chapter  13
12 Pages

What’s play got to do with the information age?


This citation is taken from Ash’s diary. Ash is a manager in a multinational company and is currently completing research for a Doctor of Education. The news items are grounded in substantial evidence. This excerpt of information forms part of my research concerned with the significance of play in language. Drawing on Heidegger’s philosophy, one aim of this chapter is to consider our relationship with such digital information, as one essential form of technology, in which all unfolding events and issues in our world are regarded as being in danger of being reduced down to bivalent programmable information. The growth of digital technologies and of information dissemination is now so deeply inscribed in many of our ways of doing things that it is difficult to grasp what it all means or how it may affect our humanity. Heidegger’s (1977) sobering analysis of the essence of such technologies, he identified by the neologism, das Gestell, translated as ‘enframing’ (or ‘framing’). From Heidegger’s perspective in our relationship with technology there is always a danger that counter-intuitively rather than using and being in control of our technologies we are always in danger of being controlled by them – his word for this complex relationship.1 He sees this as an essential ordering of our world through our relationship with being, in which everyone is always in danger of being constituted as its puppets (Heidegger 1977: 36-49). The subject of this chapter is the challenge posed by play when faced with the possible danger of enframing and a thesis concerning the significance of play in opening up ways of thinking in which enframing and its very structuring no longer have any grounds. The generation of theses concerning how humanity may be saved from enframing is not a new phenomenon, and in his typically cryptic style

Heidegger suggests how this may happen by reference to words from the poet Hölderlin:

But where the danger is, grows The saving power also (cited in Heidegger 1977: 28)

For Heidegger, the saving power is already revealed in enframing, but how this might arise and what exactly is meant by these lines is never fully explained. Heidegger’s writings suggest that he thought what may be needed is an education in ontology, and for this he takes his readers back to Plato’s (1993: 241-245) ‘cave allegory’ in The Republic. Let us keep this idea in play. For some readers this may be seen as being inflected towards nostalgia for a European tradition that is far removed from our multicultural globalised world. My own thesis concerned with practice in any culture is directed towards opening space for our humanity:

Thesis: In looking to the future, what is at play opens up possibilities and so generates space in language where humanity is no longer conceivable as programmable information and is thus given back its freedom to be: in so doing play also opens up possibilities for confounding and resisting the structured drives in enframing – drives that in their appeal to our subliminal desires would otherwise continue to build bridges over the flux of time. We already have philosophies opening us up to ways of thinking; what we need is education. But not education as currently conceived, rather education as the practice of critical bricolage: being situated in any practice it is always in play and opens us up to the possibilities at play in humanity. Such education carries with it the prospect of liberation from circumstances of enslavement.