Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Self-Creating Society

Big essayfrom my big pal Tom Bentley at Demos, the network-and-complexity literate London think-tank. (I'm a Demos Associate, to declare prior interest). Tom's interested in finding ways to turn New Labour into Civil and Convivial Labour - and I'm happy to see him invoke "play" as a political opportunity for this change. But it's still play as recreation and games - and an interest in "good work" which, to me, borders on the futile.

We need to deconstruct and disaggregate work into its elements - of care, vocation, mission, skill, profession, commitment, etc - so that we can find a new identity for our transformative agency in the world. The last thing we want to do is to re-moralise work, and its fusty, dusty metaphysics. Been there, done that, got the disciplinary t-shirt.

And on a lower foothill: some London net-kids propose social software as a model for New Labour's next government. I wonder where they'll end up employed, in four years time...

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 at 08:36 AM in PlayPolitics (Ch 9) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

For the Love of Lego

My favourite web radio show, WBUR Boston's The Connection, has just run a show called 'For the Love of Lego' - yet another lamenting piece about how the toymakers have lost their way, over-theming and -branding their product, departing from the fundamentalism of nubbly bricks and free play. As a dad with a six-year old daughter, who finds the fluidity of the Ello Creative System much more preferable, I wonder whether the Enlightenment atomism of Lego might just not be enough to capture the young ludicist these days. (See 'Lifestyle Militants' chapter of the Play Ethic for more on this.)

Still, it seems to inspire serious Israeli novelists like David Grossman, so it's not a dead meme yet. Re the Guardian on his latest novel:

Lego is the most versatile of toys. For the very young, there are oversized bricks, from which you graduate to regular Lego, and finally Technical Lego for kids who want to become mechanical engineers. Grossman introduces an interesting innovation - psychological Lego, which enables the author to snap together readymade characters. Tamar, a 16-year-old Israeli, is "missing that Lego part in her soul that could connect her to another person".

Tuesday, March 30, 2004 at 08:49 AM in PlayLifestyle (Ch 5) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 29, 2004

Once upon a modem...

A call for Hackers. Amazing. Kevin Mitnick, infamous ex-hacker and scourge of data tzars everywhere, is compiling a book of 'great hacker stories'. He's got a publishing deal, and everything! Nice to see an 18th century technology aid in the rehab of a 21st century crim. (Though how criminal, is of course, up for debate).

Monday, March 29, 2004 at 08:43 AM in PlayDigital (Ch 4) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Play Politics and Mall Art

Some crossover phenomena in the world of marketing - trying to partake of all the energies of play. First up we have Play Politics, a marketing companyt that uses lots of below-the-line and viral techniques to "make satire effective" for pols like Howard Dean (well, maybe not so effective). Secondly, what could only be described as Joseph Beuys meets the DiY superstore: "Guerrilla sculptor Stefanie Nagorka turns Home Depot stores into ad hoc galleries by creating art installations from building supplies, photographing them, then getting out fast." Hell, they'll be throwing money from the balcony on the World Stock Exchange next...

Sunday, March 28, 2004 at 08:51 AM in PlayBusiness (Ch 8) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Starting Young

Ben Casnocha runs a major software company enabling e-government in California. Thing is... he's fifteen (and sneaks looks at his Blackberry e-mail in class). MIT's Henry Jenkins comments that Casnocha

represents a new generation, for whom new media technology has lifted age restrictions and enabled collaboration or competition with adults. Of course, if we go back far enough in time, a 15 year old would have been for all intents and purposes an adult -- expected to marry, raise children, and earn a living. It may be that in the history of the world, our 20th century notion of the teenager -- which really didn’t exist as such before the 1920s -- will be an anomaly.

Saturday, March 27, 2004 at 08:42 AM in PlayBusiness (Ch 8), PlayDigital (Ch 4) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Air guitar. Literally

Always a sucker for futuristic music instruments (used to play with a guitarist who had a Synthaxe, tech fans). Micheal Lyons sends me something from conferences in Montreal and Dublin, where a motley crew of visionaries demonstrate their Video Organs, Metasaxophones, and Vodrhan (virtual bodhran). I'm always interested in new conduits for virtuosity, and surprised at how conservative music really is, when it comes to expressive technology. Turntables? Guitars? Kraftwerk and their dummy robots? The Theremin? Even Malcolm McLaren's 'New Punk', chip music, comes out of a tight little technical corner. 21st century: try harder.

Friday, March 26, 2004 at 08:55 AM in PlayArts/Media (Ch 7)) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A populist moment

I hope you can forgive me for descending from my usual synoptic heights, and quietly asserting my UTTER JOY at Celtic FC (football/soccer team of birth) besting the mighty Barcelona at the Nou Camp stadium tonight. If anyone exemplifies the play ethic, it's Martin O'Neill, the priestly and scholarly manager of a team composed of youths, bigger league rejects, and injury-prone hulkers. (For US readers, think Phil Jackson, and you're partly there). Let the Bubble (as the fans call it) stay unpricked till summer.

