Institute for Culture and Society

V ICS Lecture on Humanities and Social Sciences

The ICS Lectures are a series of annual conferences organized by the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS). Given by internationally renowned researchers, the Lectures aim to present topics that ICS research touches on to a University-wide audience.

The V ICS Lecture on Humanities and Social Sciences will take place on March 22, 2018 at 12:00 in the Aula del Instituto Cultura y Sociedad, at the University of Navarra's Main Library. Professor Peppino Ortoleva of the Università di Torino will deliver the keynote address, entitled “Homo ludens. The ubiquity of play and the fragmentation of time”.

About the lecture

The last three-four decades have witnessed, among many other changes, also an expansion, and a change, in the presence of ludic activities in the daily life of the majority of people and also in the routines of “serious” organizations, from educational institutions to industrial and commercial enterprises: a phenomenon that has been labeled as gamification.

This lecture will focus on two points:

1. The main transformations that are affecting in games and play in this stage
According to some of the most widely recognized scholars on the subject, the industrial age had been characterized by two main trends in the realm of ludicity:

a) the tendency to rigidly separate the ludic sphere from the serious life, and to consider the first essentially part of the life of children, while relatively marginal in adult life;

b) the prevalence, particularly among the grown ups, of games based on competition and gambling as opposed to those based on vertigo and disguising.

One of the most striking phenomena of the last decades has been the crisis of the rigid separation I mentioned. The separation between ludic activities and ordinary adult life is giving place to what we may call a growing “grey area”, in which games may become tools for work, rituals and even for wars, and in which ludic devices occupy a growing part of time in the life of adolescents (particularly) and also adults. In general, work, rest, play, tend more and more to merge. Also, while some more traditional forms of ludic activities for adults, like gambling, are exerting a persistent and even crescent attraction, a surprising phenomenon is the growth in vertigo games, from surf to the so called extreme sports.

2. The possible implications of these transformations
To understand the possible long term implications of these changes, one should consider that play is one of the main resources of the human beings, not only for developing some specific abilities, but more in general to adapt to a changing environment. Play is in fact a way of discovering the world by way of inventing it, and inventing the world by way of discovering it. In a situation of extraordinary rapid changes, in technology and culture, this partially explains the tendency to “use” play in education and management (and even war). But the growing attraction that play and games exert on all strata of the population goes beyond that, it has a cognitive role that needs still to be explored.

Particularly interesting is the insinuation of games into the interstices of time, which converges with the fragmentation in the use of time itself in the new information environment. This is due to the role of mobility, but also to what Marshall McLuhan called the growing tendency to behave as “information hunters-gatherers”, that breaks traditional habits and dis-organizes/re-organizes the use of even the smallest segments of time.

About the speaker

Peppino OrtolevaPeppino Ortoleva (b. Naples 1948) has been active for more than forty years as a scholar, critic, curator, at the crossroads of history, media studies, TV and radio authoring, museums and exhibits.

He is currently full professor of Storia e teoria dei media at the Università di Torino. He is the president of the Communication Sciences course in Torino. His most recent book Miti a bassa intensità (Low Intensity Myths) forthcoming, is a thorough analysis of contemporary mythologies and their presence in modern media. He has also published books on the history of the media system, on the youth movements of the Sixties, on private television in Italy and its cultural and political role, on cinema and history. He is now working on a new book about the role of misunderstanding in communication.

His activity as a curator of exhibitions and museums started in the early 1980s. Among the most recent exhibitions he has curated: Diversamente vivi on the myths of the undead in cinema and literature, 2010, Rappresentare l'Italia on the history of Italian Parliament, 2011, I mondi di Primo Levi/ Les monds de Primo Levi, 2015, Lungo un secolo on narrating the Xxth Century, 2016. He is now curating, among other projects, the city museum of Catania, in Sicily.

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