What the heck is juggling anyway?

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Scott Seltzer -

What the heck is juggling anyway? Erik knows!


The Void - - Parent

I disagreed immediately. I mean, why would such a smart fellow choose to film in portrait?
. pic.twitter.com/u2lmvSU0JV
— The Void (@TheVoidTLMB) July 14, 2017

I agreed with the preamble, but it got problematic when the actual definition started. But is such a long definition useful?

barnesy - - Parent

Yeah, TL;DW.

I followed a little of the Facebook discussion about how this definition had been whittled down to mere pages (or was it reams?). I'll have a look at that if it appears but I don't consider a 15 minute video to be information, especially one which didn't seem to yield a point when I skimmed through it

erik aberg - - Parent

Barnesy, here you go:
Juggling is a genre of activities related to the default form. The default form is the three ball cascade.

pumpkineater23 - - Parent

How far does the border have to be from the 3b cascade before it becomes 'not juggling'?

erik aberg - - Parent

It's not about distance. It is an on or off switch. Is there a relevant relation or not? Is there another genre that has a stronger connection to the subject than 3 ball cascade, or other established forms of juggling?
One thing to always remember, is that we are dealing with communication and the meaning of a word here. For an example, if I walk into a pizza place with another juggler and the pizza chef is throwing the dough around, I could easily start talking to my juggling friend about the pizza tricks as juggling, and he would know immediately what I was saying. If the person I was talking to was a non-juggler, it might be harder, since it is not as certain that he would see a connection to other already established forms of juggling.

pumpkineater23 - - Parent

Perhaps dance is the default form? I think there's an 'outside' and 'inside' of what juggling is. The inside is - feeling a motion.. a dance. The feeling is the same as dancing, you're using an object/s (balls, poi, pizza etc) to feel the dance instead of your body. Skateboarding is using your body and an object to feel it. The playing of a musical instrument isn't related because of the lack of motion.. you're feeling rhythms & melodies.. but not motion. Does that make any sense? Not sure myself.

7b_wizard - - Parent

Juggling is a genre of activities related to the default form. The default form is the three ball cascade.
"Juggling a three ball cascade" is already juggling - can it then serve for defining juggling? (Howto define "juggling" in "juggling a three ball cascade"? .. to me, that's circular, tautologic, self-redundant reasoning)

Little Paul - - Parent

Far TL; Can't be bothered to W - but:

Is a definition even useful?

Definitions usually only serve so you can point at things which don't fit the definition and exclude them. Something I haven't been interested in doing with "juggling" for a while

lukeburrage - - Parent

I like the idea of exploring the boundaries of a concept, as it lets you find areas that haven't been explored yet. However, defining what the word juggling means is a different exercise of defining what "juggling is", or can be. Completing the first step is probably useful before beginning the second step.

However, if I'm to watch a long video, it has to be more interesting than that in the first minute for me to continue on with it.

erik aberg - - Parent

Luke, if you want to claim that the word juggling represents something different than "what juggling is" you will have to explain that difference. The word juggling is only a representative for a concept. I does not matter if you try to leave the area of language and the meaning of words, when you still use language and words. Using words in communication confines you to their meanings, unless you explain how they would differ.

erik aberg - - Parent

Little Paul,
We use the word juggling, and we mean something when we do. Therefore, I did not make a definition. Its already there, I have no say in the matter. I can only describe what the word means already.

Q: Is a definition even useful?
A: Yes, because when we understand deeper what it is that we are doing, we can reach further, and be more effective. We can communicate better. Removing confusion is both pleasant and aesthetical.

"Definitions usually only serve so you can point at things which don't fit the definition and exclude them."
For sure you can come up with more uses to understanding language and the meaning of words, than that one.

