Week 7 2017

Milica kindly provided me with additional comments that made it into a revised version of the PhD proposal.

The latest version can be accessed here: phd-proposal-feb15

The corresponding draft assessors response can be accessed here: assessors-response-ghm-feb-2017-15


In preparation of the document I found myself going back to earlier versions and realised that some of the writing in the comprehensive versions of the assessor response will become the chapters.

If everything goes alright I can commence with the data collection in Canberra in mid March in Canberra, ideal temperatures too, and in Germany end of May, June or July.

The shut-up  and write question is useful to complete tasks.

Papers and conferences

Lisa and I are co-authoring on a paper on design process of healthy environments and meaningful engagement with children. This will be presented at the Spaces and Flow conference on 12-13 October 2017 http://spacesandflows.com/2017-conference

Also my paper presentation at the International Play Association has been accepted. I will present my early findings and the PhD concept http://canada2017.ipaworld.org/themes
The abstract can be accessed here: play-and-the-city-ipa


Debord, G. (1994) The Society of the Spectacle. Zone Books. New York.

‘THE WHOLE LIFE of those societies in which modern conditions pf production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representations.’ p. 12

‘In a partial way, reality unfolds in a new generality as a pseudo- world apart, solely as an object of contemplation….The spectacle in its generality is a concrete inversion of life, and, as such, the autonomous movement of non-life.’ p. 12

‘THE SPECTACLE APPEARS at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is that sector where all attention, all consciousness, converges. Being isolated -and precisely for that reason -this sector is the locus of illusion and false consciousness; the unity it imposes is merely the official language of general separation.’ p. 12

‘ THE SPECTACLE IS NOT a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.’ p. 12

‘It is by far better viewed as a weltanschauung that has been actualized, translated into the material realm- a world view transformed into an objective force.’ p. 13

The spectacle is ‘the very heart of society’s real unreality. In all its specific manifestations- news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment -the spectacle epitomizes the prevailing model of social life….In form as in content the spectacle serves as total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system. It further ensures the permanent presence of that justification, for it governs almost all time spent outside the productive process itself.’ p. 13

‘The language of the spectacle is composed of signs of the dominant organization of production- signs which are at the same time ultimate end- products of that organization.’ p. 13

‘lived reality suffers the material assaults of the spectacle’s mechanisms of contemplation, incorporating the spectacular order and lending that order positive support. Each side therefore has its share of objective reality. And every concept as it takes its place on one side or the other, has no foundation apart from its transformation into its opposite: reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and underpinning of society as it exists.’ p. 14 –-> play can be one of those eruptions!

‘IN A WORLD THAT really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.’ p. 14

‘Understood on its own terms, the spectacle proclaims the predominance of appearance and asserts that all human life, which is to say all social life, is mere appearance. But any critique capable of apprehending the spectacle’s essential character must expose it as a visible negation of life- and as a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself.’ p. 14

‘For the spectacle, as the perfect image of the ruling economic order, end are nothing and development is all- although the only thing into which the spectacle plans to develop itself.’ p. 15- 16

‘The spectacle is the chief product of present- day society.’ p. 16

‘For the spectacle is simply the economic realm developing for itself – at once a faithful mirror held up to the production of things and a distorting objectification of the producers.’ p. 16

‘The spectacle is by definition immune from human activity, inaccessible to any projected review or correction. It is the opposite of dialog. Wherever representation takes on an independent existence, the spectacle reestablishes its rules.’ p. 17

‘The spectacle is hence a technological version of the perfection of separation within human beings.’ p. 18

‘SO LONG AS THE REALM of necessity remains a social dream, dreaming will remain a social necessity. The spectacle is the bad dream of modern society in chains, expressing nothing more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep.’ p. 18

‘BY MEANS OF THE SPECTACLE the ruling order discourses endlessly upon itself in an uninterrupted monologue of self-praise. The spectacle is the self-portrait of power in the age of power’s totalitarian rule over the conditions of existence. The fetishistic appearance of pure objectivity in spectacular relationships conceals their true character as relationships between human beings and between classes; a second Nature thus seems to impose inescapable laws upon our environment. But the spectacle is by no means the inevitable outcome of a technical development perceived as natural;on the contrary, the society of the spectacle is a form that chooses its own technical content.’  p. 19

