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Non-violent Conflict as Play; Play as an Urban Essentiality

Non-violent Conflict as Play; Play as an Urban Essentiality

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Published by Eray Cayli
Thoughts on conflict, play, design, and urbanism; by Eray Cayli.
Thoughts on conflict, play, design, and urbanism; by Eray Cayli.

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Published by: Eray Cayli on May 26, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Çaylı
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Eray Çaylı04 May 2009
 Non-violent Conflict as Play; Play as an Urban Essentiality
 Play, with the 'right' people, in the 'right' way
As the influential American sociologist Vance Packard analyzes social stratification inthe 1950s' United States; he mentions how “the parents of the 'better class' used to warn their children not to play with 'people like that' [lower class children]”:'You don't want to play with Johnny Jones. People like that don't know how to play right.The Jones keep hounds...are dirty...live back in the timber...don't go to church...are notour kind...people would laugh if they saw you at the Jones house.'
i
Telling children so bluntly that there are people of a certain kind to play with, and othersto avoid doing so
?
 Referring to the notion of “playing right” as a grounds to base such anargument on
? Looking in retrospect at such boldly articulated statements of discrimination, andcomparing the then situation to the present might result in our appreciation for relevantimprovements in that respect: Indeed, if we look at most 'western'
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societies today it could beclaimed that social stratification is not as verbally evident as it was in the '50s.However positive this comparison may sound on the behalf of today's children, it isnevertheless very difficult to paint an all-optimistic picture of the interrelations between play andsociety today. We may no more be seeing parents who tell their kids to stay away from 'Johnny
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Here, the term 'western' is used in the cultural sense, not the geographical one. The same applies for every timethe term is used throughout this paper.
 
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Jones'es, but is play really more democratic and boundary-free than ever? Does it helpdiscourage stratification, if not set the scene for social harmony? Does 'western' culture allow play to be an integral aspect of everyday life? And, most importantly for us, what kind of a roledoes design at large play as a key factor in this totality of relations?
 A fictional design project 
It would be useful to start by drawing upon a definition of play in order to provide anoutline for our theoretical framework. The definition that will probably be the most beneficial for our study comes from one of the founders of modern cultural history, Johan Huizinga, whodefines play based on a historical—and at times, even evolutional—reference. Huizinga suggeststhat the essentials of human play are evident in how animals at large play with each other. Heexemplifies his argument by illustrating a scene of young dogs playing whereby they seem to be biting eachother's ears. Huizinga underlines that “the rule that you shall not bite, or not bite hard,your brother’s ear” is key in this activity. According to him, keeping to that fundamental rule atall times, and, yet meanwhile, pretending to get terribly angry, are the two complimentarycharacteristics that lead to the “tremendous fun and enjoyment” that is being experienced by thedogs.
This analysis focuses mainly on understanding how the two parties, or actors, that areactively involved in the play experience it. However, in order to understand the agency of designin relation to play as a social and cultural phenomenon, we would probably be more interested inhow this scene looks through the eye of a third party/an outsider—for the designer is often brought in as one, to processes and existing networks of relations, and is later requested totransform them.
 
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Image 1.
Young dogs playing by “the rule that you shall not bite, or not bite hard, your brother’s ear”
 
Let us fantasize for once, and suppose that we are commissioned as designers to developa project involving these two young dogs at play, and our prior knowledge on how our 'users'— in this case, the young dogs—go about living their everyday life is limited. Of course, we aregood designers that play (no pun intended) by the book, therefore we start with some researchand on-field observations. Since this is virtually the first time we are witnessing two young dogs play, we are not really aware of the metacommunicative signals in such context (e.g. seeming to be biting, but not really biting).Right in the middle of our field study, our commissioners ask us to communicate our initial observations—long before we become familiar with the loops and patterns of this activity —so we rush to note down our impressions in order to formulate our first ideas. How would we

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