7b_wizard - - Parent

Not only exclude what is not juggling, but also for example seize the ``essence´´ of juggling, or e.g. define its outlines, yes, as what it's not, as opposed to where juggling stops to be juggling. Like, " Is it right, is it well communicated, to call a throw (that dough across the snack-bar) juggling or is it very artistic skilled throwing, but not really juggling? " .. What do I expect of myself when saying that I am a "juggler", being able to throw dough like him for me wouldn't be enough. I'd like to know what ``exactly´´ juggling is and what ``exactly´´ it requires. I don't feel like a juggler yet with enduring 5 balls for minutes, but not managing a 5b s'swap. I would drop even a 3b cascade when talking to someone at the same time. My 3b tricks go a few rounds to collapse (doing at the limit, tho). I'd say, for example, being able to do a lot of 3b tricks, stable(!!) and transitioning between them makes you a "juggler". Also challenging 2b tricks. But is throwing one ball up and clapping your hands or eating an apple with the other hand really what we understand by "juggling"?

erik aberg - - Parent

What is problematic about it? if you let me know I can explain.

erik aberg - - Parent

Void, I was rushed and time was limited. The purpose of the video is to reveal the general thoughts. I am not great at explaining, and I am afraid those who wants to understand might have to get involved in the discussion. What is unclear? please tell me, and I will do my best to explain. Not only has the definition of juggling been an area of much disagreement, it also seems as the approach to it differs greatly, from person to person.

Mike Moore - - Parent

For those who find this video too long to be palatable, start here:


Ameron Rosvall - - Parent

And here is a summary of the definition, which may or may not make sense unless you watch the whole thing.

"Juggling is a genre of activities which are related to the default form. The default form of juggling is the 3 ball cascade."

Topic of discussion: is the default form really the 3 ball cascade?

Orinoco - - Parent

I am now tempted to watch the whole thing because that is not something I'd expect from Erik. There must be a lot more to it than that.

I always use the definition: "Doing what doesn't need to be done in the most difficult way possible."

I've tried to find the source of this definition a few times. Earliest reference I can find is from Jerry Carson in 2001, which is almost certainly where I picked it up from originally. However, Jerry's message suggests it comes from further back.

peterbone - - Parent

Wouldn't that definition include many other activities such as skateboarding, rock climbing and base jumping?

ChrisD - - Parent

Yep, and Brexit.

Orinoco - - Parent

...& 'defining juggling'.

erik aberg - - Parent

If someone is interested to read more about the definition of juggling, there is some discussion about it in this thread:


Scott Seltzer - - Parent

That link didn't work for me but https://objectepisodes.com/t/the-definition-of-juggling/18/2 does.

pumpkineater23 - - Parent

Interesting. Thanks for the link. Objectepisodes looks great!

Mike Moore - - Parent

The Kingston Jugglers have, "Doing the unnecessary the hard way" on their t-shirts and they've been around a while. Greg Phillips would probably know when they started using it.

Scott Seltzer - - Parent

Slightly different wording from 1993: https://dev.juggle.org/history/archives/jugmags/45-3/45-3,p28.htm 2nd paragraph.

Orinoco - - Parent

Longtime friends David Cain and Jay Gilligan won the Fargo Intermediate and Juniors Championships

David, are you younger than I think, or is that sentence missing a 'respectively'!

Daniel Simu - - Parent

The pictures in the article clear that up, respectively indeed

Monte - - Parent

Why is it important to define juggling? Is it just so you can deny it includes poi?

7b_wizard - - Parent

Else, we don't know, what we're doing.

erik aberg - - Parent

You can decide for yourself if it is important or not. The word juggling already means something, otherwise we would not use it. "Convention" and "juggling convention" would mean the same thing, and they do not. If I tell you I am going to a juggling convention, you will get a different idea about what I am about to do, than if I said I am going to a convention. I, or anyone else did not make up what the word juggling means, but we can try to articulate its meaning by looking at how the word has been used.