In the course of this development all community and critical awareness have ceased to be; nor have those forces, which were able – by separating – to grow enormously in strength, yet found a way to reunite.‘ p. 21

‘THE GENERALIZED SEPARATION of worker and product has spelled the end of any comprehensive view of the job done, as well as the end of direct personal communication between producers. As the accumulation of alienated products proceeds, and as the productive process gets more concentrated, consistency and communication become the exclusive assets of the system’s managers. The triumph of an economic system founded on separation leads to the proletarianization of the world.’ p. 21

‘OWING TO THE VERY SUCESS of this separated system of production, whose product is separation itself, that fundamental area of experience which was associated in earlier societies with an individual’s principal work is being transformed -at least at the leading edge of the system’s evolution- into a realm of non-work, of inactivity. Such inactivity: it remains in thrall to that activity, in an uneasy and workshipful subjection to production’s needs and results; indeed it is itself a product of the rationality of production. There can be no freedom apart from activity, and within the spectacle all activity is banned- a corollary of the fact that all real activity has been forcibly channeled into the global construction of the spectacle. So what is referred to as “liberation from work,” that is, increased leisure time, is a liberation neighter within labour itself nor from the world labor has brought into being.’ p. 21-22

THE SPECTATOR’S ALIENATION from and submission to the contemplated object (which  is the outcome of his unthinking activity) works like this: the more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more readily he recognizes his own needs in the images of need proposed by the dominant system, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires. The spectacle’s  externality with respect to the acting subject is demonstrated by the fact that the individual’s own gesture are no longer his own, but rather those of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator feel at home nowhere, for the spectacle is everywhere.‘ p. 23


Impact session seminar 16/02/2017

get onto research gate, google scholar citation and research edu

be sure about the operational definitions: proximity, counter factual, precision

–> make a case and tell a story (drop methodology and literature review)



Week 38: 31st Oct- 4 November 2016

Week 37 was predominately used to catch up with work and get up to speed after the conference in Quito, Ecuador.

I’ve learned at the conference that in particular my preliminary research had already an impact in cities (city of Gervais in Oregon, USA) through our Perspective Statement on Right to the City: 2016-10-08-gervais-planning-and-design-document

–> this proofs that the play research in already useful in a applied context, even before finalised.

Highlights of this week:

  • confirmation of my paper presentation at the American Association of Geographers Conference in Boston, in April 2016. Given my co session presenters have a focus on emotion in urban spaces, I was urged to change my abstract. (see under the Link)
  • Still waiting to hear back from the IPA conference (paper abstract submission here)
  • Received feedback on funding proposal for DAAD/ Universities Australia –> unsuccessful. Need to investigate new ways to fund the research trips.
  • preparation of my presentation for the Play Symposium in Canberra on the 10th November. Focus on play in cities and not just for children. Presentation can be accessed here: play-symposium-uc-greg-mews
  • Received the kind invitation to present my PhD research at TEDx in Wellington as part of the city partnership with TEDx Canberra. 13- 16 November 2016.
  • Preparation of my presentation for my confirmation seminar. The meeting with Andrew was very constructive. I need to focus on structure that works for broader audience, but also caters to the needs of the academics.


Week 11: 26th-29th April 2016

Research Method session with Tim


troveharvester 0.1.4

work on newspaper article

Data management

Library guide

www.ands.org.au –> Preservation of research data across Australia

Portal to research data www.researchdata.ands.org.au –> often no access to meta data

http://www.data.gov.au –> government datasets with metadata available

for the ACT: www.data.act.gov.au


For making my data available:

use Figshare www.figshare.com


Web archiving

Pandora (selective archive in order to get around copy right)

e-deposit (send a copy to an archiving system e.g. the library)

Webarchiving will become an important tool to policy and political analysis

Australian Policy online –> to make grey literature available: www.apo.org.au

waybackmachine: archives all webcontent worldwide http://archive.org/web/
useful option to save data whenever I want it!

