and earnest, free and restrained. It is, indeed, the tensional movement
between these opposites, the play of paradox as distilled by Schiller and
explicated by Drew Hyland’s responsive openness, and found within the
give and take of Hans Georg Gadamer’s leeway. Play as movement, resonance,
tolerance, the dance between the opposites, an embodiment of wholeness, an
inherent aspect of being —that is the lens developed here through which
I explore the mythos of capitalism within American culture. Play, or rather
the Notion of play developed within this dissertation, becomes the hermeneutic
for discovering soul within money and work, business and markets.
To uncover the archetypal forces within the dynamics of play and capitalism
I call upon members of the ancient Greek pantheon but most importantly upon
the stories: the ancient stories, certainly, but also the modern stories.
A number of cultural and historic forces that influence the pursuit of capital
within postmodern America such as the maximization of profits, productivity
and consumerism are examined. By allowing the interplay of certain elements
of these driving principles with "other," I create a playground
that challenges the "truth" of contemporary cultural myths. It
is on this playground, embedded in aspects of ritual, nature, the liminal,
and the feminine, that capitalism can be re-visioned and made whole, inclusive
of social and natural values, and can participate within a new story that
augments the one-sided myths of constant progress and profit maximization
with the play of relational being. It is on this playground that capitalism
in the form of second-order
cybernetics, draws on the metaphor of laying down a path in walking on it
-- as articulated by Francisco Varela (Laying Down a Path in Walking,
Francisco J Varela, et al (The
Embodied Mind: Cognitive science and human experience, 1991) argue that:
...it is only by having a sense of common ground between mind in science
and mind in experience that our understanding of cognition can be more complete.
To create this common ground, they develop a dialogue between cognitive science
and Buddhist meditative psychology and situate this dialogue in relation to
other traditions, such as phenomenology and psychoanalysis. The existential
concern that animates our entire discussion in this book results from the
tangible demonstration within cognitive science that the self or cognizing
subject is fundamentally fragmented, divided, or nonunified....
The future may come to think of the conceptual activity in the thinking process
over decades as somewhat akin to playing on the many keyboards of a conceptual
organ. In this sense, and following Varela's enactivist articulation of "laying
down a path in walking", the future is then composed and played into being --
offering far richer dimensions to the meaning of organ-ization (see also Future
Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through
conversation in the present moment
, 1997). Varela's phrase might be reworded
as "laying down a score in thinking".
Game of Life and Death: beyond Homo ludens?
As noted above, the historian Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens, 1938) wrote
of the coming of a new specimen of humanity, the playful human, focusing on
the element of play in human culture. He examined the role of play in law, war,
science, poetry, philosophy, and art. Huizinga saw the instinct for play as
the central element in human culture -- all human activities are playing:
Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have
their origin: law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom
and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play.
In the sixties the former situationist Constant defined Homo Ludens
as the successor of Homo Faber, the working human.
Of special interest are the devices that encourage reflection on the dynamics
and coherence of alternative frameworks (cf Imaginal
education: Game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making
2003). Perhaps the most influential has been that of Herman Hesse (Magister
Ludi or The Glass Bead Game, 1943), in which the main character
is called Ludo ("I play"). As a consequence, Hesse received the Nobel
Prize for Literature in 1946. The game remains of extensive interest on the
web and indeed is seen as having similarities to the web [more].
It "lays the foundations for an artistic/conceptual game, which integrates all
fields of human and cosmic knowledge through forms of organic universal symbolism,
expressed by its players with the dynamic fluidity of music" [more].
The game, so allusively described, is a celebration of culture, symbolism and
their mathematical associations in a region known as Castalia -- described by
Theodore Ziolkowski as "a symbolic realm where all spiritual values are
kept alive and present, specifically through the practices of the Glass Bead
I suddenly realized that in the language, or at any rate in the spirit of
the Glass Bead Game, everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol
and combination of symbol led not hither and yon, not to single examples,
experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart
of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor
in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical
or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with
truly a meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the
cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between
heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang holiness is forever being created.
(Glass Bead Game)
Of special relevance to this reflection is M A Foster's far less known Gameplayers
of Zan (1977).
There is a curious dissociation between the games to which people are attracted,
and by which they are intrigued and inspired, and the games (based on mathematical
models) used to inform strategy and economic policy. Equally curious is the
lack of simulation, whether for the public or for policy-makers, in relation
to major social options -- such as the European Constitution, or the challenge
of privatisation vs nationalisation. Cynically, the only gaming done in that
respect tends to be betting games on the outcome of votes and referenda. Why
is the future of Europe -- or Africa -- not open to exploratory "play"
through which options could be discovered and discussed, as with chess?
