Play! Interdisciplinary Network

Saturday 1st November – Monday 3rd November 2014, Prague, Czech Republic

What is “play”? The noun “play” and the verb “to play”, though related, can have quite different meanings. Either way, the term is ubiquitous and plays (!) a significant part in the depiction of many common and important aspects of existence. This is so despite – or perhaps because of – the contradiction that is inherent in the concept “play”. On the one hand, there is the sense of play that has to do with freedom, improvisation, inventiveness, not-in-earnestness, frivolity, fun, though sometimes nastiness, too  (as in playing with someone’s affections or torturing others for pleasure – think Abu Ghraib photographs, for example). On the other hand, there is play which is ritualistic and rule-governed: sport, drama, musical performance, various games, all of which have a strong element of structured performance in common. However, in both cases there is the implication that when we “play” (or a “play” is in progress), something not quite “for real” is taking place, something superfluous, perhaps, from the point of view of necessity or survival.