Implements and toys - a development process
The following points are general abridged comments on the development and significance of implements and toy implements (Steenhold (1990,e:12-15)):
- Man cannot live without implements. He needsthem in order to solve problems.
Toy implementsare smaller than (or miniature copies of) the original implements. In using them, children learn the function of the original implement by observing how they are used, by imitating their use and also by playing out the work processes in which the implements are used.
- People all over the world have access to the same general implementswhich are familiar to everyone in terms of appearance and function. New implements are invented to cover a human need which occurs in a given situation, dependent on time and culture. The special appearance and function of an implement are often dependent on geographical factors. The implement is redesigned, improved or refined whenever it is found to be essential for the continued existence or development of the society or culture concerned.
Toy tools do not follow the development process of the original implement. In appearance they are often several steps behind the original. However, play with a toy implement does reproduce the history of Mankind’s cultural development.
- Implements are used for making things
Toys as copies of implementsare used in the same way. Play is an activity for activity’s sake while the use of an implement is a special kind of work process with a clear aim of producing a finished product. In using implements, it often happens that the two processes, play and work, melt together and become an activity - a hobby - which includes the qualities of both constituents.
- Both implementsand toys are used to gain and communicate information and knowledge. They are included in training and education and, at the same time, they are also symbolic of certain open or hidden messages.
They are also used to reinforce the expressions in play and games, art, ceremonies and symbolism. In this connection, toy implementsand props are just as important as the original implements and props.
- Everyone knows that both simple and complex implementscan be dangerous. Proper use generally demands practice and experience.
Toy implementscan also be dangerous but the element of danger is usually removed from the toy and what is left is therefore only an ”imaginary” danger. The use of such toy implements is therefore a pseudo process - i.e. play.
- For some people having a certain implement is a matter of life and death. They identify with the implement so that it becomes a part of the person’s identityand personality.
A toy implement can have the same essential significance for a child’s understanding of self.
- Every implement tells a story - the person who owned it, its significance in certain situations, trivial, interesting or fantastic stories about joy, desire and necessity.
- Toy implementsreflect the story (whether trivial or important) of a certain era, culture or society of which childhood history is a part.
As we reach the end of the 20th century, both implements and toy implements represent several paradoxes.
The only being on this planet which is able to produce complex and refined implements and toys is Man. Over many thousands of years of evolution, only a few mammals, birds and fish have learned how to use certain natural materials as useful implements, as a means to an end. Only very few animals can learn to use Man’s implements because an animal cannot not understand the basic idea and function of an implement. Animals need many more thousands of years' development before they can learn to use even the simplest of Man’s implements.
We might be able to imagine a new, genetically engineered species (given a human gene maybe) which could be taught to use certain types of implements. However, such a project would be fraught with difficulties as both the “implements” themselves and general ethics and morals would have to adapt to the establishment of a new balance between the various species’ capabilities.
Within the history of Man’s development, inventing and producing certain implements has always been connected to a certain era and culture. The shape, appearance and function of some basic implements will probably never change.
In the past, the need to refine and adjust an implement was often due to circumstances beyond Man’s control, circumstances in his natural surroundings. Other implements have changed in connection with the transition from one cultural pattern to another.
This applies to modern implements whose function is invisible, at least to the naked eye. This type of implement contributes to the creation of angst and myths among people who do not understand how the implement works. Man thinks in terms of function when he thinks of ordinary, manual tools and implements. This explains why not being able to see the function itself is connected with the idea that the function might be out of our control.
Man has had many hundreds and often thousands of years to get used to using certain machines, implements and tools but he has only had a few decades to familiarise himself with the dominance of electronic implements at all levels of our society.
This means that Man not only has to think mechanically but he must now learn to think in “fractals” (Mandelbrot’s fractal theory). This is an enormous upheaval - and is facilitated by imaginative science fiction.
The following describes six toy implements and concludes with a comment on aggressive toy implements.