It is interesting that intentional communities such as Findhorn
(Scotland) and Damanhur (Piemonte) both
use games as a guide to their own strategic development -- the Transformation
Game and the Game of Life,
respectively (cf Renaissance
Zones: experimenting with the intentional significance of the Damanhur community,
2003). But there is no Great Game of Europe -- as a healthy contrast
to the neoliberal classic of Monopoly.
One of the merits of games is that they offer players an emulation of death,
rendering the game more realistic and exciting than one in which all players
win. As usefully explored by James Carse (Finite
and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1986),
distinct attitudes are developed towards death by "finite players"
playing to win, in contrast with "infinite players" playing to continue
playing. It is the latter playing style which is fundamental to the systemic
perspective required for sustainable development and appropriate response to
the cycles of climate change.
Playful exploration of ecopsychological embodiment of climate
The argument above suggests the possibility of providing a form of tentative
dynamic integration, through creative play, of the elements of climate as they
figure in the external and inner environments. The suggestion is that computer-mediated
play can provide templates through which to explore variants and possibilities,
whether these are meaningful and acceptable or not. There is also the possibility
that this process would highlight isomorphism -- and a form of resonance --
between pathways of changing climate and those characteristic of the shifting
moods of individuals and groups that characterize the dynamics of public opinion.
The possibility, and the challenge, can be highlighted through traditional
static symbols of the "four elements" of both climate and of psychic
integration (whether individual or collective) -- such as the four-fold lauburu
(the Basque cross) or its many cross-like equivalents in other cultures. In
the case of the lauburu, each head (or arm) is drawn with three sweeps of a
compass (upon a scribed cross, employing in each head a common center but two
settings, one the half of the other). Superimposing the two variants gives rise
to another form of cross.
In the Basque culture, the heads on the vertical axis represent female expression
(emotional and perceptual) or the elements of fire and water. Those on the horizontal
axis represent male energy (mental and physical) or the elements air and earth.
Imanol Mujica (The
Lauburu and Its Symbolism) considers that the lauburu symbolizes mankind,
made up of four elements: Form, Life, Sensibility and Conscience. The
first head symbolizes form or density, the second head symbolizes life or vitality,
the third head symbolizes sensibility and the fourth head is the conscience
state. Together they are held to represent nature in action and can be associated
with the movement of the Earth around the Sun.
|Table 7: Lauburu (Basque cross)
|Left-facing (symbolizing death)
||Right-facing (symbolizing life)
|Superposition of left and right-facing variants (demonstrating
The lauburu could be related to conventional four-quadrant representations
by rotating the symbol 45 degrees. It then lends itself to mapping both the
4-fold "elements" and their corresponding 4-fold personality types
of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition (as extensively explored by depth
psychology following C G Jung). Such explorations relate to the four-quadrant
synthesis of Ken Wilber
more]. A valuable commentary, informed
by mathematical insights comparing the perspective of Jung and Wilber, is provided
by Peter Collins (Clarifying
Perspectives 2: Perspectives, Personality Types and Strings). Collins
relates the 4-fold mapping to 8-fold mappings, to the 16-fold mapping of the
Type Indicator, and to a 24-fold mapping necessary to handle a further ("missing")
8 personality types.
Construction of the lauburu in its two forms can be understood in several ways:
- based on:
- 8 circles (of the same diameter) set on the axes of a cross, two to
- a further circle (of twice their diameter) is then drawn on each branch,
centered on the the tangent point of the two smaller circles there --
making a total of 12 circles -- three per branch.
- the whole may be set, in some variants, within a 13th.
- superposition of four classic circular Tao symbols (unshaded):
- two in one sense, with one of them rotated 90 degrees with respect to
- two in the opposite sense, again with one of them rotated 90 degrees
with respect to the other
- within each of the four smaller circles so created, again two superpositioned
Tao symbols (unshaded), of opposite sense
The symbol itself, in its positive (right-facing) and negative (left-facing)
variants, is derived from selectively colouring the result. On one count, this
may be understood as giving rise to 24 parts. This is an interesting 2D variant
on the notion of closest packing in 3D. Thought can also be given to the way
in which the result is a 2D projection of a 3D variant -- with its extra axis
having the same constructions on it.
