Competition…

In the hazy crazy adrenalin-fuelled ride of a world that is the Higher Education landscape of late, competition, or at the very least a sense of the competitive, has become the norm. We are internally competing as a sector on multiple fronts; there is a sense of the various mission groups of the sector (University Alliance, Russell Group, Million Plus and Guild HE) all jostling for position in a never-ending sprint – like that bit on the track just after the runners break their lane allocation- then there is the competition of the league tables, each year causing people like myself to try unsuccessfully to fathom the mystical alchemic nuances of the algorithms by which success or failure is mathematically bestowed upon a given institution – this shape-shifting hydra morphs unpredictably (some say whimsically) from season to season, dreamed up by a poor solitary soul locked in a darkened room with only maffs for company (or, alternatively it is arrived at by placing the various commonly used institutional performance indicators on a dartboard at the other end of a football pitch and, after a pint or two and a good go on a swiftly moving playground seesaw, letting the arrows decide the weightings). And then there are the Times Higher Education Awards; twice-yearly back-slapping riots (read networking events) of epic proportions at which various institutional triumphs are (rightly) celebrated and the number one risk is injury on the competitive dance floor – flailing limbs (my own included) desperate to recover remnants of a rose-tinted youth are flung precariously in all directions with no hint of a care for anything approaching conformity to rhythm, the beat of the song being played, or even a whiff of personal coordination which could be construed as vaguely ‘together’. And then alongside this bruising competition there is TEF, and REF and the NSS and DLHE and the brand new Global Teaching Excellence Award from the HEA and more 3-4 letter acronyms with more algorithms and panels sitting behind them and faster and quicker, slicker, leaner, meaner, morer…

And second place, as they say, doth butter no parsnips…. (actually, they don’t really say that…)

And yet…

And yet, all of the above; all of the planning and graft and competition and sense of phenomenal work across the institution at all levels to make positive changes to our everyday practices and lives and the direction of travel which, put together will end up actually making things better, (we’re seeing it happen as I write) – all of this work will end up eventually being reflected in the performance indicators, which will then end up being reflected in the competition results (whatever they might be…). And yet…. And yet, all of this competition, once a year, for a brief incendiary moment, pales into insignificance behind perhaps the greatest competition of them all. For the briefest of time periods, all of the above is eclipsed by a competition so savage, so brutal and so without the thinnest hint of humanity or forgiveness, it could have been born of Mordor itself. I am, of course, referring to the pinnacle of athletic prowess that is…

Salford University Sports Day 2017.

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Admirably organised by @DSASevents, and fronted on this occasion by, amongst others, @rimmsie and raising a load of cash for our chosen charity of the year (@MindinSalford) it was a competition of epic proportions. The social media banter before hand contained more braggadocio and put-downs than a full performance from Sinatra and the Rat Pack and more swagger than a John Wayne box set.

The team from The Old Fire Station, including our DVC and Dean of Students, put together letters from each participant name to arrive at a well thought-out and catchy team name; WRENCH. (Surprisingly, no-one from marketing was present at this time.) T-shirts were duly printed with a wrench emblazoned on the chest, (geddit?) but this slightly-less-than-self-explanatory motif was subsequently interpreted by many onlookers to actually be a spanner, resulting in an unforeseen dip in the reputational stock of said band of crack athletes: pictorial semantics’ll getcha…

Stock clip-art interpretations aside, the event included trials to worry even the most versatile of heptathletes: basketball hoops, tug of war, space hopper relay and the ubiquitous egg and spoon race all tested previously untouched limits.

And we came third. Which is not bad. (it’s not entirely good, but y’know…) WRENCH came right behind the Students’ Union (who, understandably and rightly, have already started to gloat), who came right behind the winners; a disciplined team of academics from within Environmental Life Sciences (we are considering an appeal on the basis that they may have used performance enhancing cultures developed in the bio-med labs…)

Sadly (or fortuitously, depending on ones perspective) I actually had to live the event vicariously through the medium of twitter – I was just down the road presenting at a conference on retention. I was talking to colleagues from across the sector about some of the ways we’ve been enhancing retention at UoS along the idea of building an authentic, meaningful university community and a sense of pride and belonging in place and space.

I think I should have just asked the delegates to come and join in the egg and spoon and to soak up some of what I saw impressions of on twitter – I think that was a much more meaningful expression of belonging in action…

See you next week.