Biodiversity, films, images all of that is recorded in the waybackmachine

Webrecorder –> records the links using my browser to find data www.webrecorder.io

Presentation to peers as part of the creative research course

presentation access here

Outcomes uni presentation

Wednesday research & meetings day

Book: Sykes, H. (2013). Space, Place & Culture, Sydney, ISBN 9780987480705

Creative Cities by David Yencken pp.90- 110

“Curiosity about life in all its aspects, I think, is still the secret of all creative people.” Leo Burnett

“Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.” Plato

  • ‘A City is not a tree’ by Christopher Alexander confirmed the complexity of interactions that occur in cities. He draws on the notion of humans inability to grasp or even retain complex forms and to reduce them to a manageable form. –> formal confirmation that cities are wicket systems.
  • Yencken draws on the notion that ecological variety and complexity give health to natural systems and variety and complexity give health to social and cultural systems.
  • All those people in these urban systems have different needs. The only way to envisage all these needs is through individual identities.
  • Yencken notes further, if we want creative cities we should recognise and encourage variety and complexity. The understanding of complexity is holistic thinking.
  • Western thinking might not be the way to answer holistic thinking, based on the philosophical origins. So how can we explain something that is constantly changing in Aristotelian thinking, it is or it is not.
  • He points out,that the preservation of social networks is more important than physical improvements to housing in less accessible locations.
  • a city can be perceived as a series of experimental relationships- events, activities, spaces and structures that generate emotions.
  • human stress of adaptation to a new environment can be greatly reduced when involving them.
  • creative cities have places for healing and contemplation –> magic places.
  • smart cities should smarty foster social interactions
  • cities consume 60-80 percent of energy and emit about 75 percent of Co2 emissions.
  • Kelly social cities report argues that personal relationships are fundamental source of happiness and well-being –> social connection is crucial to well-being.
  • Main concern is the experience of the city!


Supervisor Meeting

Task: Work on play definition and towards a joined paper.

Think about play under the paradigm what could be…

Book: Stevens, Q. (2007) The Ludic City. Exploring the potential of public spaces, New York

The Ludic City argues, that one of the fundamental functions of public space is as an environment where informal, non instrumental social interactions e.g. play can happen.

Concept of ‘play’ as a distinct character of urban experience. –> I’d like to argue that is is a quality experience.

Stevens argues that play is a largely neglected aspect of people’s experience of urban society as it embraces spontaneous, irrational or risky activities.

He points out that the forms of play reveal people’s creativity, curiosity and imagination when using public space.

Exploration of ‘play’

‘Play’ is a pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often of money. (Caillois, 1961, p.5) It takes advantage of the surplus which exists in the natural world, made possible by human work. However I’d like to argue that there is an underlying interdependency. The human needs to work as well as play to bring back a balance to everyday life.  The act of creation (play) the new, is born out of the chaotic uncontrolled and unproductive acts in life. The act of productivity (work) is required to enable an environment where play can happen. Bataille (1985) support this argument by highlighting that society is defined by how it chooses to use or ‘waste’ its surplus and not by its mode of production. ‘Waste’ is an exit strategy out of cycles of acquisition, productivity and conversation. This reinforces the importance of play ‘not as a waste of time, but time filled with profound and rich experiences (Clark and Holquist 1984, p. 303 cited in Stevens, 2007, p.32)

social relations are rarely exploitative.

Play separates time and space. This allows people to forget their everyday roles, conventions, demands and restrictions.

Good spaces in a sense are inherently used inefficiently –> space is ‘wasted’.

Leisure can be passive –> but play is active

Play is a product of process of everyday life as well as a producer of processes. p.23

Play is temporary

Play is freedom (Huizinga (1970)

Play is intrinsic

Play transforms everyday experiences within everyday places.

Play is repetitive –> it is grounded in imitations of social practice and the material world. Play is archaic, magical mode of relating to things and to practices- in a child context  (Gilloch 1996:86 cited in Stevens, p.24)

Play can be disruptive – can be understood as an opportunity to reveal mythic from within.

