Example 4: A College Course Sequence

         Though the previous examples are presented and were performed as intensive experiences, their cycles could have been spread over several weeks.  The following sequence was designed by Jim Nixon, George Kaplan and myself for a small college's one-month intersession term, but was not carried through due to insufficient enrollment.  Coming to terms with the more usual academic game, it includes a heavy and systematic input of cognitive material from several areas of research.  Each cycle involves both an information session and an active game, with one or the other first according to the dynamic relation we wanted to establish between them; and an optional "shadow cycle" run by the players (see below.)  Together with supplementary voluntary reading, this sequence could be played during a standard college term, running one cycle per week on a long afternoon (averaging five hours, plus perhaps two for the shadow cycle), and would be as meaty in its cognitive learning as most college courses, besides being much deeper.  In all these respects, it is a rough model for how much of the process of institutionalized higher education might begin, through experiment, to be restructured.

         As we needed a title for the sequence we called it "Becoming Men."  The indirectness of its focus on the nominal issues of Women's Liberation was deliberate.


Cycle 1

Context  (20 min.)

Sequence outline and philosophy; bureaucratic details.

Interview  (1 hour)

Using "why are you doing this and what do you want?" as paradigm.

Open Circle  (90 minutes)

Sharing Interview material.  Gamekeepers testify at end as players.

Homework, to continue throughout the sequence:

-- A book on male chauvinism, to cover that basic ground, and recommendations on female liberation literature.

-- A journal and the commitment to write in it regularly (to be shared with gamekeepers or others only at the individual's discretion).

-- An ongoing "shadow sequence." The players will conduct this by themselves, subject only to the requirement that they spend time together in a "shadow cycle" after each regular cycle. Due to the length of many cycles, the shadow cycles will generally be on different days. Their processes and content need not be related directly to the cycles they shadow. This shadow is an optional feature of the course. When present, participation in it might also be made optional.


Cycle 2 -- Animal Man

Intensive Input  (2 hours)

Biological and ethological perspectives on male sexuality and social behavior.

Body/Mind Work  (30 min.)

Guided experience in interior sensing, oriented towards consciousness and change of the inner alienation that men in particular experience in our culture.

Sexual Animals, with discussion  (90 minutes)


Cycle 3 -- Mythological Man

Open Circle and Intensive Input  (2 hours)

Mythology: the present stereotypes of maleness, and the variety and political trends of cross-cultural and historical examples.

Reciprocal Theater, with discussion  (2.5 hours)

On mythological themes.


Cycle 4 -- Family Man

Body/Mind Work, with discussion  (45 min.)

Animal Families, with discussion  (2.5 hours)

Trance  (45 min.)

Guidance into light autohypnogogic state and through private focus on individual family experience, including power-relationships and role-stereotyping vis-a-vis father, mother, siblings and others.

Open Interview (2 hours)

Cycle 5 -- Playing and Thinking Man

Intensive Input  (1 hour)

On patterns of hemispheric psychological character and dominance -- a summary of current "split-brain" research.

Problem-Solving  (1+ hour)

Using test instruments to characterize hemispheric patterns and dominance; private play, with some discussion.

Childhood Games, with discussion  (3 hours)

Jacks, Hopscotch, Freeze, Touch Football, etc.  Discussion emphasis on hemispheric skills, homework emphasis on psychology of interaction.

Homework for shadow cycle:  See a professional competitive athletic event together; discuss reactions together.

Cycle 6 -- Work Man

Cooperative/Competition, with discussion  (2+ hours)

Trance, followed by discussion  (2+ hours)

Focus on the shaping of gender-identity in work relationships in adolescence and earlier.


Cycle 7 -- Sexual Man

Mirrors, with discussion  (1 hour)

Open Circle  (2 hours)

Focus on early sexual experiences and relationships.

Body/Mind Work  (30 minutes)

Intensive Input, with discussion  (2 hours)

Perspectives from recent advances and practice in the treatment of male sexual dysfunction.


Cycle 8 -- Coupled Man (Dyadic Man)

Body/Mind Work  (40 minutes)

Reciprocal foot rubbing, followed by discussion.

Open Interview  (2 hours)

Brief input on dyadic patterns of neurosis, followed by discussion of couple relationships.

Interview  (1.5 hours)

The interviewer has no question paradigm, but helps the other speak as his “other self,” in the character of the self that has been repressed.

Private Homework: write or otherwise express this “other self.”

Homework for next cycle: privately prepare a sociogram describing to whom and how the player relates in the course of his social life.


Cycle 9 -- Social Man

Mind/Body Work  (30 minutes)

Discussion  (2 hours +)

The personal sociograms are compared and analyzed for what they reveal about the role-stereotyping of men’s relationships; gamekeepers input freely.

The pattern of relationships established during the sequence and shadow sequence is now analyzed and represented visually and discussed.

Dance  (1 hour +) 

The group sociogram is used as the score for the first half of the dance (compare the game Ecology.)  In the second half the players depart from it to improvise at will.

Open Interview (following part of previous 1 hour +)


Cycle 10 -- Political Man

Reflexive Discussion  (2 hours +)

The players engage in debate under Robert’s Rules of Order, strictly administered.  The purpose is to formulate the group’s sense of male role-stereotyping on the political processes of American society; the meta-purpose of the game is to experience working within this political process, experiencing the tension between its reality and its formal face.  When appropriate, the gamekeepers discontinue Robert’s Rules and pass on to Open Interview, but keep the reflexive aspect going.

Collective design  (2 hours)

To design a suitable closing ritual for the sequence.


Cycle 11

Closing Ritual (open)



        It would be foolish to expect such a sequence to run like clockwork, but some general plan is necessary. We did expect the shadow sequence to generate, in effect, a men’s consciousness-raising group, whose operation might well continue past the last session of the formal cycle, open to the further self-directed use of games in the process of working together.  The political question of how the gamekeepers ought to relate to such a group is complex.

        The conspicuous absence in this sequence of any explicit focus on homosexual stereotyping, fear, and relationships was a product of the gamekeepers’ straightness and institutional constraints. [Ed. note: think 1970!] Any game that brings men into intimate contact in this context, however, should bring these matters up. The shadow consciousness-group also would. The resulting dynamics, which could include challenge of the gamekeepers’ authority and perhaps redirection of the entire sequence, could not be anticipated.  We were left with the decision to wait for the subject to surface, perhaps provoking it with readings or some games more intimate than Foot-Rubbing if it did not surface. We would then respond by improvising in a way that would involve us in the learning as well.

        Aside from such subject-bound matters, the plan of the sequence involves a progression through a relatively comprehensive spectrum of sub-topics, moving from primordial realms through the domains of private identity and then into social relations.  Within each cycle, the non-discussion game is keyed to the subject of discussion. The sequence becomes formally reflexive in its ninth cycle, though one would expect the shadow sequence to begin an earlier exploration of the sequence interactions as raw data for its own inquiry.  At the end, the sequence passes completely over into player control and improvisation.  The private work of keeping a journal is an ongoing reflective and unifying activity; the shadow sequence is another such of a different sort.

        Any consciousness-raising group (men’s, women’s, black, etc.) is or should be a reflexive learning game. The political specificity of such examples is misleading as to the broader usefulness of reflexive games.  In general, any sequence of inquiry into a human subject of study – sociology, psychology, anthropology, dance, whatever – can benefit by being coupled with a shadow sequence, in which the players form a support-group that investigates and tries to model in its own behaviors the learnings of the sequence.




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