7b_wizard - - Parent

My version (depending on the context - like "among jugglers", but not apt for Wikipedia) would be sth like:

" Juggling is the rhythmic displacement* of objects in a way that allows to do sth else during that displacement ongoing. This is achieved by aiming the object, thus controlling where it will land, with no need to track it. The skill of juggling lies in using that time for doing more displacements of the same kind or sth completely different in a rhythm. This in turn ("using that time") is achieved by synchronizing the body's movements with the pattern (or: "trajectories") juggled (and vice versa, by adapting, tuning, synchronizing the pattern to fit optimal body motion). "

The borders to other kinds of object manipulation transition smoothly. Object manipulations, that are not juggling, include e.g. cutting a slice of bread or sausage or drinking a cup of .. erhh .. revitalizing hot beverage, or moving your whole household to another town with two or more cars than you have helps (then called "logistics").

* displacement - also e.g. rolling
______________ ________________ _____________ _____________ _______________

Thoughts that brought me there:

Maybe it makes sense to include the juggler in a definition of juggling. I mean, the props don't juggle by themselves - it looks so mechanical, so high-tec, when a robot juggles, while, in turn when a human juggles like a robot, it's an artsy illusion, sth haunting, mesmerizing, a different feel, an uncommon onsight. So the (human, or be it then a robot) juggler is a necessary part of the whole setup of "juggling". Juggling is then the juggler moving right in rhythm with the props and the pattern, as a whole. It would distinguish "juggling" from "juggling pattern" or from "juggling (default) form" or alike, as a result of juggling, but not the whole of "someone juggling". Can juggling exist without being actually done by someone? Else "(the) juggling" and "doing juggling" would be two different things, which in reality, practically, they are not.

Or else - let then juggling be the result of what jugglers do, just like there's dance even when no one is actually dancing it -, a definition should then still include how and why this result is achieved. We'd then get: "Juggling is a juggler juggling the three ball cascade."

Or at least include some physical stuff: "one object in the air" .. what does that mean? - It's timing, time gained by throw height (or roll distance), time to do sth else before catching it again, it's rhythm, tact, (music?), and the juggler needs to account for all that by moving in ways allowing for it to happen: posture, technique, pattern an' all.

erik aberg - - Parent

A whole lot has been said about this in the thread on Objectepisodes.com
Feel free to join.

7b_wizard - - Parent

Thanks, I mean, no thanks. Prefer to stay here. Why spread the online juggling community onto lots'a different places - it's a lot more clicking and logging in, but, main thing is, content gets partly reduntant, partly exclusive or not to find anymore, also later. Same discussions - like this one - will be unnecessarily parted onto different threads, and by nature have less participants. The whole thing gets ``decentralized´´.

Mike Moore - - Parent

But you are participating in this discussion in the decentralized location. The centralized location is on OE.

I understand the generality of your argument, but I think it can only be used against:
a) New, undeveloped forums that
b) Are redundant with current forums

a) is arguable with OE,
b) is different in that it is (descriptively) for serious discussion about juggling, with a few of the current best thinkers on juggling.

7b_wizard - - Parent

I replied to Scott Seltzer, who linked to youTube.

I think, I have good arguments:

That "default form" stuff and that "Juggling is juggling the 3b cascade" thing is self-referring, so not a definition.

My version proposed above does several things:

It includes contact juggling, poi swinging, patterns rolled on a billiard table (by using the "displacement" instead "tossing or rolling or moving or handling").

It includes the juggler, as what I argued for above to me is part of poised juggling. Juggling without a juggler doing it is maybe a "juggling pattern".

It includes the rhythm, so that a single throw or a gimmick or a standalone flourish or an ass catch on its own are not juggling.

Aspects, that the "best thinkers of the juggling scene" upto now haven't yet accounted for. So I must be completely wrong. Juggling is a highly complex form of movement (of a person actor) and with objects. Calling it an "activity related to a basic pattern", the latter an algorithm, that stickman can do, is way beyond what doing juggling actually is. Every activity in the universe is maybe "related to a default form", in the end, that's then like positing: "Juggling exists." is the definition of juggling.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Mike Moore - - Parent

"I replied to Scott Seltzer, who linked to youTube."

I was referring to your comment in response to erik's offer to join OE.