Play sits outside of ‘everyday’, ‘mundane’ and ‘habitual’. –> it generates a quality experience within everyday activities, but breaks with ‘habitual’ although can be consumed by habitus however still rejects ‘mundane’.

city spaces for play

Reasoning why cities are the perfect place to study play, in accordance to Stevens (2007):

“The density and diversity of the city provide a stimulus and a milieu for this exploration. The publicness of space and people’s anonymity to one another encourage the development of roles and masks and encourages the expression of self. The surplus wealth which is a product of the city’s diversity makes possible non-instrumental interactions, and the complexity of urban social space also stimulates such interactions. The disorder of symbolism in the city reawakens memories, demythifies them, and arouses the imagination. All these conditions can potentially override social order and control. The experience of urban space is  characterized by multiplicity, ambiguity and contradiction, the unpredictable and the unfamiliar.”  p.25

Forms of play can occur in places that are physical or socially ‘forbidden, isolated, hedged, hallowed, within which special rules apply’ (Huizinga, 1970, pp. 28-29).

Play is traditionally understood as something opposite, compared to long- term purposes, work in accordance to Goodale and Godbey (1988). They also argue that play includes the freedom to attempt something and allow it to fail. Experiencing risk adds strength and depth of people’s experience in the world.

For Stevens, play is a principle contradiction to people’s assumptions about the everyday functionality of the urban built environment.

Deployment of the term ‘play’ is widely applied. It is always a rhetorical construct in order to describe a range of behaviours based on value and objectives (Sutton-Smith, 1997 cited in Stevens, 2007, p.26)

In general its a counterpoint to behaviour that is categorise ‘normal’ – everyday, conventional, expected, calculated, practical, constant. Interpretation depends on professional interest.

Focus on four interrelated ways which playful behaviour can be experienced as an escape from other aspects of everyday life in the contemporary city (Stevens, 2007, p. 27):

  • play involves actions which are non-instrumental,
  • there are boundary conditions and rules which separate play from the everyday,
  • play involves specific types of activities through which people test and expand limits (competition, chance, simulation and vertigo),
  • play in the city very often involves encounters with strangers.

Stevens acknowledges that play in a child context occupies a more narrow range of behaviour than the play of adults. He argues that play is just one component of the complex social existence of working adults and rarely analysed.

Mouledoux (1977) made the remark that ‘the full variety of play forms only appears with the achievement of a certain maturity’ (pp.52-52).

Adults play less often than children, but their freedom, abilities and knowledge make the dialectic qualities of play so apparent. Stevens highlights that “adult play provides far better illustration of the transformation of everyday life and of lived space into new experiences and new forms. It is the play of adults which can lead to a reconsideration of the ways in which urban space might stimulate and facilitate unexpected and impractical behaviour, and how space can be utilized for escape form serious meanings and uses and to critique the normal social order. ” (Stevens, 2007, p.27)

Children’s skills and ambition are limited and play is the primary function to pursue. It is often supervised. He raises another limitation of children’s behaviour, based on the notion that children’s play evolves around freedom, creativity and diversity of human agency rather then open it up. Huizinga (1970) points out that this does not explain why and how adults play.

Gilloch (1996) points out that adult play in urban spaces can enable a re-enchantment of their world. They take ‘advantage of conditions under which toil may be transformed into play, fetishism into curiosity, tyranny into reciprocity, and drudgery into spontaneity’ (Gilloch 1996 cited in Stevens 2007, p.28).

There is a distinction between leisure and play, as play offers potential of urban experiences for promoting and framing active, creative, and above all public behaviour. Play does not depend on leisure –> undermining of social aspects because leisure can foster segregation.

For Lefebvre (1991,The production of space, Oxford: Blackwell) describes play as an encounter with difference, encounters which contest the fragmentation and alienation of contemporary social experience.

Because play happens as part of everyday life, but is in itself an escape of reality it is far richer and valuable than rationalism and morality.