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Possibility and space

I had a blog entry in mind for this week, but that idea has been shimmied carefully into my back pocket. It’ll probably make an appearance next week (ooh the suspense…) as I can see, in my mind, how it might link to this week’s thoughts. Bear in mind, oh loyal reader (both of you – hello Mum) my mind does not travel in straight lines, so the link, at present so clear to me, might be tangential at best and akin to obtuse logic at worst. However, if you’re still with me a week from now (I promise you the benefits do occasionally outweigh the disadvantages) and are wondering about the link between this entry and the one intended, I think its all down to the notion of possibility.

I like the concept of possibility – it has so many facets and inherent tensions – what will be, what might be and what could be. In the world of my naturally optimistic mind, possibility also carries with it a tentative sense of hope, but also for me, a sense (demand) of personal agency in ensuring that which is hoped for becomes…. Becomes… well, just becomes, really. Which also points to the other aspect of possibility which I find hugely attractive – it’s forward looking; for better or for worse, its all about the future. Today actions are simply writing the basis for tomorrow’s adventure. As an educationalist, I find the possibility of possibility possibly the most exciting thing there is about my work – helping people build future selves – what a phenomenal, awe inspiring and terrifying responsibility and gift…

I suspect more thoughts on the characteristics of possibility as a concept will emerge over the next few entries…

So what happened this week, and what might I be writing about next week which carry the idea of possibility? Well, you’ll have to wait till next week for next week’s topic (such is life, folks – this isn’t a Netflix box set binge session y’know) but this week it was all about space. Two spaces, actually; encountered across campus from each other within in minutes of each other.

The first space was our new multi-faith centre. I was privileged to be invited to formally open the building. It’s a huge achievement and a clear example of what happens when staff and students from across the university collaborate and work together to produce something really quite special.

 

The centre brings together a team of Chaplains from various faiths represented on campus and co-locates them all together under one roof – sector leading – I’ve already been told that we’re the envy of immediate neighbours, and colleagues from further afield are coming to see the model we’ve (co)created. The building is also much more than just a place for religious observance – it has meeting facilities and spaces for quiet contemplation. Walking round during the opening I was struck by how calm the place was and what significant opportunity it gave for dialogue, discussion and debate – a collegiate meeting place for ideas – isn’t that what a university should be fostering? More than this, its also open to the wider Salford community – tea and coffee is on hand at any time. It’s a forward thinking example of a porous campus offering, building bridges (not walls) between the different and diverse constituencies which help make our university the vibrant, internationalised and yet locally embedded, home that it is.

The second space (chronologically speaking) was the Allerton Beehive. Funky just ain’t the word, and ‘Beehive’ somehow grabs the essence of the space. It’s a new learning environment for all students situated near the café in Allerton. Again, this is a really forward thinking space. It offers the possibility of collaboration and messiness. It has several rooms, quiet little areas, comfy seating and group work spaces which can be booked out by students. With networked rooms, shift-able furniture and walls that double up as floor to ceiling doodle/ note pads (the invite to scribble on the walls is explicit) it’s a beautiful example of a disruptive, creative learning environment which fosters active and collaborative learning – and the development of a skillset absolutely aligned to real world work and our ICZs. The students have loved it – the graffiti on the walls already echo out a very positive reception.

And now you’re thinking, but… possibility…. Spaces… c’mon – tie it together… (alright, alright…)

The exciting thing about the development of these spaces is not the actual facilities themselves, but the actions, thinking, behaviours, conversations and meetings that they enable – for me it’s the sense of the possibility which sits in the spaces, which wasn’t there before, but now is… These spaces are catalysts for positive developments. Exactly what developments, I don’t know and moreover, couldn’t possibly predict, but I know that these spaces will foster things that I can’t even imagine. In that way they will become more than the sum of their parts – the possibility for positive growth and development, be in it in the collaborative shenanigans of the beehive, or in the meeting of ideas in the multi-faith centre, is huge and will help shape numerous futures and that’s why I’m drawn by the spaces – to me they are possibilities rendered as present – how exciting. I’m looking forward to the adventures they create…

See you next week.

Expansions and contractions in Ramallah

So I’ve been in Ramallah this week. It’s been brilliant, hectic fun in which rehearsed flexibility has been key. I’ve been here with the British Council, on the first visit of a programme which seeks to develop and embed entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial thinking into the practice of Palestinian universities, such that the graduates of these universities could then operate with entre/ intrapreneurial mindsets and capabilities. It’s a really interesting programme and has stemmed from my visit to Bethlehem and Ramallah in May last year – I blogged about it here.

