mapping play

From Johndan I picked up on this interesting model of "play" (PDF) from the Dubberly Design Office. I'd stick the image up here but it is quite intricate and you'd really need to download the PDF to read it. We can think of maps in several ways. Conventionally, in the humanities, we might be suspicious of such conceptual mapping as over-simplification or rationally over-determined. Reasonable skepticism. And the easiest response might be to critique or simply to ignore. But I am more interested in how to turn this into something productive.

The questions, then, are what we do with this model and how we take up mapping practices in relation to it? Deleuze and Guattari write about maps and tracings: "What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real… The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification." Meanwhile the tracing "injects redundancies and propogates them. What the tracing reproduces of the map or the rhizome are only the impasses, blockages, incipient taproots, or points of structuration."

So what do we see when we look at this model?  We might begin with the spine of Context –> Play –> Act –> Conversation –> Shared World –> Engagement –> End (pause). The Derridean in us might begin by noticing how "Play" appears within the model, a mise en abyme I suppose. The model has an arboreal appearance, even as it includes several interlocking, recursive loops. However these loops turn out to be linked modular machines that can be removed. The "cycle of learning" for example, takes a turn at the end/pause mark and moves through a process of Benefit/Harm –> Experience –> Goals –> Assess –> Plan –> Act (where we reconnect with the spine). Interestingly here, the "learning cycle" routes us around "play."

How might we put play back on the map? First, we map this tracing as a fractal process, always between dimensions and never quite closing it's loop. The end/pause is more of a gap than a completion of a circuit or shape. Activity bifurcates here, heading both down the spine and through learning. Meanwhile we might insert this model in each point, just as play is inserted as a point with the model itself. That is, if we were to zoom in on any of the named impasses, might we not find the same model of play within it?

The cycle of continuous play: Act –> Observe –> Assess–> Plan

The cycle of fun: Act –> Conversation –> Shared World –> Engagement –> Fun –> Goals –> Assess –> Plan

More curious matters here. Again "Fun" occurs within the cycle of fun, but "Play" does not appear in the cycle of continuous play. Perhaps one might inclined to critique this as poor design. However I see these matters as fortuitous, if not intentional. Play continues iteratively, even as the other segments process play activity, but even then play persists (playfully?) beyond its own iterations. What is at stake here, and what undoes this tracing, throwing it back into the real, is the problem  of, what might iteratively be termed, "intention," "origin," or "the individual."

The individual appears on the model. The model notes

Play is a conversation, and conversations require participants—at least two individuals. An individual can be:

  • a single person
  • a group of people (a team)
  • one of many perspectives within a single person
  • a virtual person

Indeed. So an "individual" can be either/both a partial person, a "single" person, more than a "single" person, or not a person at all but rather something that is "virtually" a person. A curious but not disagreeable definition. These individuals are displayed as two icons of half-people or so. Their appendages point toward action. They have talking bubbles overlapping, Venn diagram-like, as conversation. And, most interestingly, overlapping thought bubbles of a "shared world." Is this ideology?

So again we have another curious mise en abyme. The entire "model of play" occurs in the interaction between two (or more or less) "individuals," while the individual also appears as a point in the model. As such it would appear to me that the model is less a tracing than it would appear at first. Though the diagram overdetermines certain patterns, underneath fractal connections keep frothing up.

Not sure what to do with it. Something to play with, I guess.