homo ludens

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Childrens' Games, 1560, oil on board, 45 x 63"

Flusser is well-known as a “media theorist,” and hardly known at all as a “games theorist.” But games figure often and prominently in his thinking and writing from the time of his earliest publications in the 1960s. I’m honoured to be a contributor to a new volume called Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe and published at Bloomsbury, probably 2020. We agreed that I would write about Flusser’s understanding of games. A draft of the essay is now with the editors. It’s called “Games and Play: Being Human in the Universe of Technical Images”

Writing the essay has clarified a few points, one of the most important being that Flusser declared play to be characteristic of human beings. We know that animals also play. But Flusser’s concern was with the difference between human beings and their apparatuses. This is the issue that lies at the heart of his frequent, although rarely detailed references to games. It sets him quite dramatically apart from, say, Huizinga (Homo Ludens: a Study of the Play Element in Culture. 1938), or Callois (Man, Play and Games, 1961).

The image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Childrens’ Games, 1560, oil on board, 45 x 63″, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

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