Play, models, complexity, Putin and Pussy Riot

Yesterday@mwjtweet asked me what my blog was about. Mark has already blogged his take on the conversation. My first response to the question was “Moddeling”, but I soon realised we have a different take on what it is to model something, and changed my answer to play.

I don’t know a lot about theories of play, but I do have some knowledge of theories on play in child development. Going to a school, college and university in Bolton meant I quite often bump in to the work of Susan Isaacs, an educational psychologist born in the area who promoted the idea of the nursery school. One of the most quoted Susan Issacs lines on play is “at any moment, a new line of inquiry or argument might flash out, a new step in understanding be taken”. Mary Jacobus called this take on play a “perpetual form of experiment”. Which is funny, because I could use this explanation of play to describe what modelling is to me. Netlogo, R, Gephi are all tools I use to model, but I don’t really do it for any other reason than to play.

This isn’t the same for everyone, while play and modelling sort of merge in my mind that isn’t always the case. Mark put forward the question “What is the difference between an artist and a scientist?” , in my mind I drew a line, with Scientist at one end and artists at the other. I started to place scientists and artists on the line according to how scientific or how playful I thought they were. I started thinking about how models were used to defend the work of a scientist and play was used to express the artist.  The line changed from scientists and artists to defenders and players as I started to put Pussy Riot and Putin on the line. Mark thinks that play is about revealing complexity and I thought he was right. Both the artist and the scientist are using playful techniques to constrain or generate complexity. It may be clearly more than a game to Pussy Riot, but what role does music take in what they do? What I was most interested from Marks point of view was what this take on play means for those who play together.

Yesterday I was at a birthday party. My brother-in-law had received a new Playstation as a gift, he threw a controller to the side of me and said “Let’s play”. While we seriously kicked some alien butt I wondered what the game was doing to the complexities of the communication between us?

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