These features raise interesting questions about the possibility of mapping
the set of "climate" relationships using the symmetry properties from
the mathematical theory of groups regarding the 24 transformations of a group
on itself (cf Steven H. Cullinane. The
Diamond Theorem (of 24 transformations), 2002; Moreno Andreatta (analyse
et reconstitution). Iannis
Xenakis: Nomos Alpha, 1965).
The resulting two-variant symbol may be explored as:
- as a mandala of psychological significance with zones of transformation
(with possible associations to the transformation symbolism of the zodiac,
traversed in either sense)
- as a useful map of climatic element domains, also understood as zones of
- as a more "organic" mapping than the Myers-Briggs 16-part Type
- as an approach to Wilber's quadrant diagram based on concentric circles,
especially since it appears to suggest dynamics between zones
- a 2D projection of a 3D structure, possibly involving distinct Klein bottles
and various forms of singularity, notably at the intersection of the axes
- raising questions of perspective, depending on whether the observer is understood
as "in front" or "behind it" (as then transforming left
and right) and the possible positive/negative associations to them
The challenge, however, lies in the fact that such symbols can be used to represent
both negentropic and entropic processes, namely the life-enhancing and life-destructive
processes characteristic of sustainable systems in the environment. In the case
of the lauburu these two variants (right-facing and left-facing respectively)
have their appropriate places in the Basque culture. Negative associations are
necessarily projected onto the life-destructive variants of these symbols.
The use of the Tao symbol in constructing the lauburu is a reminder here of
the way in which it distinguishes opposites (hot/cold, wet/dry) basic to:
- "external climate": Various approaches to climate
classification have been developed [more
As in the Köppen Climate Classification
System, these are based on hot/cold, wet/dry combinations.
- "internal climate": The notions of "hot vs cold" and
"wet vs dry" (as the "four
humours") are also basic to various traditional efforts to classify
people and their medical conditions, both in the West and in the East.
With respect to "internal climate", in homeopathy, for example, David
and Temperament in Homeopathy, 1998) notes:
In the human organism the fire and air make up what the ancient Greeks called
the vital force (pneuma zotikon). Due to the innate heat of the fire element
stored in the heart, the outer air is drawn deeply into the lungs to cool
the body. These complimentary opposites produce the energy cycle of the vital
force that is circulated through the arteries (fire) and the nervous system
(air). The water and earth element make up the natural force (pneuma physikon)
which rules from its seat in the liver, the transformation of food (earth)
and drink (water). The combination of the vital force and the natural force
distills the essences of the four elements which become the four humours of
the body, the bile (earth), phlegm (water), blood (fire) and atrabile (air).
David Little clarifies the relationships in a symbolic geometrical design --
a Mappa Mundi deriving from the Latin tradition initiated by Empedocles (see
also Misha Norland. Mappa
Mundi and the Dynamics of Change: synthesis of the four elements and the four
temperaments). This holds the essential teachings of Hippocrates on
Constitution and Temperament (Nature) and its interaction with the environment
(Nurture). The following table is a summary:
Table 8: "Internal climate"
Dry / Hot
Hot / Moist
Cold / Dry
Moist / Cold
(cf other variants: Piet
Guijt, 2005; H
J Eysenk, 1958;
also the American Indian medicine
Of these relationships, David Little says (elsewhere):
This geometric design has eight principle areas based on the cross and its
intermediate points. The cross represents the four [Pythagorean] homoeomeries,
which are similar archetypal patterns that make up all phenomena. These are
symbolized by the earth, water, fire and air. Ether makes up the space or
dimensions in which these patterns function. For example, there are four universal
forces in physics, the strong and weak nuclear forces as well as gravity and
electromagnetism. In the inner universal all of our genes are made up of only
four chemicals in different combinations. This is an example of the primordial
homoeomeries found in the macrocosmic and microcosmic universes.
The geometric design of the Mappa of Mundi... is based on the cross and its
intermediary points. This makes up eight major categories of phenomena. The
cross represents earth, water, fire and air and the place where the vertical
and horizontal lines meet represents the ether. The earth is dry and solid,
the water is moist and fluid, the fire is hot and radiant and the air is cool
and light. The ether represents space, time and consciousness. The four intermediate
points represents the unique combinations of the homoeomeries that makes up
the four temperaments, the choleric (dry and warm), the phlegmatic (moist
and cool) the sanguine (hot and moist) and the melancholic (cold and dry).