What was an initial visit to present a paper I co-authored with Helen Marshall, our Vice Chancellor has, by means of a couple of workshops and many conversations with the British Council, turned into a genuinely exciting programme of work, in which projects aligned to the endeavour of developing entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial teaching and learning are being shaped by an inter-institutional team from the UK. This last point in itself is exciting – its great to be collaborating with colleagues from other universities – its particularly rewarding since we’re all from the same mission group (University Alliance); the development of resilient graduates through distinctive real world learning is, I think, part of the special character of our mission group – its certainly there in bundles at Salford.

Anyhow, on this visit we’ve been working with colleagues from seven Palestinian universities to kick off their projects and position our full programme as a large piece of action-research in itself – watch this space for further details on that front…

However, whilst the formal content of the three full days we’ve been here has been fun at full tilt in itself, I actually want to pull out a brief moment outside those workshoppy spaces and places; it came after the first day of workshops, on the evening of our second day here…

It’s the first time I’ve worked with Dr Joan Lockyer from Coventry University, and Dr Gillian Jack (or amusingly, and pleasingly briefly, Dr Jack Gillian, as the first version of her airline ticket read – cue 15 minutes of being exceptionally nice to lovely BA staff at stupid o clock in the morning) from the University of South Wales. We’ve all reflected on how well and how quickly we have meshed as a team – in early instances of team teaching I have found it a rarity to be comfortable enough with material and unfamiliar colleagues to be able to happily ditch well-laid plans and the rosy cosy comfort blanket of rehearsed text, and play, improvise and shift things around as the need arises. However, we’ve done just this, and the outcome has been all the more robust for doing so.

Anyway, at the end of the first day of workshops, there was a palpable and shared sense of ‘that went pretty well – we’re onto something here – I think its going to be a good outcome’ between us. A slightly tentative breath out, but not all the way, not just yet. Given that we’d been indoors all day, and were riding on the kind of high one has when walking into sunshine after a concentrated indoor task, we decided to take a walk up the road from the hotel and into the winding Ramallah streets and the Souk.

It was an ambling walk during a hazy dusk, wandering where the pathways took us, round countless street vendors selling corn, and spices and sandals and strawberries – mountains of strawberries, and sneakers and hot tea and coffee and strange vegetables stacked house high on carts and boxes and all of this visual and olfactory feast was cloaked in a cacophony of car horns, and shouted wares and unfamiliar music and chatter and in the background, the droning song-speak of mosques as the call to prayer floated out chants and guiding hands called a hundred thousand times over; incantations which grounded the whole scene in a tradition which blended with the thump from stereo speakers in the street.

Here’s a little video which captures some of it…

https://www.flickr.com/photos/samgrogan/shares/9u457P

You can see a full slide show of the trundle here.

Afterwards, we had dinner in our hotel and then put the world to rights over a glass of wine (that last bit implies the singular, rather than the plural – I’d be sandpapering actual truths into a more respectable form if I let that stand; there was wine and it was definitely in more than one glass.)

The conversation between Gill, Joan and myself was broad, deep and thoroughly enjoyable, seamlessly flowing (like said beverages) across subjects as diverse as Kantian thinking, hermeneutics, phenomenology, to politics, to genetics and inter generational genetic memory, to solipsism, deterministic thinking, to embodied knowing and consciousness, to play theory and social constructivism, to soft networks and organisational structures. Sadly, we didn’t manage to get to the X-factor, but there’s a limit, y’know? We did, over several scribbled napkins, also capture the essence of an idea about a potential shared venture of a book – even managing to arrive, after some time, at a working structure and tasks forward.

It was very good wine.

My reflection on all of this – the intense day, the seemingly aimless wandering (which was just as much about being mentally led by the sights and sounds of the souk, as the physical activity of the pootle) and the highly enjoyable and, as it turns out, productive conversation over dinner, is that, I don’t think the remarkable dinner conversation could have happened with out the contraction of the day, and then the release of the walk – both episodes contributed to the final chapter of the day and were foundational in its architecture. Again, similarly to my post last week, it’s partially about a subjective experience of time – contractions and expansions giving rise to different body-mind states, each of which offers opportunity. Another reminder to myself to recognise, search out and nurture the gifts which are always, always there.