"That "default form" stuff and that "Juggling is juggling the 3b cascade" thing is self-referring, so not a definition."

I found this a bit of a frustrating straw man argument. Why use "juggling" twice in its own definition, then call it self-referring? Erik posted his tl;dr definition above, which reads: Juggling is a genre of activities related to the default form. The default form is the three ball cascade.

His definition does not use the word "juggling" at all, and is not at all self-referential. It is an example of an ostensive definition, which is a valid and common type of definition.

I'll discuss your definition in a separate comment, because I feel that these are separate ideas.

7b_wizard - - Parent

["offer to join OE"] Yes, I understood that. And I was referring to you stating, OE were the centralized place ( when speaking in such terms - it's become a long thread there, and it's become a long thread here, rather independently from one another, exept for Erik Aberg linking there, late this thread. So inviting me to join there ((and having to register an' stuff an' all)), I took as actually a redirection ).

["3b cascade ``unjuggled´´"] Then, I think, in juggling defined as an activity, maybe there is no ``default form´´ "3b cascade", without it needing actually juggled. You can make it an algorithm, you can make it an abstract concept, you can make it a standalone pattern independent of juggling (using quarks or cars or stickman, or people walking zig-zag in cascade pattern or mere points and vectors in a coordinate system), but when using it as an activity to define juggling, using it to precise the activity of juggling, then surely as the juggled cascade. So, in that "default form"-statement, I read the word and notion of "juggling" (the 3b cas) included, even if it's not explicitly written, and I think, that is also what Aberg meant - the activity of juggling a 3b cascade (it in fact reads to me as that word juggling were omitted or expected to be thought included). Else, some major abstraction level would have escaped me ..

["ostensive definition"] I'll have to look that up. So far, I can only say: The ``default form´´ of a horse are neither a "hoof", nor a "mammal" which would be a general category and a property defining it (the classical way), while I can't see how "A horse is a gender of living things related to the default form 'standard-horse' like that one over there [points to one]." can be an useful definition.

7b_wizard - - Parent

oops .. "gender" = genre*

Mike Moore - - Parent

Going through the suggested definition bit by bit...

" Juggling is the rhythmic displacement*

I don't see juggling as necessarily rhythmic, at least not in the sense of any definition of rhythmic I could find (e.g. a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.). I could juggle briefly in a completely unrepeated style that would clearly still be juggling.

[...]of objects in a way that allows to do sth else during that displacement ongoing.[...]

I'm not convinced this is necessary, but it is an often-seen attribute of typical juggling.

[...]This is achieved by aiming the object, thus controlling where it will land, with no need to track it.[...]

What about freestyling, where sometimes the juggler doesn't really aim? What about the passing game "garbage", where you throw horrible throws to your partner, absolutely necessitating them to track the object?

[...]The skill of juggling lies in using that time for doing more displacements of the same kind or sth completely different in a rhythm.[...]

Same argument against rhythm. And without rhythm being included in the definition, the definition is by far overly inclusive.

[...]This in turn ("using that time") is achieved by synchronizing the body's movements with the pattern (or: "trajectories") juggled (and vice versa, by adapting, tuning, synchronizing the pattern to fit optimal body motion). "[...]

Juggling is very easy to do, and in fact always done, without "optimal body motion". This part of the definition also uses "synchronizing" loosely. Taken literally, it doesn't make much sense, and taken loosely, it doesn't state things precisely enough for a definition.

(general) I feel that your suggested definition describes a lot of juggling, but not all of it. I also feel like it uses far too many parameters, some of which seem to be intended more literally than others. Some of the parameters are categorically different than others:
rhythm being necessary is very different than demanding optimal body motion.

7b_wizard - - Parent

I'm glad, you had to dig deep and find unusual, rare counter-examples, in order to query, attempt to refute, to discuss the the proposed definition.

