Is Social Media Play?

In my initial blog post, Social Media as Play, I stated that social media websites perfectly fit Johan Huizinga’s definition of play from Homo Ludens by satisfying the following criteria: freedom, inherent activity, and its limitation of time and space. While for the most part, I agree with my original claims, upon second glance I felt that there was much more to add. Continue reading

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What is it really?

Have you ever thought about what college really is?

In my Organizational Studies class, we read Robert Birnbaum’s piece, How Colleges Work. In it, Birnbaum elaborates on the idea that the collegiate system is an anarchical system, a model that can also be described as an “organized anarchy.” Defined by three characteristics, the system has problematic goals, unclear technology, and fluid participation. Much like some authors like Homer and A. Bartlett Giamatti, Birnbaum connects his argument to a sports match and games. Intrigued by the comparison, his piece proposes an interesting way to think of what college really may be, whether it be an anarchy or other type of dominant power.

“Imagine that you’re either the referee, coach, player, or spectator at an unconventional soccer match: the field for the game is round; there are several goals scattered haphazardly around the circular field; people can enter and leave the game whenever they want to; the entire game takes place on a sloped field; and the game is played as if it makes sense.”

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Facebook… turning life from play to display

Many of the readings we’ve done so far in our PoliSci class have been about the definition of play. Recently, blogger kellyv posted a very interesting article Social Media As Play drawing parallels between the idea of play and the activity of engaging in social media. While Eric Dunning explores Stone’s argument in his book Sport Histories: Figurational Studies of the Development of Modern Sports  that play has been turned into “display”, implying that it is oriented towards the satisfaction of the spectator. And so goes the existence of our cyber-identity: we have become obsessed with “pleasing the crowd” over enjoying the game of life, one move at a time. Our lives have become a continuous strive to display a version of ourselves that conform to the expectations of our spectators. Continue reading

Paying “Play”-ers

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The NCAA is getting pressure to begin to pay student athletes.

A massive debate is raging in the college athletics community. To pay players or not to pay players. The Big Ten and other conferences recently gained extra autonomy that includes the ability to give additional benefits. Excerpts from the Big Ten’s statement can be found in this Sports Illustrated article. In class we also read an article from Grantland about using athletes likenesses in video games. Athletes, former and current, believe that the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, should begin compensating them for the twenty- hour work weeks that they put in throughout the course of a season. The debate over college athletics and paying players also begs the question what is play for these athletes. Bartlett Giamatti, a former commissioner of Major League Baseball, has an interesting opinion on what play is. How would paying players change play in the NCAA? Continue reading

Is Pledging a Fraternity Play?

The University of Michigan is a one of the biggest universities in the United States and has about 27,000 undergraduates enrolled. In order to feel part of a smaller community at a large school like Michigan many students join Greek life. Around 20% of undergraduates at Michigan are involved with Greek life.

university_of_michigan_by_bagera3005-d4kqxbrGreek life at Michigan is more similar to sports than most people believe:
Rush/Free agency: Fraternity rush is most similar to that of free agency in sports. You have players, or rushes, who visit different fraternities, or teams, and try to sell themselves as to why the fraternity should sign them. Then, the fraternity, or team, tries to convince the rushes that their fraternity is the best place for them and they have the most to offer. Eventually, rushes get bids, or contract offers, and they must accept just one offer.
Pledging/Training camp: Once you sign your bid, you are accepted into the fraternity as a pledge. As a pledge you have a period of time to prove yourself, similar to training camp, before the fraternity, or team, decides to admit you as a full-time member.
I am going to focus solely on pledging and if pledging is indeed play according to Johan Huizinga.

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Sports and their Place in College


I never pictured myself at Michigan. In high school I was I was advised to attend a small liberal arts school. I essentially only applied to small schools, but when it came time to actually visit them, I realized that the only outlier in the mix that I applied to was also the only place I could actually see myself: Michigan.

I wasn’t prepared for Michigan. I may have been prepared academically, however in no way was I prepared for the jock culture that I would come to be exposed to. Everywhere you turn there’s a store selling maize and blue apparel or various deals associated with the Wolverines. The athletes, in particular the football and basketball players, are treated like Gods. They stand out in a sea of somewhat nerdy and bookish students. It’s not hard to tell who is an athlete at Michigan. Just ask anyone at this school.

Most people I talk to outside of Michigan can’t separate the University entirely from its football program. They may know who the football players are and what position they play, but when prompted to list what some of Michigan’s best programs are they come up blank.

It makes sense, however, when athletics is such a crucial part of this school and the revenue it produces.

So in what way are the athletes profiting off of this revenue? They work just as hard in many ways as the adults who make decisions for them. They go by a complicated schedule that doesn’t make a lot of room for their studies or a life outside of their team. They give most of their time and energy to the sport, Michigan, and its fans. While fans may give them recognition (there are many athletes on this campus that receive VIP status), they also don’t get much compensation after they leave the school. Athletes face the risk of concussions and other serious injuries that could greatly hinder their quality of life, not just their abilities on the field. These are injuries that players in professional sports encounter. Yet, they don’t get paid like these pro-players.

We could make the argument that they should be playing for the learning experience and getting a discount on a great education is payment enough, but when adults are profiting off of them, how is that fair?

It’s not. They’re devoting the majority of their time to the sport, they face injuries, and they also take the heat when the team doesn’t do well. Michigan and its fans already treat them like they’re celebrities, so they should be getting the payment of a celebrity.

If athletes are paid, though does it take the fun out of the sport? Indeed, it does appear that it takes some of the play and leisure out of what is meant to be an enjoyable diversion from the everyday monotony of work. It is meant to entertain. Athletics that involve play does not fit in with the definition of play that is given in Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga. He believes that play should be meant to be a diversion from regular life and still maintain the fun.

This hardly fits in with what we witness in college sports today, specifically at Michigan.

Does M Club really support you?

So to conclude, what we have going on with athletics at Michigan is a system that profits off of 19 year olds who are getting their heads smashed in with little compensation. The fun is taken out of play for the sake of monetary gain. This debate will continue to be ongoing, but it is clear that athletics at Michigan need to change. The system isn’t working.