In contrast to the lauburu, the case of the swastika (as but one cross-based
equivalent), is far more complex -- despite its ancient usage around the world
and the widespread current use of both variants (left-facing and right-facing)
in Asian cultures (see excellent summary in Wikipedia).
There is considerable confusion regarding left-facing and right-facing swastikas:
- the rare use of the "evil", left-facing variant in the Hindu tradition
as representative of the involution of the universe (Nivritti), in contrast
with widespread use of the right-facing variant representative of the evolution
of the universe (Pravritti)
- the right-facing variant (beneficient in many cultures, notably the Jain)
has become intimately associated in the West with the Nazi mindset and its
consequences (although both variants were used by the Nazi's up to 1920)
- typically the left-facing or right-facing variants of a swastika mark the
beginning and end of many Buddhist scriptures, although subsequent to the
Nazi period the orientation now favoured outside India is left-facing (although
this is considered "evil" to Buddhists within India)
The argument here is that the systemic processes of changing climate call for
an understanding of the relationship between both negentropic (life-enhancing)
and entropic (life-destructive) processes -- as with the necessary relationship
between anabolic and catabolic
processes in the environment. In the terms of depth psychology, the confusion
between the two effectively reflects the confusion in dealing with the unintegrated
the individual and of humanity. The challenge is exemplified by the work of
Ernest Becker (The
Denial of Death, 1997; Death
and Denial: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, 2002) [more].
It would seem to be that it is this shadow that is the challenge to be dealt
with in enabling an appropriate response to climate change. An asystemic approach
ensures failure -- as with empasizing "positive" to the exclusion
of "negative" (cf Being
Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge -- positive vs negative,
The superposition of contrasting symbols celebrating both life and death has
been explored with respect to its culmination in the widely influential Christian
cross -- combining the hope and redemptive reassurance it promises with the
sacrificial suffering it recalls and implies. It is the transcendence of this
polarity that constitutes a psycho-social driving force. Such sacrificial iconography
of death has been compared with that of the Aztecs. Both however constitute
formula for engaging and sustaining psycho-social relationships (cf How
Art Made the World, BBC documentary, 6 June 2005; David
Carrasco, City of Sacrifice: Violence From The Aztec Empire to the Modern
The merit of a four-fold symbol like the lauburu is that it is sufficiently
rich in complexity to be used as a "systems diagram" of either:
- the relationships and feedback loops between "earth", "air,
"fire" and "water" that are important to the processes
of climate in the physical environment
- the relationships and feeedback loops between the symbolic analogues to
"earth", "air, "fire" and "water" that
are important to the processes of "climate" in the psycho-social
Playfully explored, there is the possibility that a feeling for "directionality"
(chirality) will emerge so as to constrain entropic (catabolic) processes where
appropriate and to enhance negentropic (anabolic) processes where appropriate.
The challenge is to obtain a more creative understanding of "bad weather"
versus "good weather" or "winter" versus "summer"
-- and to recognize the function of each.
Towards Homo conjugens -- humanity as Rosetta stone?
There is merit to a playful approach to creatively interrelating forms and
functions, whether through explanations or stories -- and insightful metaphors.
Like the best of the scientific method it avoids premature closure on what does
fit as an explanation in anticipation of further challenges and experiments.
The argument above points to the possibility of using sophisticated tools to
assist the imagination in exploring new patterns of integration that may prove
to be better carriers of meaning. In avoiding closure however it also makes
allowance for the possibility that personality, cultural and educational differences
may incline some to favour particular explanations over others. There is therefore
less emphasis on a "one-size-fits-all" explanation (and condemnation
for failure to subscribe to it). The emphasis is on a challenging playful knowledge
environment in which alternatives can be explored -- and possibly rediscovered
after having been abandoned.
The approach advocated emphasizes the value of exploring the integration of
knowledge of the "objective" climate of natural systems, the integration
of knowledge of "subjective" psycho-social systems, and the ways of
possibly understanding their interplay. But it is the insight, at any stage,
into how they work in sustaining personal psychological significance and engagement
that is stressed. This is the inteplay between the "outer game of life"
with the "inner game of life" and their mutual entrainment -- a degree
of self-other melding.
In a number of respects this echoes and honours the insights of indigenous
knowledge -- the embedding of psycho-social reality into the external environment
and the climate as carriers. This has been extensively documented (notably in
: Darrell A. Posey (Editor). Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity:
a complementary contribution to Global Biodiversity Assessment, Intermediate
Technology, 1999 -- for the United Nations Environment Programme). For some
of shamanistic persuasion -- and active in the imagination of many -- it offers
a sense of how "weather making" (eg rainmaking, windmaking) might
work through a special form of engagement.