Finally, this blog entry actually has multiple purposes – firstly, it’s a piece of personal reflective writing on experience which is to be shared with our Palestinian colleagues – to those readers – I hope its useful. And secondly, this is my documentation of my day for the 365 days of experience being captured at the University of Salford as part of the story of our 50th year. It’s not been a bad day at all…

See you next week.

Sunshine, a playful attitude and some imagination

I’ve been thinking about attitudes this week and how they colour ones approach to, and receipt of, well… everything. The thing that nudged me in this direction was an evening walk in beautifully golden sun in the fields and woods near my house. The sunlight was just fantastic and literally coloured everything.

 

This led me, in my tangential manner (you should all be used to this – this is post 10) to think about how an attitude of playfulness is necessary. This, my lovely readers, is where I went…

Eva Karczag described the way she approaches the act of dancing; ‘playing lightly, with complete absorption, utter conviction and intense pleasure, I enter and inhabit emergent worlds of the imagination and abandon myself to the physical delight of moving’ (Karczag, cited in Claid 2006: 209). Interestingly Karczag also notes the involvement of the imagination in her reflections upon her experience.

Karczag describes ‘emergent worlds’ and a ‘physical delight’; a wonderful description of dance as an imaginative and creative ludic activity, which brings together the possible and the actual into one sphere of being: a merging of the psychic and the objective domains. However, what’s striking about Karczag’s description of what she does, is the implied attitude of the performer during these periods of time. There seems to be a deliberate attitude adopted by the performer in their work, which invites in play. When action is imbued and therefore transformed by this attitude, it becomes played – the attitude of approach is playful and colours everything, like the sunshine from my evening walk. So it seems that the creativity and activated imagination of the individual engaged in play is an essential part of that which makes the activity itself (whatever it is) playful.

Playfulness appears to be a ‘mode of doing’ which must be entered into willingly by the player – it’s a common complaint of artists across disciplines that creativity cannot be demanded, or produced ‘on tap’ – it’s a voluntary state of being into which one enters voluntarily. There’s an element of freedom from the norm in this luxurious space which allows us to move away from the everyday and step into what I’ve touched upon in previous entries here as a liminal space. Conversely, to be creative to order feels a lot like working. I think working play is wholly different from the creative play of a player playing, because working play then becomes work. I always think of this when I accidentally see professional football on the TV (It’s always by accident as I’m channel hopping on the way to somewhere else – I’m not a fan…). Professional football is, to me, just watching people do work. I see teams playing tactically, players playing for the match win bonus, for the accolade, material and otherwise, and I see a game plan unfold driven by league tables and match results. Essentially, I see the deployment of considerable skill and energy in pursuit of extrinsic goals. Very rarely (fingers on one hand time) have I seen the players and the manager forget all the extrinsic motivations and become so absorbed, so engulfed, so drawn in to the game that it ceases to be work. On the rare occasions when this workfulness disappears, the players have room to play, and from a genuine position of loving the act of doing and being absorbed in this, enter a state of playfulness. At the other end of the sporting skills spectrum, I’ve had the fortune to watch several of my friend’s young children play in their Saturday league football matches. These matches, largely bereft of skill, finesse, tactical playing, or more often than not, anything resembling concerted team coordination, are riveting. Every player is totally wrapped in the action, playing with all their might, heart on sleeve. Totally absorbed, totally playful.

In a different but related vein, and thinking about my own discipline background, theatre creates the beautifully paradoxical situation at the heart of systematic playfulness. This is the situation whereby the performer is asked to enter willingly into the game of performance at the same time every night. Whether the player enters playfully into the game or not is part of the perceived difference between a performance that flows and one that does not – work and play again…We’ve all seen electrifying performances and also ones that are just…. flat. The creativity of the performer will engage when they allow themselves to be taken and actually be played themselves by the game, playing it as if for the very first time, in order to uncover, in Viola Spolin’s words ‘personal freedom when we are faced with a reality and see it, explore it and act accordingly. In this reality the bits and pieces of ourselves function as an organic whole. It is the time of discovery, of experiencing of creative vision’ (Spolin 1983: 4). Similarly to Spolin, another performer, Kirstie Simson, in reflecting upon her attitude in performance, explains aspects of playfulness:

‘It’s about honesty. The work is in opening to what is genuine. I try to create an open space that lets people in. The big challenge is in letting myself be who I am. It is very scary to go out there,physically go out there, letting go of everything that fixes. So that is my work, to create an atmosphere of open-ness, so the audience and I can trust the moment of play that is happening.’

