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Politics – Play Matters

Sicart, M. (2014). Politics. In Play Matters (pp. 71-81). MIT Press.

This chapter explores how play can be used explicitly to explore political meaning, and how play can be political. This ties in closely with the ideas around politics and critical and speculative design but focuses on the importance of the appropriation of the context or object by the play agent. There are important links from this work out into other more directly political ideas and the importance of letting users configure and reconfigure the meaning of the text to explore political ideas. There are interesting veins around resistance and politics through play and the usefulness of play to debase power.

Useful Quotes

“Two of the key characteristics of play are its appropriative nature and the creativity that ensues. Play is creative when it is taking over, or occupying , a context.” (p. 71)

“Appropriation leads to carnivalesque creativity, which might lead to a critical approach to the context, the very act of play, or the activity that is being playfully occupied. It is therefore natural to think that play can be used for political purposes, instrumentalized to become a tool for expressing political ideas.” (p. 72)

“For thinkers like Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire, play is a criticall liberating force that can be used to explore the ultimate possibility of human freedom.” (p. 72)

“The game or toy is only a rhetorical argument-political expression at most, if not propaganda. Politics happens when play becomes political action.” (p. 73)

“Some modern political games are not played; we perform operations in order to activate and configure their messages. That is hardly creative, appropriative activity. In fact, it is a guided activity through power structures toward purposes dictated beforehand. Playing these games is not about affirming but about reaffirming.” (p. 73)

“Political play takes place when a plaything harnesses the expressive, creative, appropriative, and subversive capacities of play and uses them for political expression. Political play is the interplay of form, appropriation, and context, or how politics is expressed and enacted through play in fluid motion.” (p. 74)

“Play is political in the way it critically engages with a context, appropriating it and using the autotelic nature of play to turn actions into double-edged meanings: they are actions both in a play activity and with political meaning and are therefore are heavy with meaning.” (p. 80)

“Play becomes political action when the interplay between the context and the appropriation lead to an activity that critically engages with the situation without ceasing to be play.” (p. 81)

Further Readings

Boal, A. (2002) Games for Actors and Non-Actors, 2nd ed. London:Routledge

Boal, A. (2008) Theatre of the Oppressed. London: Pluto Press

Freire, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the Opressed. London:Penguin

Freire, P. (2001) Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

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