– Reflections from a CounterPlay participant
“To give each other permission to play” is one of the main points which have stuck with me after participating in CounterPlay Festival 2016. I think play and playfulness are complex terms which encompass multiple meanings, but for me the communities around play are crucial. The playful activity is more enjoyable when you have someone to share it with and it gets more fun when you have someone to laugh with. So I totally agree – we need to give each other permission to play in order to make space for these communities to grow!
One of my favorite activities in life is to dance, and therefore I was very excited about the dancing workshop at CounterPlay. And it was just like coming home! After a friendly introduction by the facilitator, we did not speak much during the session, but still we communicated through our body movements. It reminded me; It is so fun – and very important – when someone makes space for experiences that does not focus primarily on the spoken and written words nor rational thinking. There is nothing wrong with words, but sometimes I think our excessive use of them, is drowning other diverse opportunities to express ourselves and connect with people around us.
Dance is clearly a bodily expression form, but I think playful activities in general provide chances to evoke all our senses in the experiences. Likewise, being playful is a way to show positive interest in other people and it is also an invitation to engage in an explorative process together. While play has no predefined answers and no fixed directions, you get the freedom to go with the flow in the present moment.
In my daily work life, I like to make space for experiences where rational thinking and the spoken/written words are not foregrounded at the expense of playfulness, craftsmanship, exploration and wonder. Thus, I teach university students how to use sketching as a tool when developing design ideas for their projects. Some students are skeptical in the beginning, asking me: “Are we really going to draw?” or simply state that “We cannot draw”. Then I emphasize that the purpose of sketching is not to draw neat artistic drawings. It is an opportunity to let the hand think on paper and a way to engage in this explorative process together. After a while, my experience is that many of the students come to appreciate sketching as another way to express and discover new ideas together.
I think a crucial point is that everybody can draw as well as play, because we have done these activities since our childhood. As adults we might forget this occasionally, because our job or education requires that we use a lot of spoken and written words in well-organized ways 😉 Therefore it is great that we can participate in CounterPlay Festival and be reminded of our ability to play and our options to make it a part of our daily (work) life. I am well aware that many universities – my own work place inclusive – are experimenting with different creative ways for students to work with curricular, but I think sketching and visual expression techniques are playful approaches that should flourish even more at universities.
Inspired by CounterPlay Festival, I think I will start my next sketching course with: Congratulation, you now get permission to draw at the University – it can be a playful space and you might enjoy it 🙂
Thank you for reading along, I very much appreciate it. Feel free to comment and/or ask questions!