D.W. Winnicott (1971) describes this creative playful state of being as a ‘colouring of the whole attitude’ towards actuality. So it seems that the attitude of playfulness and the act of creation is an imaginative sublimation of reality. We are able to see and experience our environment, whatever that might be – an idea, a landscape, a sculpture, a football game, a theatre piece – as new, recreating it as fit for the playing. The activity of make-believe involves a psychic re-appropriation of one’s surroundings in order to create a state of being that is intrinsically motivated – is driven by worth in and of itself. So, using an example of make-believe, or theatre, the player stands on the upturned bucket as a runaway marooned on an island. This ludic act is fun, through and through.

It’s this playfulness, this intrinsic sense of fun that we need find within our endeavours at Salford as we co-create the implementation of our new strategy and build the exciting strategic priority of our Industrial Collaboration Zones. As has been said before, the differentiation is in the how, as much as the what…

A little longer blog than usual, but that’s what a good dose of sunshine does.

See you next week.

Messing it up

I’d like to think I’m a habitually tidy person. Clothes are put away, dishes are washed and before moving on to the next thing, the last thing is returned to a state of ‘clean slate’. Sometimes I’ve been known to go too far with this – in a fit of ‘must have a clutter free house’ the remote control for the TV has been known to surface in the fridge.

Anyhow, my point is, despite occasionally finding unusual hiding places for Things That Have Been Left Out, I’m generally neat and ordered. However, all this changes under certain circumstances. These are the circumstances that see me making things, or thinking creatively. I’m lucky enough to be able to do both a lot. Creativity and making are states of being/doing that require differently configured space. Enter Messy Spaces stage right….

I should clarify from the outset, ‘messy’ doesn’t mean disorganised, haphazard doesn’t mean untidy and chaotic doesn’t, in this instance, imply a lack of order. ‘Messy’ here simply means space which becomes governed by an intrinsic set of guidelines, all of which can be adjusted to suit, and which recognise the value in colouring outside the lines, leaving the ‘mess’ on the floor, tacking this to that as a reminder of the other and letting creative intuition and what feels right be a guiding organisational principle. You can read a lightly affirming article on this here.

Thankfully, I’m not alone – there are other examples…

As part of my PhD I shadowed Vincent Dance Theatre through the 10 week devising and rehearsal process for a touring piece called If We Go On. The making space for this work was inhabited by the company for the entirety of the devising process. Although the space was tidied to a certain extent at the end of each day, there was a clear sense of accumulation of material with the state of the space at the end of the day carrying forward into the next day. What I’m highlighting is that the gathering and reworking of performance material was not entirely ordered, and that this was deliberate. There were numerous occasions where the latest version of a given piece of text was misplaced and then found floating in amongst stacks of other pieces of paper, or maybe it was tucked into other lists and thoughts elsewhere in the space. Prominent value was given to the unpredictability of intuitive making processes.

As I was documenting VDT’s work, I too was making a productive mess. for the duration of the PhD – certainly its latter stages, my study at home remained a physical testament to the tangential thought processes of writing. Books, post-it notes, scribbles and mind maps spread were all over the floor as they jostled for space alongside scraps of digital footage and audio recordings. All of this was very messy, but not without order – whilst I’ll freely admit that to the casual passerby my room gave the appearance that we’d suffered a very localised burglary, it actually had a spatial sense of order aligned to the cognitive organisation of topics I was writing about.

Crucially messy spaces allow for making to occur – whether it be sensible or intelligible matter that is being played with and made into something, making spaces are a call to adventure, a call to dance to a different tune (or indeed write a new tune of ones own design). Making space affords us the delicious possibility of literally ‘messing up’, of productively making mistakes and importantly, offers the possibility of creative subversion. Public spaces such as this are ‘dangerous’: they promote autonomy, new thinking and innovative practices. Out there in the world of the public domain there are fewer opportunities for such space to exist.

But in the educational domain….?

Primary schools seem to have clung on to these making spaces – take a look below…

Similarly the private sector has some good examples of making spaces; the value of making and messy space as a catalyst for disruptive creativity has been recognised – for instance, the similarities between the primary school environments seen above and some of Google’s spaces are striking…

At the University of Salford, whilst we already have practical spaces around campus ranging from theatre spaces, to a podiatry clinic to a full-scale energy house, we’re developing more messy space – we’re thinking about messy spaces and making spaces as part of the development of our Industrial Collaboration Zones. These are the sandpits, the meeting places for making things, for kinesthetic learning and for the real world.