Play has a dark side as it can ignore even ethical boundaries. Nietzsche argued that the whole world is ‘eternally self creating, the eternally self destroying –> beyond good and evil. –> I’d like to argue play is a form of acknowledgement and the inherent prevalence of difference.

Play is the rehearsal of eternity (Bauman 1993, p.171). Nothing builds up, each new play is a new beginning.

In play and its culture is interlinked between adult and child world – both are not detached from other phenomena. (Kalliala, 2006)

Huizinga (1947) describes the homo ludens (playing man) and considers this as the essential nature of people better than homo sapiens.

Play is one of the main categories of human activity and an important element of culture. In accordance to Caillois (1961), Huizinga focuses too much on the higher forms of play (e.g. fighting for something and playing roles). However he ignored the ‘useless’ and chaotic elements of play. –> Caillois looks into both the higher as well as the chaotic elements of play.(Kalliala, 2006, p.17)

Also Caillois found it hard to define play and characterised it as followed:

  • voluntary
  • detached from ordinary life
  • unpredictable
  • unproductive
  • imaginative
  • in accordance with the rule

Both Huizinga and Caillois value the freedom play can provide and how people engage on a voluntary basis. It provides pleasure and allows a fascination of place because it is spontaneous and unconsciouse. The absorption in play can be described by the ‘flow’ theory from Csikszentmihalyi (1975). Flow as a way of spontaneous joy, delight and inseparability of self, action and the environment (Kalliala, 2006, p.18).

Detachment from ordinary life: play happens outside of the ordinary, however it often derived from the everyday life.

Bateson (1955) highlights that communication in play can either happen through text (description of play) and context (framework of play). Although I would argue that not just text but language is the transmitter of description.

In line with Caillois observations play is unpredictable and unproductive. The imaginative element highlighted by  Jean Piaget (1972) is an indication of thinking. For Vygotsky (1976) play is an indication for cognitive development, which is a indispensable precondition for intellectual development.

Caillois classification (typology) of play

  • competition (agon) – winning
  • chance and destiny (alea) – best luck
  • imitation (mimicry) – shared illusion (social and first step to release meaning from the ‘here and now’ perception –> helps to develop consciousness)
  • dizziness (ilinx) – falling, swining, sliding etc. –> vertigo

However Caillois admits that it is not possible to cover all fields of play with only four concepts (Kalliala,2006, pp. 20-21). Combinations of all four are possible.


Preliminary conclusion

It is important to acknowledge that it is difficult to define play. This conclusion should be understood as an attempt to explore and characterise the term ‘play’ in the broader theoretical context.

Play is an intrinsic induced activity, that constitutes freedom, based on the acceptance of risk in its temporary transformational nature. It includes attributes such as spontaneity, curiosity, voluntary and creative processes that occur outside of the ordinary. This purposeless activity is necessary to the human identity as an exploratory pursuit of pleasure and comfort outside of social purpose.



Vygotsky,L. (1976) Play and its role in the mental development of the child. In Bruner, J., Jolly, A. and Sylva, K. (eds) Play: Its Role in the Development and Evolution. New York: Basic Books, 537-54.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975) Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: The Experience of Play in Work and Games. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Caillois, R. (1961) Man. Play, and Games. New York: The Free Press.

Bateson, G. (1955, 1976) A theory of play and fantasy. In: Bruner, J., Jolly, A. and Sylva, K. (eds) Play: Its Role in the Development and Evolution. New York: Basic Books

Lefebvre (1991),The production of space, oxford: Blackwell

Mouledoux, E. (1977) Theoretical Considerations and a Method for the Study of Play, in D. Lancy and B.A. Tindall (eds)The Study of Play: Problems and Prospects, West Point, NY: Leisure Press.

Huizinga, J.(1970) Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, London: Temple Smith.

Bauman, Z. (1993) Postmodern Ethics, Oxford: Blackwell

Sutton-Smith, B. (1997) The Ambiguity of Play, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Goodale, T. and Godbey, G. (1988) The Evolution of Leisure: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives, State College, PA: Venture.

Gilloch, G. (1996) Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Clark, K. and Holquist, M. (1984) Mikhail Bakhtin, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.