The toy as a pragmatic communicator

It is important to ask, “How do the different instances send messages to each other?”

  • Firstly, communicative consciousness (feeling and intuition for acting communicatively and in a dialogue) is important relative to the question of the person-at-play’s (the I’s) control system
  • Secondly, on the strength of spontaneous and random analysis and criticism, toys are allocated many meanings which result in a situation where the toy’s basic meaning does not always appear especially compositional.

The reason for this is that we allocate and force (cause: space for interpretation) upon the toy meanings which come from general ideological fundamental ideas with very disparate origins. These meanings will very often have nothing at all to do with the given toy. This distorts the communicative relation re the sign, case relation and interpretation, thus misrepresenting the toy’s real meaning.

Toys and play can be copied rightly and wrongly and this gives rise to both interpretation and misinterpretation.

Communicative relation and sign exchange are determined by:

  1. The communication channels and factors which transmit a two-way communication. The mutual referential and constituent aspects change position relative to the person-at-play’s individuality, the originality of the toy, its role and position.
    • The intersections of which there are two sets:
  1. The external intersectionswhich intersect the instances at the limits (marginal assumptions) of the relation,
  2. the internal intersectionswhere the channels of communicationintersect internally and where the demands for comprehensibility, truth, truthfulness and legitimacy must be met so that mutual understanding is possible (as long as there is also the will to do so!)
  3. which come to expression (visibly and invisibly) and which pertain to the collection of elements or moments which are the core of the toy or the play/action.

The toys and play are classified in five main groups: People/social relations, animals, instruments, system/strategy and nature. Each main group, sub-group and individual toy has its own special and unique initial assumption.

  1. The case relationsor many case relations (numbering ten in this construction) which expose semconfigurations in the communicative relationship.

In the case of a toy and in a constantly changing or random order, these cover the following elements:

(Semconfigurations in the communication)




- re play       * re toy


- the person-at play’s individual personal play style and behavioural pattern

* the style of the toy emphasises the attitude and personality of the sender through his/her choice among the many variants



- the person-at-play’s ability to use the toy

* understood as the daily use of the toy as opposed

   to “use on special occasions”



- the person-at-play’s special motives for using the toy

* special motives and perspectives for choice of a

   particular expression which is apportioned to the




- the sender’s and recipient’s mutual dialogues

* statements about the attributes which are

  connected to the toy(s) and their relative position





- sender’s intentions and attitudes

- recipient’s immediate reactions

* the toy’s individual, characteristic form and




- the complex relationship between sender and


* the special factors and relations of the toy, its


* a toy’s special relationship to another toy



- limited pieces of information re play, sent by the

  persons-at-play – in code form

* defined pieces of information which are part of the

  sign system - in code form



- freedom to test/explore/investigate the toy




- cognitive mastery re using the toy in the game

- applied metacommunication and object


* the toy’s universal pragmatic character



- artificial pieces of information re the game

* artificial pieces of information which are a part of

  the toy’s coding system



On the strength of this combination it is possible to understand and analyse the toy as an utterance because its being in a broad sense is confirmed by the relation:

sender - superficial case (object),

a relation which is always subject to critical analysis of many kinds and to philosophical analysis of the communicative form.

When we regard a toy as a sign or as information, the real recipient (consumer or the person who plays with it!) is able to question and make demands of the toy and its relation to each of the instances.

These questions and demands can be formulated thus:

  1. What is the meaning of a given toy? Is it comprehensible and unambiguous?
  2. To what original object does the toy refer? Does it express the original object in a true way?
  3. What did the sender(manufacturer/designer) intend for it? Are these intentions reliable and truthful?
  4. What legitimate challenge to play and action does the toy present? Is it correct that the person-at-play follows the instructions?

