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BLOG! Reflections on: the Philosophy at Play Conference
April 15th 2011 | 6 comment(s)

So ... attended the two-day Philosophy at Play conference at the University of Gloucester earlier this week ... and it was a good one. It was two very packed days full of philosophical enquiry, playfulness and wonder with some very challenging presentations and papers being delivered to an international, multi-disciplinary audience.

My head is spinning with ideas and thoughts. Highlights for me include:

The key-note speech by Prof. John Wall of Rutgers University, Camden NJ (USA) talking of ‘The ontology of play: what is human being from the point of view of childhood’. Particularly useful was an historical summary of philosophical thinking on play structured around three ’traditional’ approaches – the Top Down approach, the Bottom Up approach and the Developmental approach; and the conclusion that people do not ‘play’ – rather, that play is something that exists outside of people which they are drawn into.

This was a theme continued by Francis Barton in his paper, ‘A twist on Heidegger: the ambiguous ontology of playspace’ which discussed the idea of play still being play without a player, and how interaction with objects and spaces ‘in the background’ make play ‘real’.

Andrew Edgar’s paper, ‘Playing with air and water: the landscape paintings of Peter Lanyon’ was an interesting visual distraction, discussing the playfulness in the paintings inspired by Lanton’s interest in gliding by and the problem of representing movement in paint.

And Pat Gordon-Smith’s paper, ‘Young children’s morality through play in their earlier years setting’ which presented fascinating results from her research project highlighting the complaints of staff over children’s apparent inability to take turns and share while at the same time routinely missing such things taking place. This led to practitioners effectively ‘enforcing turn taking’ which was not necessarily a positive.

And above all the multi-disciplinary nature of the event, meeting new people and networking has been a definite highlight. And maybe one other thing too!

Seriously good event; huge well done to all involved.



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Marc Armitage



Marc is an independent consultant, researcher and writer in playworking and the wider social world of children and young people.

He is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars around the European Union and beyond engaging with practitioners, educators and policy makers.


This website is a collection of writings and news, published pieces, conference papers, discussions, thoughts, ideas, Blog pieces .. and general ramblings.

Not all of it is totally 100% serious ... what would the point be in a playworker who doesn't play a little, hmmm?


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