Reading Response #8
Chapter 8: “Manifesto” + Coda
Design as Play and Purpose
This chapter was quite the philosophical end to this book, and it surprisingly got me (especially with the little blurbs from Ge’s grandparents on page 444). Two principles stuck out to me:
Principle 8.17: “We design as an act of play”
Principle 8.18: “We design to satisfy a sense of purpose”
At first, I read these as being on a spectrum, with one end being “fun” and the other being “serious.” In my experience, a lot of things that are considered “purposeful” are often more on the serious side. They tend to be seen with the “needs” or “introspective” parts of life; they either are valued by how they meet our needs or how they help us pause and resonate with some core part of our humanity. Play has always been the far-flung opposite of this, and growing up, I didn’t have the connotation of play being purposeful. Granted, this was in part due to cultural context and the values my family instilled in me. Fun was a part of life, but there was no language that really emphasized the value of it. In the larger scope of culture here, purposeful things and actions are more frequently valued than fun itself.
Infusing play and fun intrinsically into design is something that I’ve only somewhat recently come to grapple with. Principle 8.17 nicely reframes design as a “prolonged act of play,” with the way that we engage design (bottom-up, top-down) being a longer, drawn-out version of the short experiences we see as “fun.” Playing “Hangman” is just one example: it involves trial-and-error as well as strategy, and we might think from the bottom-up (trying specific letters) or top-down (trying to guess the word/phrase by filling in the blanks mentally). Design is perhaps a more formalized version of play, perhaps analogous to a sandbox in an office. Thinking of it that way helps me break down my work into steps. Designing to satisfy a sense of purpose is a goal that I find myself trying to meet with every project. Understandably, it felt difficult given that I felt like I had to make something “purposeful,” and I didn’t quite understand that I could make something to satisfy some personal sense of “purpose.” With this class, I found myself leaning towards trying to find a balance of “playing with purpose,” whatever that might mean for the project. I found myself asking: “how can I make something that I enjoy interacting with, but that might also make me feel like it was worth putting the time into and seeing the final result?” I’m hoping to try to infuse that balance with my final project. We shall see!