Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Monday, April 25, 2011

Of Nips: Play and Realism

Games are symptoms of real objects

A game could be thought of as an interobjective space consisting of a number of different agents, such as boards, pieces, players and rules. This space depends upon 1+n withdrawn objects for its existence (as I described last week in one of my talks, sorry to delay on posting them but they are works in progress). A game is a symptom of real coexisting objects.

So I found this passage in Janet Murray's wide ranging and intriguing essay on games very interesting:

Interestingly enough, Sutton-Smith (1997), citing Kenneth Burke and Gregory Bateson, made a similar suggestion about the function of play biting in animals. He suggested that play might be the earliest form of a negative, prior to the existence of the negative in language. Play, as a way of not doing whatever it represents, prevents error. It is a positive behavioral negative. It says no by saying yes. It is a bite but it is a nip (Sutton-Smith, 1997). In both cases, the urge to play is a means of communicating in a situation in which intelligent creatures have not yet acquired language. A play action is a signal similar to a predator call, except that its referent is to the social world.


If you've ever owned a kitten (paging Graham Harman) you will see that play biting goes quite far down and quite far in to mammalian ontogeny. Think about what this means.

It means for a kick off that what we call language is a small part of a much bigger configuration space. For a word to be a play-bite, a play-bite has already got to refer to a genuine bite. There has to exist an interobjective space in which “meaning” can take place.

The fact that we speak, then, means not that we are different from animals, but that we encapsulate a vast array of nonhuman entities and behaviors. For language to exist at all, there have to be all kinds of objects already in play. All kinds of inscribable surfaces.

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