These questions:

  1. Relate to the relationship toy - interpretation and to the visual and social codes and questions which concern the toy’s meaning and the norm which the toy fulfils in order to be understood in the first place.
  2. Relate to the relationship toy - case. The first question refers to the type of reference while the norm, on which the toy is evaluated, is the criteria for truth.
  3. Are concerned with the relationship sender/subject - toy. The first question is concerned with the type of play/action The second question addresses the matter of how the evaluation norm affects the integrity/truthfulness of the utterance.
  4. Address the relationship toy - recipient/subject, i.e. the relationship to the de facto recipient(person who plays with the toy) - and raises two further questions:
    • The first: How does the toy seek to engage the recipient, how does it challenge the person-at-play to regard it? What implications does this have for play and action?
    • The second is concerned with evaluating: Is it correct that the recipientshould accept the suggested impression? Is it right to play/act in accordance with the suggested impression?

We are here concerned with the toy’s acceptability or legitimacy relative to a given or individual norm.

The toy and the person-at-play

The external limit for the eco-social environment (marginal assumptions) consists of five levels: 

  • Resources
  • Technology
  • Heredity
  • Event
  • Time



The internal intersections contain the universal pragmatic concepts:

  • Understanding
  • Truth
  • Truthfulness
  • Legitimacy
  • Will

Internal and external intersections

  • Channels of communication and communicative factors

The core of the text (and poetic function)

Concerning the model:

It is important to note that NONE of the concepts featured in the model are static in relation to any of the other concepts.

Their respective positions crystallise according to where (the circumstances) and how (the ways in which) the concepts originate and react within play.

Play with a toy, play itself or playing a game are “unique” - because play occurs, progresses and dies never to be played again. Whenever a game is repeated, it is a new game in which all the constituent concepts are dynamically re-mixed. New dynamic structures appear all the time. The sheer numbers of variables means that it is both wrong and impossible to say much about play or a game in advance. Every individual game must be explained by the forms it assumes.

Here the classical and pragmatic communication model (Jakobson (1967)) will be employed speculatively.

It illustrates the communication between the sender (designer/manufacturer) and the recipient (the person-at-play) as something which takes place in a code which directly or indirectly transmits content.

Such pragmatic relations in communication - sender, recipient, code, etc. are the external energies which give meaning. For example, in his basic model, Jakobson uses six concepts to explain communication:

sender, recipient, case relation, channel system, sign system and poetic function.

In this book’s communication model “Toys and the Person-at-PLAY”, we also have a sender and recipient and three referential and code aspects (which are partly comparable with Jakobson’s functions). Jakobson’s (1967) “poetic function” is the most central element in his functional communication model. Without the poetic function, Jakobson’s model would be completely meaningless because it would not be able to express e.g. all the metacommunicative or artistic uses of language. And it is the artistic in language which uses metaphor and other figurative modes which together refer to meaning and value.

I have therefore taken the liberty of placing the poetic function at the very centre of the model, right there where the expression or text/core is expressed!

The poetic is particularly relevant for play and toys. It is here that thoughts and dreams “float around” and become language, communication, information, dialogue and the artistry in play with toys.

In addition, this model includes Habermas’ general universal pragmatic demands for comprehensibility, truth, truthfulness, legitimacy and (adding the fifth) will.

At first sight, I ought to mention that the addition of “will to act/do something” does not really fit into the categories of Habermas’ communication theory as Habermas’ theory is made up of the assumptions of cognitive theory which are imperative for a successful message. Will is of individual psychological character. However, I am including will because the will to recognition is just as significant as the will to participate in a communicative process at all.

In the model, these “disclosures” are marked in the innermost and the central intersections as the person-at-play’s object transformation is impossible if the person concerned cannot transform the universal pragmatic concepts.

As earlier mentioned, a toy cannot be reality’s object because:

a toy’s significance is not evident by virtue of its special or specific realistic characteristics but rather by virtue of the form of the overall impression it gives through its being used by a person-at-play as part of experimentation, investigation and manipulation in play.



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