Magic Circles

This from a thesis about the amorphous computer group “Anonymous”

In the seminal Anthropological work, Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga explores the ways in which play is ingrained within human culture. One of the key terms Huizinga describes is that of the “magic circle”. Coined originally from the Mahābhārata (57), Huizinga uses the term to signify the space wherein cultural norms and expectations are altered. Spaces where the magic circle takes effect includes things such as rituals like the potlatch (58‐61), but Huizinga mostly focuses on spaces of play, such at the dice game of the Mahābhārata or the tests of virtue and strength which many cultures have (60‐70). Therefore, one can view behavior such as griefing, as an attempt to recast the magic circle within a play space. Simply put, griefers can be seen as creating a new set of rules by which to play.
page 31-2

And here’s wikipedia on the subject

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2 Responses to Magic Circles

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Could you share what it is about Magic Circles that interests you or what you find important?

    I apologize, if I may be taking the lazy route by asking directly. Reading the Wikipedia content did not reveal to me what I’m supposed to get.

    Having only recently begun reading your blog, I suppose it is possible that previous posts would make it clear.

    But given my literal mindedness, it is possible I’m so ignorant about what’s at issue such that it would escape me despite studying previous posts.

    Anyways…there you have it, my excuse list.

    What motivates me to ask for the supplemental exposition…
    I believe it worthwhile to pursue the meaning of this Magic Circles post and your intent in sharing it, because I find a great deal of value from the insights and advice in your posts I have browsed. Particularly, those which are about activists failing to sustain movements and grow them and what ought to be done to address the problems.

    And I’m also wondering what if anything you might be implying in this Magic Circles post about gaming and possible implications for social change strategy.

    And once again, at 51, and having been out since 2001, I see the challenges within activist groups attempting to sustain themselves and build movements, especially on AGW and democracy, and have been struggling with what to do…where to begin.

    Sam Gunsch

    Background/context:

    My background and interest in the content you share:

    Among the resources online and off, that I’ve found in the last few months as I attempt to rejoin activism on environmental issues, I think the the stuff you share is tops.

    I’ve only recently discovered how big gaming is online around the planet. I’ve also noticed that there exists a small movement attempting to design games for social change. This strikes me as worth investigating. But I have never played an online game.

    I think your work on organizing groups, especially engaging with new people, will be very helpful to me as I attempt to engage once again. I was volunteer or staff in activism on parks and wilderness protection for more than a decade beginning in 1987, here in Alberta, Canada. Tar sands central. Dropped out in 2001.

    The dysfunctions of meetings and other organizational processes which your posts describe are apparent right now here environmental groups, mostly led by people of 18 – 30 yrs age with passion. So at 51 and greying, I am finding I also have some generational glitches to deal with.

    So again, it was great to find your work. Really appreciated.

    I was never very good at addressing any the dysfunctions you have described, and this round, am determined to better myself if possible.

  2. dwighttowers says:

    Hi Sam,
    first, apologies for the time it has taken to approve your comment – I’ve had very limited internet access, meaning my email (and google plus!) have gotten covered, but little else.

    I put the magic circles thing up because it speaks to the need for play, for experimentation. There’s a great blogger, Viv McWaters, who’s talking a lot about this, and I recently read Peter Senge’s 1990 “The Fifth Discipline” which also talks about this (chapter 17 especially). I hope to blog about it soon.

    I am genuinely absolutely delighted that you have found some of what I wrote useful, and I hope that we can continue to have conversations – I really hope to hear about how your re-engagement proceeds. It’s difficult, but as responsible citizens, we don’t, in my opinion, have a choice (sorry if that sounds pompous!!)

    Best wishes…

    Dwight

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