Playlab

MISSION: To explore and implement play as a generative creative resource for individuals, teams and organizations.

Play is viewed as being central to creativity and innovation. Yet research on play often focuses on children’s play. How do adults think of play? How do they play and use play in their everyday life has not been researched. We do not have an understanding of play in everyday life.

Play which is a creative force for everyday life and living is often viewed as being childlike or frivolous. Laura Richardson, a principal designer at frog design, a global innovation firm states in The Atlantic that

I predict the countries that take play seriously, not only nurturing it in education and the workforce but also formalizing it as a national effort, will quickly rise in the world order.

Play is stated to create flexibility, spontaneity, collaboration and creative imaginations. Richardson further states that

Someday, rather than measuring memorization as an indicator of progress, we will measure our children’s ability to manipulate (deconstruct and hack), morph (think flexibly and be tolerant of change), and move (think “with their hands” and play productively). Standardized aptitude tests will be replaced by our abilities to see (observe and imagine), sense (have empathy and intrinsic motivation), and stretch (think abstractly and systemically). We will advance our abilities to collaborate and create.

And yet we don’t see or value play in our everyday life as a major force to be cultivated because in some ways we are already playing. But the kind of play that every day life calls for is not often seen as play. Rather play is narrowly defined as games, mind-games or leisure. And yet not to recognize the play as play is to not enhance our play muscle.

According to Caillois play occurs “in a pure space isolated and protected from the rest of life.” This separation of play from reality and play as something that is outside of ordinary life, a vestige from the classical era, will keep us from seeing ourselves as being engaged in the activity of creating our lives. This is a very western view of life as compared to eastern philosophies where Gods are seen as players and play is an everyday activity, which is illusory (Maya) and hard to capture. Gordon quotes anthropologist David Handelman who states,

“Qualities of play are integral to the operation of the cosmos. To be in play is to reproduce the time and again the very premises that inform the existence of this kind of cosmos.” (1992, p.12). (p. 2)

The major thinkers of play Brown, Howard Chudacoff, Will Wright, Edward De Bono, Katie Salen, Jane McGonigal, Beau Lotto, Sir Ken Robinson, Henry Jenkins, and Daniel Pink all speak of play in different ways. But no one denies the importance of play. And Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic puts it best:

“Play will be to the twenty-first century what work was to the industrial age – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value. Therefore we need play theory and research, of a multidisciplinary nature, that can deepen and widen our understanding of this most dynamic of human evolved capacities”

I believe play is performative, constitutive of the lives we live.  In play we make-up the life we want and don’t want.  Our lives are living playlabs–approach with curiosity!  My goal is to add to the practice, theory and research of play by being in a shared inquiry with those I encounter in my life as a therapist, teacher, researcher, parent, friend or family member. The focus of my social inquiry is:

• What is play?

• How do we play?

Dr. Saliha Bava's lab for playfully exploring generative play practices for a richer life!