A Theory of Play and Fantasy – Bateson

Formulated as a series of hypotheses/ideas:

  1. Verbal communication types (177-178)
    1. Denotative
    2. Metalinguistic – subject of discourse is language itself
    3. Metacommunicative – subject of discourse is relation b/t speakers
    4. Implicit information on how to interpret metacomm messages21_10
  2. Evolution: key stage is recognition of sign as signal
    1. -> representation can now be evaluatedtumblr_lmihx1EadF1qa70eyo1_1280
  3. Observed monkeys play: resembles combat, but human observers can tell it isn’t, and monkeys themselves are also aware it isn’t (179)
    1. Requires metacommApes (2)
  • 4. Message of “this is play” (180)
    1. = what we are doing does not mean what it does normally
    2. Playful action denotes that action, but not what the action itself denotes
    3. E.g. a nip denotes a bite, but not aggression
    4. 2 degrees of abstraction used

    Annex - Wray, Fay (King Kong)_03

  • 5.  Map-territory relation: message does not consist of what it denotes (180-181)
    1. Play denotes actions of not-playtumblr_m6l9tt2x861r0n0m5o1_500
  • 6.  Threat is like play metacomm (181)tumblr_m00q4bodoJ1qzx0kho1_r1_500
  • 7.  Histrionic behavior, deceit, dramatization as well
    1. Note that (6) and (7) are seen in animalstumblr_m6gsxiYMkx1qbkqluo1_500
  • 8. Play, threat, etc. are all part of a complex of phenomenaLego Monsters
  • 9. Ritual: distinguish denotation from denoted (182)tumblr_kqwocsApXb1qa6x5yo1_500

10.  More complex play: actions built around the question “is this play?”

  1. E.g. hazing ritualsApes

11.  Second paradox of play: actions performed are themselves fictional

  1. 1st paradox: play = not meaning what is said
  2. 2nd = what is said doesn’t existanigif_enhanced-buzz-12260-1354382204-1

12.  Non-denoted thing can be taken as real (183)

  1. E.g. a movie that scares you
  2. Note issues of immersion appear hereexor

13.  Frames and contexts: the paradoxical frame (184)

  1. “everything in this frame is false. I love you. I hate you.”4055826016_9982032f60

14.  If first statement is false -> rest are true

  1. Primary reaction
  2. Higher level thought recognizes this is not necessary (independent truth values)51c42c7be9ac0c1325bde1ef67ae79a96d8709f5_m

15.  When playing, the frame can go unrecognized (185)

  1. Lack awareness of metastatements
  2. (magic circle)d20259da5ecf0601a067c2044f473b59d0c7b1f8_m

16.  Premises are intransitive

  1. Implies very limited domainfd803a7281368f0bbe061e290be8b95d7eda5b8d_m

17.  Definition of a psychological frame (186)

  1. 1) delimits a set/class of action

i.      Distinguishes play from nonplay

  1. 2) boundary of frame can be recognized and representedGrossesKino_Einr_engl_360H_Titanic

18.  Function and use of psychological frame (187)

  1. Exclusive – excluding some things includes others
  2. Inclusive – including some things excludes others
  3. Related to premises – must interpret things w/in the frame different from those outside

i.      All included share premises

  1. Metacomm – message that defines the frame -> instructions on interpretation (188)
  2. Metacomm + metalinguistic messages define set of messages frame is about

i.      All are about or define a frame

  1. Frame vs perceptual gestalt

i.      Frames need an outer frame to define the ground for figures

ii.      Background set must all be same degree of abstraction as the foreground set (189)

iii.      Serves to delimit a logical type

iv.      Thus paradoxical (dividing 2 logical types)apesa

19.  3 types of message seen in animal behavior

  1. Mood-signs
  2. Simulations of mood-signs
  3. Messages to enable the receiver to distinguish (a) and (b)

i.      E.g. “this is play”dcbd4196fbe3e8e379a0d7d226bbe78aebe87272_m20.  This triadic constellation is seen elsewhere (190)


21.  Frames for psychotherapy

  1. Is psychopathology due to frame/paradox handling?
  2. Does psychotherapy use frames/paradoxes?
  3. Can we explain this process of manipulation in terms of frames/paradoxes?daniel arsham 3[10]

22.  Schizophrenic = lack metacomm

  1. Treats metaphor as the message
  2. (this is computers; data = process)983541265807764

23.  Therapy = change patients metacomm habits (191)

  1. Must communicate at a meta-level about changes in metacomm rules
  2. Frame = spatial + temporal boundary on a set of interactive messages***
  3. (magic circle!)
  4. Therapy = recognize, discuss, and change metacomm rules (192)

i.      Then resume play/game

ii.      Issue is we can’t really separate the 2 processes

  1. Must discuss changes w/in the game
  2. Rules remain implicit, but are changeable
  3. Must propose experimental actions as part of the gametumblr_md6melIEgR1qz6f9yo1_500

24.  Not clear on explaining frontdprFl

25.  Paradoxes of abstraction are necessary

  1. Allows communication to evolve rulestumblr_m4oyisaDRk1qa48hso1_500

Summary notes:

-need to implicitly suggest new actions/rules/modifications

-improv and shared mental models

-cannot step outside normal bounds

-everything must remain w/in the regular course of interaction

-e.g. Super Mario Bros. where blocks suggest an action w/o explicitly telling you

-cannot / should not break 4th wall

-meanings of actions do not extend universally, but are local to a frame/situation or a smaller portion of one

-key idea is metacommunication – ability to recognize + send messages regarding the relation b/t interactors

-multiple levels of interpretation of messages

Mario dances



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