Play as authentic order

This is a post in my “organizing “between and beyond” series. Other posts are here.

In a comment on my previous post about authentic vs. counterfeit orders,1 Daniel Mezick (@DanielMezick) suggested that play is related to authentic order, and provided a link to Peter Gray’s Definitions of Play. Peter Gray has concluded that the five most agreed-upon characteristics of human play are:

  1. Play is self-chosen and self-directed. Play is first and foremost what one wants to do, as opposed to what one feels obliged to do. Players not only choose to play but also how to play. One person may emerge as a leader for a while. Anyone may propose rules, and the rules must be agreeable to all. And players have the freedom to quit. This prevents leaders from enforcing rules.
  2. Play is intrinsically motivated—means are more valued than ends. Play is done for its own sake more than for some reward. Players don’t necessarily look for the easiest ways to achieve the ends. Play often has goals, but they aren’t the primary reason for the activity. Competition can turn play into non-play.
  3. Play is guided by mental rules, but the rules leave room for creativity. Play is a freely chosen activity. Play always has structure. The structure derives from the rules in the players’ minds. The rules of play are the means. The rules provide boundaries within which actions must occur. Precisely prescribed activities aren’t play.
  4. Play is imaginative. Play always involves some degree of imagination, or fantasy.
  5. Play is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind. Players have to think actively about what they are doing. Yet, play is relatively free from pressure and stress. As play is self-chosen, so is any mental tension. If the tension becomes too great, the player is free to quit.

In other words, play is self-chosen, self-directed, and always has structure. However, precisely prescribed structure turns play into non-play. In authentic order, structure and activities belong together since they are self-chosen and self-directed. In counterfeit order, structure and activities belong together since they are prescribed and enforced. Authentic order enables play, while counterfeit order ends it.

1 The idea behind authentic versus counterfeit order is inspired by Henri Bortoft who distinguished between authentic versus counterfeit wholes. The notion of authentic and counterfeit is also connected to the phenomenological idea of belonging together. See Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter (Floris Books, 2014), pp. 51f & 150—153. See also Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 70, 90—95, 132.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog where he shares his reading, book reviews, and learning.

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