Friday, March 26, 2004 at 01:21 AM in PlayPersonal (Ch 1) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Mobiles and mobilisation

Howard Rheingold serves up two classic thought-starters on Nokia's The Feature site (typical Finns - turn an act of corporate sponsorship into an enrichment of the commons.). One is called The Auto and The Mobile. We barely imagined the effect that the car had on our societies: can we imagine the impact of mobile and wireless any better? And the other is about Mobile Social Presence. Who knows who's where now? And does it matter?

Thursday, March 25, 2004 at 08:56 AM in PlayDigital (Ch 4), PlayPolitics (Ch 9) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A More Child-Like Science

The New Atlantis. Fascinating piece from a new conservative journal on science and technology. It begins to truly address one of the frontier conditions of the Play Ethic - our ability to "play God" with matter - in the context of the President's Council on Bioethics. A quote:

Can we learn to approach the human genome in the spirit of the child’s soul-piercing “Why?” or the parent’s quizzical “Who are you?” Might it be that real breakthroughs in genetics—breakthroughs of understanding rather than of technique—await our ability to look at the organism qualitatively, in its own meaningful terms?
I'm also reminded of that amazing Heraclitus quote: 'the aeon is a child at play' (thanks to Marc Pesce).

Wednesday, March 24, 2004 at 08:13 AM in PlayTheory (Ch 2) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Gurus, Texas

The admirably diligent Fast Company blog has been taking notes at the SWSX conference in Austin, Texas (where my brother is sound-mixing for Franz Ferdinand, no less). For those of us nursing weans in Glasgow, FC Now has been an invaluable witness. Some of the highlighs have included

:Bruce Sterling on the Tropicalisation of Digitalisation
Howard Rheingold on Mobility and Collective Action
Ethan Watters on urban tribes and 'social dark matter'
Virginia Postrel on the substance of style

Tuesday, March 23, 2004 at 09:32 AM in PlayBusiness (Ch 8), PlayDigital (Ch 4), PlayLifestyle (Ch 5), PlayPolitics (Ch 9) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 22, 2004

iMomus and I

Hail, player! As ever, deeply honoured when Nick Currie - the polymorphous electro-folk polymath that is Momus - grapples with the play ethic. This entry from his Click Opera blog is the usual coruscation of ideas. We are deeply parallel processors, the pair of us. Take this point:

So how is play doing? If the world's agenda is being set, in this disappointingly atavistic 21st century, by play-hating neo-cons on one side and play-hating terrorists on the other, is play dead? Is there a way of looking at terrorism as play's darkest, most horrible manifestation yet? [I think Nick's referring to Baudrillard here]. Or should we perhaps be looking at Japan, where big play-oriented corporations like Namco are putting the ludic not only at the heart of their product range, but at the heart of their corporate philosophy? (Fabulously enough, Namco has a Homo Ludens Laboratory, named after Huizinga's magnum opus.) I don't think play is dead, and I don't think death is play...When a value as healthy as play gets pushed out by sickness and neurosis, that's when we need it the most. Perhaps we play best in the shadows.
If only I didn't think these days that play is much more about a crisis of ontology, than about "healthy values". Does the neo-con Donald Rumsfeld really not think of himself as a (power) player? What of a gene genie "playing god" with stem cells? I'm only starting a conversation about our play ethics - because it is such an indicator of the slippery constitution of our realities, early 21st C.

All in hope that the tireless Meister Currie will engage...

Monday, March 22, 2004 at 07:44 PM in PlayTheory (Ch 2) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The progressive pilgrim's gospel

Pat Kane interview with Richard Holloway. Occasionally, on some mad troll through the web, I find a piece of journalism even I'd forgotten I'd written. Richard Holloway is a ex-bishop of Edinburgh, and has one of the most eloquent ethical sensibilities I've even encountered. And as a big Nietzche and Richard Rorty fan - see his whisky-shot of a sermon, Doubts and Loves- he's a serious philosophical player too. Though I sometimes regret using his candour at the beginning of this piece...

Monday, March 22, 2004 at 08:37 AM in PlaySpirituality (Ch 10) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Hoop Dreams In Northern Ireland

From CBS News. Thanks to Karl Wiberg for this great US item on one Irish-American basketball star's desire to reconcile his sport with his history. Apparently basketball has the power to heal sectarian divisions among the province's youth, because it's not identified with either religious community. So Sean Tuohy gave up his Utah gig to create a program called 'Playing for Peace'. Again, play ethics at its most literal, and no less interesting for that.

Sunday, March 21, 2004 at 09:03 AM in PlayPolitics (Ch 9) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Re-enchant your mall, mobilise your theme park

The new urban landscapes - Maarten Hajer "One of the reasons for the lack of a vision as regards the quality of public space lies in the fact that important ‘players’ such as administrators, designers and developers to a large degree think along the same lines, at least at the moment, when it comes to the design of that urban public space." And what they don't value is the notion that the messiness of malls, bohemias and leisure zones could also be 'public domains'. Do we want "‘zero-friction’ environments designed to facilitate the ‘processing’ of crowds", asks Hajer? Do players want their urban grounds to be perfectly tended, or richly varied? Bring on Richard Floridaagain...

