Monday, February 7, 2011

Platforms/Mediums of Play

For a minute there, Johannes Huizinga captured it all and laid down the word: “Play” seems to be a concept that is fundamentally human. When we play, we’re learning, we’re creating, and we’re indulging in the agency provided by the very notion of “play”. Apart from identifying this idea of “play”, Huizinga arrives at another, perhaps, more important claim: The games we play, their structures, the rules we choose to follow all speak volumes about the cultural and social aspects of the time we live in.

Let’s add one more layer to this equation. What about the medium through which we arrive at the state of “play”? Does our medium of access say anything about us as a culture? While Huizinga’s analysis is completely valid, but it completely ignores the relevance and importance of the medium as a cultural and social concept. On the other hand, culture analysts have more recently argued that the ability to create, receive and share data simultaneously and at such high speeds has created a reality in which the culture of a person is defined by the way in which he or she accesses information. Marshall McLuhan would rephrase, “the medium is the message - the way one chooses to gain knowledge determines who one is.

But this is problematic in that to conduct any analysis under the “medium is the message” pretext, we would have to operate under vague generalizations because in today’s digital environment there is no one primary form of indulging in play. Instead, we live in a multiple platform world, and in fact seem to be moving towards greater inter-service fusion so as to give the end-user more control on how they access information. However, this in itself is a major observation, and this says a lot about us and the time we live in. This might come across as a pre-mature conclusion but essentially it seems like each and every one of us is moving from being a passive consumer to an active user, and this shift has made centralization a myth.

That is huge news for media industries globally. Let’s get on it.

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