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October 26, 2009

Play and Not Play

I found a set of toys/dolls/figures in my colleague Adrienne Russell's office that represent Zapatista Rebels. They are handcrafted from felt, yarn, and balsa wood. Adrienne mentioned that they wouldn't stand up to "play" by children. A truck that she had bought for her boys at the same time fell apart within five minutes of play. The figures were meant, she thought, for adults.

What are the purposes/uses of critical toys? Are they meant for play? Is there semantic/semiotic potential in play? or only in the representation?

Some of the existing toys in the various levels of availability (markets, sharing networks, gift exchanges) are located in different places on the ludic territory. In the Not Play area I would include those that act as "fetish objects" — in the sense that they exist to invoke, evoke or provoke memory and story-telling. I would also include those that act as "sculpture" — in the sense that they have no purpose other than to exist and provide sensations to the perceiver. Additionally, I would include the "dije" (pronounced in spanish as dee'-heh) — in the sense of a devotional artifact both in the pre-columbian and catholic traditions. Are there others? Is there room in these senses of "Not Play" for manipulations that would be "Play?" Are these still "Toy?"

This post and these questions are all oblique, and stands as evidence of the formative state of my thinking on this subject.

Posted by Rafael Fajardo at October 26, 2009 11:58 AM