Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Reflections on the Conference 1 - Marc Armitage

Via Facebook, some reflections on the conference from Marc Armitage, playwork consultant, whose website can be found at: http://www.marc-armitage.eu/ - including the "under construction" Thought Crime subsite http://www.marc-armitage.eu/thought-crime/ . Thanks Marc for letting us re-post this here.

So ... attended the two-day Philosophy at Play conference at the University of Gloucester earlier this week ... and it was a good one.

It was two very packed days full of philosophical enquiry, playfulness and wonder with some very challenging presentations and papers being delivered to an international, multi-disciplinary audience.

My head is spinning with ideas and thoughts. Highlights for me include:

The key-note speech by Prof. John Wall of Rutgers University, Camden NJ (USA) talking of ‘The ontology of play: what is human being from the point of view of childhood’. Particularly useful was an historical summary of philosophical thinking on play structured around three ’traditional’ approaches – the Top Down approach, the Bottom Up approach and the Developmental approach; and the conclusion that people do not ‘play’ – rather, that play is something that exists outside of people which they are drawn into.

This was a theme continued by Francis Barton in his paper, ‘A twist on Heidegger: the ambiguous ontology of playspace’ which discussed the idea of play still being play without a player, and how interaction with objects and spaces ‘in the background’ make play ‘real’.

Andrew Edgar’s paper, ‘Playing with air and water: the landscape paintings of Peter Lanyon’ was an interesting visual distraction, discussing the playfulness in the paintings inspired by Lanyon’s interest in gliding by and the problem of representing movement in paint.

And Pat Gordon-Smith’s paper, ‘Young children’s morality through play in their earlier years setting’ which presented fascinating results from her research project highlighting the complaints of staff over children’s apparent inability to take turns and share while at the same time routinely missing such things taking place. This led to practitioners effectively ‘enforcing turn taking’ which was not necessarily a positive.

And above all the multi-disciplinary nature of the event, meeting new people and networking has been a definite highlight. And maybe one other thing too!

Seriously good event; huge well done to all involved.


Monday, 4 April 2011

PDF of abstracts for the conference

We've put together a nice compilation of all the abstracts for the conference.
They're here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2157704/listofabstracts.pdf

I think it would be interesting to have any responses to these, in general. Not in response to specific abstracts, at least until speakers have had a chance to actually deliver their paper!

But, what's missing? What topics could we have had more papers about? What do we make of the concentrations of ideas that are present?

Another question: there are various understandings of 'play' expressed within these abstracts. From the very concrete - e.g. the activity of children or actors or sports participants - to the more, er, abstract. Are we all talking about the same thing, or is there a confusion of ideas here caused by using the same four letter word to refer to quite different things?