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Polit­i­cal play is a mode of think­ing crit­i­cal­ly about pol­i­tics, and of devel­op­ing an ago­nis­tic approach to those pol­i­tics. This ago­nism is framed through car­ni­va­lesque chaos and humour, through the appro­pri­a­tion of the world for play­ing. By play­ing, by care­ful­ly nego­ti­at­ing the pur­pose of play­ing between plea­sure and the polit­i­cal, we engage in a trans­for­ma­tive act.

Quote tak­en from PARTICIPATORY REPUBLICS: PLAY AND THE POLITICAL by Miguel Sicart on the Play Mat­ters book blog.

I love where Miguel is going with his think­ing on the rela­tion­ship between play, pol­i­tics, appro­pri­a­tion and resis­tance.

I am inter­est­ed in this because at Hub­bub we have been explor­ing sim­i­lar themes through the mak­ing of games and things-you-can-play-with.

The big chal­lenges with this remain in the area of instru­men­tal­i­sa­tion – if you set out to design a thing that encour­ages this kind of play you often end up with some­thing that is far from play­ful.

But the oppor­tu­ni­ties are huge because so much of today’s strug­gles of indi­vid­u­als against the state relate to leg­i­bil­i­ty and con­trol in some way, and play is the per­fect anti­dote.

For exam­ple short­ly after read­ing Miguel’s piece I came across this McKen­zie Wark piece on extrastate­craft via Hon­or Harg­er. Extrastate­craft shifts the focus from archi­tec­ture and pol­i­tics to infra­struc­ture.

Infra­struc­ture is how pow­er deploys itself, and it does so much faster than law or democ­ra­cy.

You should read the whole thing. What’s fas­ci­nat­ing is that Wark briefly dis­cuss­es strate­gies and tac­tics for resist­ing such state­craft.

So the world might be run not by state­craft but at least in part by extrastate­craft. East­er­ling: “Avoid­ing bina­ry dis­po­si­tions, this field of activ­i­ty calls for exper­i­ments with ongo­ing forms of lever­age, reci­procity, and vig­i­lance to counter the vio­lence imma­nent in the space of extrastate­craft.” (149) She has some inter­est­ing obser­va­tions on the tac­tics for this. Some exploit the infor­ma­tion­al char­ac­ter of third nature, such as gos­sip, rumor and hoax. She also dis­cuss­es the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the gift or of exag­ger­at­ed com­pli­ance (relat­ed per­haps to Zizek’s over-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion), and of mim­ic­ry and com­e­dy.

Gos­sip, rumor and hoax” sound a lot like the car­ni­va­lesque reflec­tive-in-action polit­i­cal play Miguel is talk­ing about.

To fin­ish off, here’s a video of the great James C. Scott on the art of not being gov­erned. He talks at length about how peo­ples have his­tor­i­cal­ly fled from state­craft into geo­graph­i­cal zones unreach­able by power’s infra­struc­ture. And how they deploy their own, state-resis­tant infra­struc­ture (such as par­tic­u­lar kinds of crops) to remain illeg­i­ble and uncap­turable.