In February, I was in The Netherlands for a few days to visit my newborn niece.
Of course, she was the cutest thing in the whole wide world and I just could not keep my eyes and hands off her. I tickled her, played peek-a-boo, did little dances for her. Being only 5 weeks old, she probably did not understand much of what I was doing; I tried playing with her, but for her to understand it as playing was probably a bit much to ask. Until that time, the only things she had mastered were crying, pooing, drinking, and sleeping, and she was still far from understanding those important things as ‘concepts’, let alone grasping the concept of ‘play’.
This made me think: is it possible to play with someone who does not understand that what you are doing is playing, or does not understand what you are doing at all? Or is it the other way around: does playing need a lack of awareness, at least partially, to be actually playful? Are there degrees of playfulness, and would that mean that the best play is between objects, assuming that objects do not have consciousness at all (although even that is questioned by some), like the wind playing with a plastic bag? The answer is probably that different types of play need different degrees of awareness. Think of my tiny niece: as soon as she has some control over her own movements, she will start playing on her own, even though awareness of it will only follow years later. But then, think of “the game of love”: is it (still) a game when the other does not know that you are playing or when the other no longer wants to play?
How playful can we be in the academic surroundings that Nyx tries to escape from, but is necessarily also a part of? Is this whole interaction of asking and answering, writing and reading, a form of play itself or does the reflection on playing actually diminish its playfulness? Maybe this is one of those situations where you have to learn by doing. So, immerse yourself in this second Issue of Nyx, a noctournal: find out more about different types of play in the theatre of politics; learn about which sanity buttons to press (and why there are buttons in the first place); see how games can begin and why they come to an end; and discover how play can make visible what was first invisible.
– Hermien Lankhorst