Really? It’s Been That Long?
I started this blog just over five years ago. My very first post linked to an article in the New York Times that was my first exposure to the topic of Play Studies (in fact, that article very well may be the first exposure of the topic in any form to a modern mass audience of any sort).
When I started out I wanted Note the Smile to be a place to help me work out and share the idea of playful technologies. Just a couple years later I moved on to grad school with the same goal. People tend to think that graduate students are smart. But I have learned the truth. We are dumb. We make terrible life decisions. Would I like less sleep and less money? Please and thank you.
Looking back, my posts have been kinda all over the place. At one point I was fairly excited about gamification technologies and then later became more suspicious of it. Certain posts tended to advocate certain kinds of playing—particularly unstructured free play and play with toys—motivated mostly by my own preference without much critical thought. Here and there I proposed or linked to ideas with little foundation or support other than “hey, neat!” I just sorta hacked my way through it all and made it up as I went along talking about anything I found compelling or interesting. In general, the more I thought about these topics and my questions the more they made my brain hurt.
Looking Ahead and Playing Around, Taken Seriously
But now after all these years I can finally say that I have real learnin’ and maybe even valuable ideas to share! In fact, I’ve come to see that Play is way more fascinating and meaningful than I ever hoped or expected.
In completing an independent study last winter on some of the same topics motivating this very blog, the professor who came along for the ride proposed, as profs are wont to do, that I work out my thoughts in writing. As that time approached, despite all my reading and thinking, I was panicked as I had almost nothing to say. And then one day, with my nose in a book, the light bulb flicked on, and all the thoughts absolutely had to come out right then. They were very insistent and nearly forced their way out whether I liked it or not. I could barely keep up for weeks on end as I struggled to assemble something coherent in written form. What I wrote ended up at fifteen pages in length but probably wants to be about a hundred.
My reading list for studying Play and working to develop the notion of Playful Technologies presently has about seventy entries in it spanning books, academic journals, the popular press, web material, and even playgrounds and pieces of architecture. I’d guess I’ve read and/or am familiar with 20% of it. So much more to go. But even with my limited exposure to all the amazing thinking on Play, I have more than enough to talk about and share.
I’m starting a new series here at Note the Smile taking the title of a talk I recently gave at Cornell’s d:Tech series here in New York City.
Playing Around, Taken Seriously will be a semi-regular series of posts that:
- Provide an introduction to some of the foundations of Play Theory
- Detail my own theory of Play
- Explain just what a Playful Technology is
- Extrapolate from this how to design and build a Playful Technology
Some of my ideas are not yet well developed. And it’s going to be a real but worthwhile challenge to write on these topics in a way that doesn’t read like a fancypants academic paper. I’m not even remotely sure how this will all work out. But let’s hope it will be a fun ride.