“Play is the exultation of the possible”
Play is a fundamentally inventive social activity in which we craft rules, experiment with boundaries, find new opportunities for expression, and engage in creative work. Both a noun and a verb, the word is wildly expansive and can describe everything from artistic performance to sporting events and phone apps. Play is among the first things we do as children as we seek to to test the limits and possibilities of a bewildering world. Yet we sometimes imagine that such activities have to be pushed aside as part of the growth into adulthood and oppose play to things like work, productivity, seriousness, and maturity.
Johan Huizinga, however, argues that play is an essential human activity, “that civilization arises and unfolds in and as play.” Games have long been a central feature of our social, civic, and imaginative lives, from the ancient Greek marathon, through contemporary college sports, to the explosive growth of digital gaming. Modern workplaces often deliberately incorporate elements of play into their design, and urban planners seek to create spaces—like Tulsa’s Gathering Place—that treat play as a fundamental element of social life. Education, leisure, and even government have incorporated “gamification” to improve outcomes and increase engagement.
Play has, it seems, moved to the center of our culture, but what are the consequences of this shift? What does it mean, for example, to dissolve the boundary between work and play or to incorporate game design into civic and educational practices? Does play offer a new way to theorize the humanities, education, and creative practice more generally? Or are we at risk of play losing its spark in these attempts to manage it? And how do the definitions, practices, and places of play change across time and between cultures? What about the role of things like race, gender, class, sexuality, and technology, whether in “gamergate” or in the design of toys, cities, and classrooms? Finally, how can the concept of play help us better understand our changing definitions of work, leisure, boredom, and pleasure? These are some of the questions the OCH will explore through intensive research and public programming in 2019-20.
In order to support this work, the OCH invites applications from TU faculty across all the colleges to join the Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar focused on the topic of Play. The seminar will convene once a week through the fall 2019 semester and build on the expertise of each participant to launch an intensive investigation of play, assisted by visiting speakers, artists, and performers. In the spring, the research fellows will share their work with the larger community. The Center encourages interdisciplinary work and welcomes a broad interpretation of the theme that will carry our investigations across intellectual, critical, experimental, and aesthetic domains. All TU faculty are eligible to apply.
Faculty Application for 2019-2020 Humanities Research Seminar
Description: The Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Seminar sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities at the University of Tulsa seeks to generate new research, inspire innovative teaching, create campus community, engage the city of Tulsa, and break through silos by supporting interdisciplinary work on topics of timely public and intellectual interest. This year, a group of approximately eight participants will be chosen to collaborate on a series of weekly seminar discussions. Fellows will receive support to then transform this work into substantive research and community projects, undertaken collectively or individually. Such projects could include scholarly papers, courses designed around the theme in question, creative works, or efforts designed to spur civic action and participation. TU faculty members, students, and members of the wider Tulsa community are all eligible to apply. Participating faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences may receive a one-course release in the fall semester (subject to departmental and collegiate needs); students can receive a three-hour course credit. The Center’s advisory board will judge applications based on assessment of the proposal’s interdisciplinary appeal and its potential for sparking dialogue among the participants.
Theme: The theme for the 2019-2020 seminar will be Play. The seminar seeks to explore this topic from a broad set of disciplinary angles, and we welcome applications from across TU’s colleges. You are encouraged to interpret this topic broadly and in ways that are appropriate to your own field of expertise.
Application: Applications for participation in the seminar should include the following.
- A current CV, including contact information.
- Full responses to the three application questions listed below.
Applications should be sent by electronic attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application Deadline: January 31, 2019
Application Questions (no more than 1,500 words total):
- What is it about the concept of play that most interests you? What are the questions that you would like to see addressed during the course of the seminar?
- How will participation in the seminar contribute to your teaching, writing, creative, and/or other kinds of work? What kinds of projects do you envisage arising out of your participation in the seminar?
- Provide a short list of works (books, images, performances, films, articles, etc.) that you have found important or provocative in relation to the seminar’s theme.
If you have questions about the application process, the seminar, or the Center, please contact Sean Latham (email@example.com // x2857 // @seanplatham).