Friday, March 19, 2004 at 08:55 AM in PlayLifestyle (Ch 5) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Tactical Media, your time has come

Jim Moore digs up an old interview with some starry-eyed tech-artists from 2001, and reminds us of where our current digital activisms come from. This quote from the Critical Art Ensemble sounds like my gig:

Those of us who are involved in tactical media felt a kind of relief that we could be any kind of hybrid artist, scientist, technician, craftsperson, theorist, activist; we could all be mixed together in combinations that had different weights and intensities. These many roles of becoming artist, becoming activist, becoming scientist, etc., contained in each individual and group, could be acknowledged and valued. Many felt liberated from having to represent themselves to the public as a specialist and therefore valued.
Nice points also about how using code and tech can "engage" and "deploy" the artist, rather than "authorise" and "require" them.

Thursday, March 18, 2004 at 08:54 AM in PlayArts/Media (Ch 7)) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Ubicomps, fun employees and longevity consultants

The rise and fall of 21st century jobs. Report from a resonant organisation in my prole past -City and Guilds - on what the labour market will bring in 20 years time:

Hottest Jobs 2010 + (jobs likely to display explosive growth)
Ubicomp technologists
Bioinformatics specialists
Fuel cell technologists
Time consultancy and tasking
Longevity consultants
Personal dieticians and trainers
Fun employees
Global matchmakers
Webucation architects
A lot of players in there...

Wednesday, March 17, 2004 at 08:27 AM in PlayBusiness (Ch 8) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Politics of Adultescence.

Two takes on the crumbling of the fortress of adulthood: Joseph Epstein, moaning about the 'permanent adolescent', counters with a reasonable defence of maturity:

Maturity provides a more articulated sense of the ebb and flow, the ups and downs, of life, a more subtly reticulated graph of human possibility. Above all, it values a clear and fit conception of reality. Maturity is ever cognizant that the clock is running, life is finite, and among the greatest mistakes is to believe otherwise. Maturity doesn't exclude playfulness or high humor. Far from it. The mature understand that the bitterest joke of all is that the quickest way to grow old lies in the hopeless attempt to stay forever young.
Meanwhile, Frank Furedicomplains that mass protest these days is more like mass therapy - thousands of sub-rational sheep taking to the streets to 'express their feelings', rather than assert a coherent political program. And the evidence? Even his eight year old is coming in from school saying that 'Daddy, I really hate Bush!' Some disillusioned ex-Marxists are never happy...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004 at 08:22 AM in PlayLifestyle (Ch 5) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 15, 2004

State of Play @ the Serpentine

Current Exhibition. "State of Play presents the work of international artists who play with ideas, materials and situations. At a time when art can no longer be defined through a single dominant movement or school of thought, the exhibition identifies a number of artists who share an attitude of irreverence and wit, and a lightness of touch increasingly visible in contemporary art making today." Hopefully will see this before it closes - your reviews welcomed.

Monday, March 15, 2004 at 09:37 AM in PlayArts/Media (Ch 7)) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Bedside Manga

Computer games as therapy for sick kids. A very touching and inspiring example of join-the-dots play ethics: what benefits to terminally ill kids - in this case, cystic fibrosis - would online, networking gaming bring? Arun T. Matthews' experience in a Baltimore hospital has led him to set up the HOPE network - hope standing for 'Hospital-based Online Paediatric Environment'. In their words:

It is a network that allows pediatric inpatients the ability to meet with, relate to and, most importantly, play games with other patients in hospitals around the country. By kindling the spirit of adventure, sports, and community-building, HOPE seeks to allow children with various ailments to understand that they are not alone, and that they truly are heroes
.Shall we make it happen in the UK?

Sunday, March 14, 2004 at 08:51 AM in PlayDigital (Ch 4) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Your life in your hand

Log your life via your phone. BBC story about Nokia's ambitions to make your phone a memory device for your life. Anecdotally, I think this will be a huge application. I found myself on the Glasgow tube the other day, embarking on a three-day stint away from my daughters, and smiling at the pictures of them I'd snapped over the last few months on my camera phone (Sony Ericsson, black and silver job). Now I lust after a phone with a memory stick, and a computer that will easily recieve the day's captured fragments - which for me might include street scenes, a fragment of melody for a new song, a task note to self, a treasured picture mail from a wee girl. Our mobility doesn't stop our lusts and loves - in fact, it intensifies our need to capture the transient.

And a passing business comment: is the company that answers these kinds of needs the one that cleans up, in what Shoshana Zuboff has been calling the Support Economy?

Saturday, March 13, 2004 at 11:43 AM in PlayPersonal (Ch 1) | Permalink | Comments (1)