Classic tale illustrating the shamanistic perspective
on the challenge of balance
|A rainmaker is invited to come to a Chinese village, to bring rain --
for the village is experiencing drought. The rainmaker requests a cottage
far from the village, and asks not to be disturbed. Three days later, rain
and snow fall on the village. The rainmaker explains that he did not bring
the rain. As he had felt immediately infected by the imbalance of the village
people upon arrival, he took refuge to balance himself -- naturally balancing
the outside world through that process -- and it rained.
How then does the psyche engage with external phenomena such as:
- rising temperature -- violence, ozone, greenhouse, groupthink
- melting ice
- rising waters -- floods, overloading
- vital (warmig) currents, air currents
- endangered settlements / shelters / habitats
- endangered species -- varieties / D and D
- endangered food supplies
- endangered consumption patterns
- deforestation -- "trees" -- habitats, "air"
- continents -- earthquakes, etc
Why would it not be that humanity evokes the constraints of climate change
from the environment in response to its own systemic negligence? Would this
not constitute a higher order systemic corrective dynamic? In this sense is
climate change not challenging humanity to think in new ways?
The focus is not just "excitement" -- as explored earlier -- as a
favoured attractor in "game-play" space. The implication is that there
are other less well-recognized attractors, valued in a sustinable system, perhaps
indeed a set of four:
- "excitement" -- engagement (bureacracy = death)
- "grounded" -- concrete / anchored / home and hearth
- "feeling" -- enthusiasm / feeling -- human face
- "interest" -- nature of a "good game" or a "bad
It is the development of the ability of Homo ludens to interweave these
more complex game themes and strategies that will ensure the emergence of what
might be termed Homo conjugens (cf Authentic
Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003). From the perspective of
Homo conjugens, humanity then functions as a form of Rosetta
stone, interpreting between the systemic languages of the seasons.
The argument highlights the merit of introducing a playful element into policy-making
and into the development of strategy in response to the dramatic issues faced
by humanity and the planet in the immediate future. It challenges the exclusion
of "playfulness", in favour of "game-playing", in the current
processes of strategic innovation and the exploration of alternatives. It questions
the exclusion of "play" and "humour" from directives as
to what "ought" to be done -- whether in the form of strategic plans
or ethical frameworks: "Governance is a no-play zone"? "Abandon
all play ye who enter here"?
Essentially the argument is that "no play equals no engagement" --
at least of any sustainable form. Modern civilization is boring itself to death
trying to manage change -- and indulging hedonistically in happenings (and taking
drugs to compensate for its inadequacies). There is a need for radical playful
The issue is why interactive internet games (Warcraft,
etc) attract high orders of participation from those alienated from conventional
democratic political processes or from any particular preoccupation with the
condition of the environment and its climate. Why are "serious world games"
less engaging? How can playfulness be used as a carrier for higher orders of
strategic insight? What is to be learnt from the participative potential of
such games? How does their "communication climate" affect climate-determining
A practical possibility (as notably suggested by Steven
Johnson) is for internet game companies to open up the underlying architecture
of such games. The purpose would be::
- to allow more extensive datasets to be loaded optionally, particularly
real historical information,
- to alter the model slightly, so that different theories can be explored
of how systems work (whether cities, communities, regions or worlds),
- to allow players each to use different "skins" or "themes"
through which to perceive the same game and interact (variously highlighting
conventional, mythological, environmental, psycho-social or geo-political
- to enable inclusion of plug-in modules, formulated by policy-making bodies,
to allow for a form of testing and feedback more characteristic of "focus
Why indeed does the United Nations not have an attractive world game from which
all could learn? What of equivalents in response to the regional challenges
of Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, etc? What are the possibilities of a musically-grounded
game --notably for Africa? (cf Knowledge
Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management
as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000)
Adapting the classic remark of Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr to physicist colleague,
and Nobel Laureate, Wolfgang Pauli: "We are all agreed that the above approach
is ludicrous. The question which divides us is whether it is ludicrous enough
to have a chance of being useful. My own feeling is that it is not ludicrous
I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive
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daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make
life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument
of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations,
it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated,
and a person is humanized or dehumanized. If we treat people as they are,
we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them
become what they are capable of becoming. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
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