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Exercises in Humility: Gregory Bateson on Contingency, Croquet, and Revising Habits of Thought through Play
Publisher: Journals Gateway
Leonardo (2023) 56 (1): 58–63.
Published: 01 February 2023
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AbstractView article PDF
Though critics consider games fundamentally indeterminate, common sense dictates that game-based contingency is paradigmatically delimited—possible moves and outcomes preset and immutable. Drawing on cyberneticist Gregory Bateson, this article elaborates a second paradigm for game-based contingency wherein the game neither determines possibilities beforehand nor excludes aberrance but integrates contingency by recursively modifying its structure. It explicates this second paradigm’s ethical import vis-à-vis the croquet match in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and “fumblecore” video game Sumotori Dreams . Whereas most games encourage prediction, reinforce norms, and furnish a sense of mastery, these recursive games can frustrate calculation, unsettle habits, and humble players.