Asher Flatt

Play drives our adaptive potential as humans

This thesis explores evidence suggesting that the human brain functions best in a critical state, one poised between rigidity and chaos. It is thought that such a state optimises our ability to learn. The two modes of brain function are attributed to opposite sides of the brain and can be described as a looser broader style, primarily of the right hemisphere (RH), and a more rigid narrow style, primarily of the left hemisphere (LH). The looser style of the RH has long been played down in modern education in favour of rigid reductionism. The theory I discuss here however, indicates the importance of a balance between our two primary modes of cognition. Creation of such a balance requires as strong an emphasis on looser, freer styles of learning as on structured learning. Play provides this emphasis. It is of primary importance in this respect, with several theories according play a vital role as a driver of change and of our massive adaptive potential as a species. Combining both the rigid and the flexible in learning is creativity, which will be explored in terms of past and current theories. Finally motivation will be looked at as the driving force behind learning and shown to also come in two parts each with its own pros and cons. The final discussion will link this theory to the process used in the production of the 25-minute documentary film that constituted the creative component of this thesis.

The trials of the Takahe

This is a short film about the mysterious Murchison Mountains of Fiordland and their even more mysterious inhabitant, the Takahē. Together with fellow film maker Ram Alluri, I follow the journey of the Takahe from its presumed extinction in the early 1900’s, to its rediscovery in the 1950’s, through to today as conservationists attempt to ensure the safety of the breeding population and so secure the future of one of New Zealand’s rarest birds. While our film highlights the enigmatic nature of this shy bird, it also demonstrates the passion, persistance and inventiveness of the people working so hard to save it.

Our film will be screening at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau in February 2012.