Un/Sanctioned Play

un/sanctioned play: academic writing retreat + running path + Zombies, Run! app + weekend playing #TvsZ + AERA proposals accepted

A few threads:

  • Last week Hurricane Sandy destroyed dreams and lives. Of lesser importance, it also hijacked the NYC Marathon. I was set to run it as a celebration of my birthday and with the intense training I invested, I aimed to triumph over my younger self with a PR. The disappointment of the cancellation was nothing compared to the suffering of dear friends and perfect strangers. What surprised me in the heated debates about the marathon were the number of people who expressed disgust with the commitment runners have to their sport. Our long runs were said to be self-absorbed acts, and our racing to be self-serving. Apparently, we should be ashamed of our selfishness. I never imagined the people in the cars passing me as I run down the East River might feel that way about the hundreds of “weekend warriors” plodding along.
  • Last weekend I sang karaoke with a group of 15 friends until 1:30 AM. I air guitarred “Sweet Child O’ Mine” like nobody’s business.
  • Tonight, I met a fellow academic who “came out” at dinner—no not in terms of her sexuality, but as a fangirl, a closeted, longtime, still-active member of several fandoms. But she c/would never tell. Y’all might remember my Guest Post on Peter Gutierrez’s School Library Journal blog, New York Comic Con and the Literacies of Fandom, in which I chronicled my first experience with Comic Con through the lens of literacy practices. I have always been aware at the open derision for geek culture, but arriving there looking at so many “grown adults” in costume, I realized for the first time that age was a factor in looking down on those who do cosplay. I am sure there are many who feel costumes are for children (period).
  • This weekend I played #TvsZ, which the creators publicized as:

Inspired by the popular campus game Humans vs. Zombies, join @Jessifer and@allistelling for an epic zombiefied experiment in Twitter literacy, gamification, collaboration, and emergent learning. Part flash-mob. Part Hunger-Games. Part Twitter-pocalypse. Part digital feeding frenzy. Part micro-MOOC. Part giant game of Twitter tag.

I had no idea what it was, but immediately signed up. I can’t say many of my Twitter followers followed suit. The most common reaction I got was, “You’re doing what?”

On Monday, November 12th Adeline Koh will be interviewing the creators in a livestream through Duke University. Their topic is: Digital Pedagogy, Play, and Mass Collaboration. I was struck by this section of the description:

While institutions ponder how to make excursions into new media more efficient and profitable, the pedagogues at the digital table must push the other side of the envelope. We should be creating critical and reflective sandboxes that invite learners to set their own goals, make mistakes, collaborate, and improvise.

In Deep Play, Diane Ackerman writes, “We may think of play as optional, a casual activity. But play is fundamental to evolution” (4). George Dennison offers a similar account of play in The Lives of Children, in which he describes “children’s natural play” as “expansive and diverse, alternately intense and gay,” whereas more formal play (games with umpires, rules, etc.) becomes “strained and silent,” “serious,” and “uncomfortable” (195-196).

I was struck how quickly once play was mentioned that children were invoked.

Play is obviously important to human beings…and as Rorabaugh and Stommel argue, in the digital era it’s a characteristic of learning…and as Ackerman claims, important to evolution. I am left to wonder: What are the sanctioned ways for adults to play? If it is so important, shouldn’t there be a few? So endless are the ways that imaginative and embodied activities of adults are derided. Why is this so?

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