Welcomingly, by making something, our students can move away from the popular notion of ‘student as consumer’ – they become producers. More than this, with the notion of co-creation embedded into our strategy at Salford, students become co-producers; of their graduating skillset, of their portfolio and more fundamentally and profoundly, of themselves and their potential. Making and producing the ‘messy’ is a key part of this becoming – it’s essential for ongoing success as pointed out in this great Guardian article.

So, in the interests of helping produce graduates who can invent, and test and disrupt and create, bring on the making, bring on the clutter, bring on disruptive process, bring on messy.

(Please tidy away when finished.)

 

See you next week.

Take a Chance?

I went to the 2016 Educational Strategy Forum with one of my colleagues this week. The two day event in Windsor had a very packed agenda containing a mixture of talks, networking and short business meetings (some pre-arranged) with various vendors and sponsors of the event (it was free for participants on the basis of sponsorship by a number of companies engaged in developing edtech and the services and structures that support the student learning journey). In the evening we had dinner – again hosted by some of the event sponsors.

Whilst the content and information contained within the event itself was certainly interesting at worst, illuminating at best and informative throughout, what struck me most about the event across its two days was the way it was designed – its format and structures.

The geographical architecture of the conference held at the Beaumont Estate  created a variety of spaces and settings in which interactions could occur. Some spaces were set up with small high tables and chairs – think towards the round tables and chairs set around pillars in a typical pub. There were also a number of rooms set up café style and used for presentations, some working hot-desk areas and then there were the little spaces within and across these rooms; sofas grouped together or clusters of comfy chairs around low coffee tables. Additionally, power sockets were ubiquitous, offering delegates the possibility of setting up a pop up office.

There were no large, open spaces, and there were only two ways in or out of the section of the hotel occupied by the event. Seating at the main talks and presentations was not assigned and, like myself, many delegates sat at different tables throughout the event, leading to there being an ever shifting collection of colleagues around me.

In a similar vein, the shape of each session also changed frequently. There were fairly traditional talks and presentations, debates, 1-2-1 meetings, a fairly exhausting ‘speed dating’ session, and numerous informal meetings and exchanges of ideas and thoughts. There were also concurrent events happening much of the time; the colour of one’s lanyard dictated which ‘stream’ of events to attend.

I mention all of this detail because it seems that deliberately fostering the opportunity for short meetings, chance or otherwise, was a key aspect of the event design – it encouraged interactions which might (or might not) be the beginning of something more – these were not prolonged engagements, but initial sparks. I gained the feeling that there was always the possibility of meeting someone round the next corner – indeed, I actually met two more colleagues I didn’t know were attending by chance in a corridor – it was these kind of encounters the event nudged to the surface. It was an enjoyable, fast paced and ‘full’ event.

I travelled back from Windsor with my colleague. Having dissected the event and agreed actions to take forward, and realising that connecting to Virgin wifi on a train is a task akin to nailing mist to a wall, we played cards.

We played two games, only one of which has a name repeatable in polite company. Both however, have rules which allow the player full rein for devious behaviour, causing the other player woe of varying scales. It was thoroughly enjoyable to play (just) within the rules whilst at the same making the most of the chance happenings that offered, or took away advantage.

It would seem that a certain degree of chance delights the participant. Chance within agreed parameters or rules can be seen as both play and perhaps playful – it invites in unexpected or unforeseen possibilities within a wider stable framework. The state of play itself isn’t fixed and static; a known thing with a predetermined outcome, but a state which contains flux, a degree of unpredictability, and the possibility of the unexpected. Roger Caillois explains that, ‘an outcome known in advance, with no possibility of error or surprise, clearly leading to an inescapable result is incompatible with the nature of play’ (Caillois 2001:7).

Both the conference structure and the card games on the way home were playful exercises in engineered chance; little surprises were uncovered within a (comforting?) framework of the expected.

Building on this, it strikes me that a playful sense of jouissance, a sense of safe danger might be part of what we are trying to create at the University of Salford as we build our Industrial Collaboration Zones (ICZs). They are interdisciplinary exploring, making and meeting places for translating thinking into applied action. At their best they’ll become creative play spaces where deliberate chance is deliberately given a chance. We’re developing their structures at the moment. It’s an exciting time…

See you next week.