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June 24, 2014

The Playground as Semantic Environment

The Playground as a Semantic Environment
According to Lady Allen, “When we think of play opportunities for all ages we should never forget that play is not a passive occupation. For children and young people it is an extension of their desire to make their own discoveries in their own time and at their own pace” (Hurtwood, p. 2). Children’s interaction in a playground produces a snippet of social reality. As they fashion meanings around their actions and reactions, they, along with the others in the playground construct the social reality of that playground at that moment.
If the people’s interactions are to proceed smoothly and satisfactorily, they must establish shared definition of their situations. The cultural training of people helps them to define similarly; they learn to interpret most behaviors the same way that others in their culture do. This is necessary because the structure of a semantic environment rests upon a foundation of such smooth interaction, in which each participant aligns his or her actions with those of others. This continuous flow of interpretations, assessments, and reactions comes into focus through the lens of symbolic Interactionism.
Language and methods of communication, which are appropriate in one semantic environment, are usually not utilized in another semantic environment. For example in playgrounds and sports, children use the expressions like “game plan” or “Captain of the ship” which cannot be used in a different semantic environment for example workplace. Thus language used in one semantic environment requires first “setting up the modes of discourse and consequently the modes of inquiry of the second”.
According to Neil Postman a semantic environment requires people, purpose, general rules of discourse and the particular communication used in this situation (Postman, p.9). This report uses Playground as a semantic environment where people are usually children, whose purpose is to play.
Many of the rules of discourse in a semantic environment are based on situational regulations of behavior. Rules of discourse in playground are often based on nonverbal communication consists largely on gestures, especially by face and hands, that can add considerable power to messages. Children and players can communicate with strong yet silent messages in the playground. These nonverbal messages usually convey the feelings of the children more truthfully than do their words, because people have less awareness of their body language.
Each social setting offers a different audience to please, different threats to various aspects of identity. For example children in their class may be seen as too upright and uninteresting. People take considerable care in each situation to present themselves in such a way as to satisfy that particular audience, to elicit in them the desired responses or perceptions. This is Impression Management. Impression management teaches people what can or cannot be said in a particular semantic environment.
Children also give off messages by the way they manage the space between them and others. All over playground children protect their personal space from invasion by strangers. The rules for this interaction are not rigid. For example, children in a crowded, noisy, playground tolerate more closeness with casual acquaintances. Some children use somewhat different distances for them, and the mood tends to affect the use of interpersonal space. Thus a child might stand farther from an intimidating playmate than from one who elicits no fear. 
The nature of communication and interaction in playgrounds based on several basic processes, in somewhat the same way that most matters consists of several kinds of atoms. These processes in other words, serve as basic building blocks of interaction and communication in playgrounds.
  • Cooperation: it is a form of exchange in which people combine their efforts toward a common goal. At the playground level, children’s play as a team against another team is an example of cooperation. Research suggests that reward structure which encourages cooperation produce greater team performance than does competition (Niehoff and Mesch).  Because so many gals are shared in society, the pervasiveness of cooperation should not be surprising. It is the web of cooperation that holds society together
  • Competition: cooperation makes no sense when rewards are limited, when the prize cannot be shared, and when not everyone can win. In such circumstances, Competition arises- as for examples two teams struggle with each other for winning a trophy. In such competitive situations, the struggle is limited in several ways so that the relationship of children may endure after all. First, a framework of rules contains the struggle; certain tactics are not allowed, and damage to competitors is minimized. Second, even in the heat of fierce competitions the adversaries focus not on destroying or harming one another but on the struggle itself, and on improving one’s own team. The loser thus survives intact to try again in future competitions. Third, even competitors sometimes find they need one another’s help. Such mutual aid even in the face of competition helps moderate the hostility
  • Conflict: if competitors focus not on the struggle itself but on neutralizing or destroying one another, their communication and interaction become conflict. Conflict arises not only from especially fierce competition for the same prize but from clashing values or beliefs, or from real or imagined wrongs. Unlike competition, conflict is not limited by a clear set of rules, so much damage can be done
Although everyone in a semantic environment neither understand nor follow all the rules of that specific semantic environment but such behavior may cause misunderstandings in communication.


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