Advertising | Metro Eireann | Top News | Contact Us
Governor Uduaghan awarded the 2013 International Outstanding Leadership Award  •   South African Ambassador to leave  •   Roddy's back with his new exclusive "Brown-Eyed Boy"  •  
Print E-mail

The city as a space for play

Last update - Sunday, May 15, 2011, 16:23 By Tara Fannon

Cities have long been attractive locations in myth and reality. They are hubs of activity, intersections of diversity and prime locations for creativity, and as a result they can be extreme, unyielding and often unforgiving places. It is the nature of cities to transform and be transformed regularly, causing modes of life to clash and tensions to arise.

The great urban theorist Jane Jacobs said long ago that the landscape of the city could be used to experiment with different types of play as a way of fulfilling our moral purpose. Like Jacobs, I believe that play is a valid and effective way to manage the challenges, changes and contradictions distinctive to cities.
If we look around we see that creative and uncomplicated types of play are used everyday in cities around the world to make strong and specific social and political statements. They can be used to frame a message in a way that makes its meaning more accessible, and they can be a means through which hidden cultures and marginalised worlds are free to use their voices.
Play is not only an effective way to engage tensions of density and diversity, it can also be used to oppose and challenge the dominant and often divisive functions typical of urban settings. A good example of play is artistic expression. Art has always been a method of expressing joy and pleasure, and competing ideas and beliefs about the world. It can easily be considered a narrative component of play in any setting.
City art in particular is often visually striking, with artists establishing a connection with the space through use of colour, shape, texture and imagery. As viewers, this is often what we see first, sometimes forgetting that there is also a social or political message embedded within the piece.
Another example of playful activity in cities is skateboarding. Within skating culture, the body can represent a site of political resistance to convention, formality and routine, and movement of the body across the city landscape becomes a statement that counters everyday social practices.
Other examples of play include creative fundraisers like the Dublin Zombie Walk and the Super Hero Fun Run, where individuals use drama and spectacle to simulate other worlds as a way to generate greater social awareness and support for a cause.
Even street speaking and staging soap boxes around cities can be considered examples of play, as they give locals and visitors the chance to share views, rant, tell jokes or recite prose. It is instinctual for us to look for ways to thrive in our environments and we will always use actions to express ourselves in this process.
When our environments are as varied, changeable and spirited as cities are, we must devise creative and clever ways to do this, not only for ourselves but for those with  we share things in common.
Doing so just might be the key to maintaining balance within frenzied conditions. But more importantly, it might be the key to maintaining our sense of self.

Tara Fannon is a Sociology student at UCD. Her column appears regularly in Metro Éireann.

Latest News:
Latest Video News:
Photo News:
Kerry drinking and driving
How do you feel about the Kerry County Councillor\'s recent passing of legislation to allow a limited amount of drinking and driving?
I agree with the passing, it is acceptable
I disagree with the passing, it is too dangerous
I don\'t have a strong opinion either way
Quick Links