Monday, May 21, 2012

Affinity Spaces, Collisions, and King's Dream

A Time to Break the Silence (M.A. Reilly, 2009)


It catches me by surprise when my son tells me that the age range on his Minecraft server is 7 to 73.  Eight decades. Wow, what a range of experience, a collection of perspectives, a sounding of life stories.

As a mom, I have an ear to that server and am marveling at what I am coming to understand: connected play allows for the development of ideas--'people collisions' so to speak--that have the potential to generate new ideas, open perspectives, allow for reconsideration. These collisions are inherently nomadic: just where individual ideas begin to morph into new epiphanies is difficult to trace--if at all. Now for sure, there have always been groups and ideas that have rubbed up against one another--neighborly interactions. What's different in this connected world of affinity spaces is the juxtaposition of people who previously would not have had the occasion to notice one another, let alone form important relationships.  On my son's server there is:
  • A 73-year-old Minecraft player from Canada.  
  • A Sultan, a 20-something Saudi prince.
  • A 9-year old beginning coder from Pennsylvania.
  • A 'with it' girl coder from just outside London.
  • A veritable ABCs of teens and more teens from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France...Russia...US and so on...
  • A teacher from Jersey.
Oh to be fly on that wall when this group starts chatting. Who can begin to name the possibilities that open as these players mix, collide? When I think about all those collisions, I get hopeful and I think maybe, just maybe King's dream might become reality.


The first time I recall seeing my dad cry was the day Dr.  King was murdered.  I was a child then and the image of my 6' 2" father bowed by sadness remains decades later.  Dr. King had a dream that we still might get right.   He said:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Might our children become less influenced by racism as they interact with others from around the globe and from across geographic areas that are separated by income, gender, belief?  Might they code difference differently when they experience others on a daily basis?  Might affinity spaces, such as a Minecraft server, produce occasions for becoming (other)wise?


We're in the car--the site of so much conversation--when my son tells me that he has changed the economic system he is using on his server from capitalism to communism.  I am uncertain as to what he means by this but do listen as he tells me that capitalism is so yesterday and it just seems to work out so much better when people have what they need.

Who decides what is needed? I ask.

You only have to say.   It's smoother that way, he says.

You only have to say. Hmm.


How different is our perspective when the world is understood as being abundant, enough? Might thinking make it so?