Interesting article on adult play..

14Oct08


As I was doing my research I found such an interesting article about adult play, and how adults distinguish work from play. If an adult goes to work everyday carrying out the job of their dreams it should be fun for them shouldn’t it? But why is it then classed as work? Because they get paid? Should you not be allowed to get paid for having fun? Frank Oppenheimer explains in an issue of Exploratorium which was originally published in February/March 1980.

“we thought of taking photographs of a crane operator knocking down a wall with a huge steel ball. It seemed to us that anybody who had ever seen this activity would like to get a hold of that swinging ball and play with it for a while. We asked our staff photographer to photograph this activity in San Francisco; we would also talk with one of the operators to see if he ever had this sense of playfulness that we associated with the wrecking ball. Immediately after these discussions the photograph of the Minneapolis grain elevator appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. The photograph confirmed our notion that it was indeed a playful activity, and we contacted the Minneapolis ball-and-crane operator….we see it as something which matches
our conception of playfulness—that of using a prop of society out of the context of its designated purpose, which in this case is to knock things down. The imaging of a face on a grain silo certainly seems like play?”

I think the quote above is really helpful in my researching of play, its almost as if this article has been tailor-made to the brief. I think anyone no matter how old would love to have a go at swinging a massive steal ball into a building! It looks really fun, and it proves that the man working on this building doesn’t just see it as a job, he can be playful with it too.

“As a child, I used to go around the house with an empty milk bottle pouring a little bit of every chemical, every drug, every spice into the bottle to see what would happen. Of course, nothing happened. I ended up with a sticky grey-brown mess, which I threw out in disgust. But much research ends up with the same amorphous mess and is or should be thrown out only to then start playing around in some other way. But a research physicist gets paid for this “waste of time” and so do the people who develop exhibits in the Exploratorium. Occasionally though, something
incredibly wonderful happens.”

Everybody has done what Frank did as a child. I know I did, but instead of discarding it I decided I would help the fish in my pond, and I knew how much I liked bubble baths, I thought the fish might of liked one too? But they really didn’t! I had squirted everything that my Mum had by the bath tub into one empty bottle, and then a little Fairy Liquid too for some extra special bubbles! I can’t remember what happened to the fish? I think they were scooped out by my Dad when he saw what I’d done and survived? Either that are swiftly replaced!

“But if people get paid for playing, does it then become work? The recognition of adult play can become very difficult. In some instances, the playfulness is obvious. For example, there are times while driving that I keep time to radio
music with the accelerator and the brake to produce a quite remarkable motion of the car. It’s true that this activity is manifestly playful. It uses the automobile out of the context for which it was designed, but it is also an extremely trivial example of adult play.”

“I asked, “Are there any things which a young person must learn before it is too late to learn them?” There has been
much emphasis on how early a child can learn to write or to spell or to add, but my question seems not to have attracted much attention. There may very well not be anything which one has to learn before it’s too late to do so. But
Bob answered, “Maybe people have to learn how to play before it’s too late.”

I think people in the creative industry have to be playful, its part of their job to play with layouts, colour schemes, and to be inventive. In order to be inventive, original and creative you do definately have to play! Maybe an office job would be a prime example of people who aren’t playful in a job. Theres nothing much fun about typing on a computer all day – but maybe to some people there is? I think I will always be playful, I can’t see myself being anything else. You have to enjoy life, because you only get one shot at it. Thats why, at the moment I want to focus on creating a promotion for adults encouraging them to have fun.

I have taken parts of this article from: http://www.exploratorium.edu/frank/adult_play/adult_play.pdf

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