>I could juggle briefly in a completely unrepeated style that would clearly still be juggling.
[& >"rhythmic"]

Cool! But I think this might then be either "learning to juggle", or else pretty hard and then rather one of the many exotic, experimental forms of juggling, if really done with no rhythmic feeling, also without half or quarter tacts (e.g. shapeshifting which is still a rhythm). But, yeah, one could go through slightly or completely different heights in order to achieve that - would look pretty "Frankenstein", or "casual", though. [//And that's where our new discipline "casual juggling" (without any rhythm whatsoever) is born.//]
Maybe your word "repeatedly" could be of use for a definition (e.g. in order to distinguish from single throws, gimmicks, that could then be "elements of juggling").

>And without rhythm being included in the definition, the definition is by far overly inclusive.

Hm .. rhythm is indeed, if not crucial (as you put it), a major constituing aspect I see in the ado of juggling that I find needs to be included in a good definition. (But maybe it's not the best word). By "rhythm" I don't mean a tact, a beat, a cadence, but also e.g. galopped tacts, also speeding up or down shortly (in relation to a given beat), or also a funky, maybe broken rhythm (but I think, that was also your wide understanding of the word).
Maybe abstract it to sth like "recurring along spacetime" or so (which sounds queer and awkward).
I do still think that usually juggling goes with a rhythm (in that broadest sense).
[// I don't want ``my´´ definition to be "overly inclusive" °gnarghh°//]

>Juggling is very easy to do, and in fact always done, without "optimal body motion".

I don't see that. I see that alternately throwing a weight (also that of the arm itself!?) left--right--a.s.o. requires countermovement and keeping th balance - the whole body is involved to provide for the right positioning of hands and arms when throwing and catching (in the rhythm dictated by the pattern). Doing (or tuning) this awarely and as optimal as possible is crucial for juggling well, fluent, with no superflu tensions. A question of posture, anatomy, action patterns, the system: "juggler juggling".

[>"synchronizing"] When building a juggling robot, you will have to synchronize throws (height, direction, timing) and where the robot's hand or bowl or what it's got, shall catch. Same for our human hands - where the hands are needs be synched with where the props fall. And what goes for a single throw and catch will take place all the time when juggling a pattern, else you drop.

[>general] Yes, juggling has a lot of aspects that want to be included in a definition. And rating a definition's valuability or aptness or usefulness in deep will lead to having to in turn defining the words used in it.

One more thing .. a definition of an activity, of object manipulation, as broad as juggling, can by nature not be completely clear, not complete, not as binding as in e.g. natural sciences, but can still be ``better´´ than in e.g. social sciences or in humanities. It transitioning fluently at its borders doesn't mean it can't be defined as what it's usually. Any exotic derivations are then exactly that, not "juggling" in it's common sense, but "experimental" or "exotic forms", or "unclear to draw a line there". It needs be done pragmatically a bit, I guess.
I mean, it would be cool to have a widely agreed upon definition, instead of year by year when that topic rises up again, resigning on the many exception there are counteracting every attempt to define juggling while we all know what it is.

Mike Moore - - Parent

I disagree that my counterexamples were rare, particularly the not having "optimal body position". Consider a beginner, walking around in an uncontrolled fashion, has optimal body position. Certainly juggling, certainly not optimal body position!

Really though, I don't think "optimal body position" is important to your definition, and I feel it would be stronger without it.

I certainly understand the differences between levels of acceptable precision between natural sciences and social sciences (I did a BSc and MSc in natural sciences, and am doing a PhD in social science). I believe that a definition should encapsulate the uncertainty of the act. I think this is a great strength of Erik's definition. With his definition, it can account for context and culture, both of which can affect whether something is juggling[1]. If Erik's definition is a Gaussian centred around a 3b cascade, I think yours is a similar curve, but with the tails cut off.

[1] - Arguable, probably?

7b_wizard - - Parent

Okay, I think, we've both thrown our arguments into the webspace now, and there's partly rather controversial opinions or viewpoints, some bit of agreement; but we both put foreward some aspects to maybe be accounted for in future attempts on defining "juggling". [ #definitions ]


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