play is salt and games are sugar

On his blog,

FB is asking, in the context of a conference  he attended:

“What about the ‘connections’ bit of ‘material connections’? There was in my opinion a lot of talk about play and toys and players and their various ontological statuses …. but relatively little about the relations between them, the microethnographical details (smartly laid out by Tara in her opening provocation) of connection and contact and clash and cuddle. Perhaps that’s just not where we collectively ‘were’ today (maybe an emphasis for a follow-up?!)”relatively little about the relations between them”

To which I say, addressing the phrase: ‘relatively little about the relations between them’:


Children, who can easily get excluded from the topic list, rather like poor Africans begging outside a UN summit, are not interested in toys.

(Please don’t mistake me for the sort of buffoon who wants to include children in adult conferences about play: kids no more want to talk about play with boffins than frenchmen want to talk to boffins about the experience of being french and a man. Any responses gleaned are likely to be instructive only to students of colourful vernacular reproductive language.)

Animals will seek out salt when their bodies need it, and, if given the chance, will gorge to the point of obesity on sugar.


play = salt
computer games = sugar.

Hmmm, that’s worth exploring – maybe later.


Children are interested in other children.

We know that humans are social animals, we know that the most important part of the ‘environment’ for starlings is other starlings, so why aren’t we more interested in the ‘connections’: why aren’t we more interested in children’s interest in other children? That Franzen novel might have been really interesting if it had been called ‘the connections’.

N-K networks are a big area of study, but when the ideas drift over the fence into neighbouring fields like sociology and psychology, the focus is always on the N and not the K. As I often quip – it’s as if we study flocking by interrogating individual starlings (a dumb idea, on several levels, which I won’t go into here).



There’s a glorious mechanism which boots up human culture in any group of baby humans growing up together, the very best example of which  is the new sign language which developed in orphanages for deaf kids in Nicaragua in the 70s or 80s.



We could, if we wanted to, find out so much more about all this.

But it’s hard to study the flock and easy to study the starlings.





(Thanks once again FB, for the stimulus.)


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