Technology for Situated and Emergent

Hello everyone, my name is Ferran and I’m presenting this paper on behalf of my co-authors Elena and Katherine.

And long story short, our paper is a synthesis piece where we bring together ways in which playful technology can add socio-emotional value to people’s lives.

And, to make these ideas actionable to designers, we illustrate them with real design exemplars,

Generally, our goal with this paper is to empower HCI folks to pay more attention to the socio-emotional relevance of the play.

So yeah, today I’ll talk a bunch about play and playfulness. And I’ll do that because play is a very potent phenomenon that taps directly into our emotions, experiences, and motivation. 

Because the more technology permeates our lives, there is this growing concern that it can isolate us and have a negative impact on our emotions. And there’s some truth to it, you know.

For example, just think about how social media changes the way we interact with each other face to face, often for the worse.

And the thing is, it’s becoming more and more common that HCI researchers explore how to use play- and game-inspired strategies to enhance our technology interactions.

Obviously, we see a lot of entertainment-focused technologies that allow us to engage in dedicated play, like video games.

We are very interested in this last type of playful tech because we think that augmenting our daily routines playfully can add a lot of value.

we foreground reasons why designing for a play that is not materially productive is a worthy agenda in HCI. Clearly, we are not the only ones working towards this goal.

There is an interesting body of works that embrace alternative, less productivity-focused approaches to playful technology design.

This slide features good examples of play design approaches that put a stronger focus on the socio-emotional significance of play.

It’s much more common to see how to play is used to support productive agendas.

And the thing is, even if there is a bunch of research that suggests that play is fundamental to our wellbeing,

that knowledge doesn’t do much good to technology design if designers hardly embrace it. We think that this is something to work on, and our paper responds to this need.

So again, our goal with this paper is to the foreground and make accessible to designers a bunch of theories that answer to the question of:

why should we design technology that adds a playful note to our mundane activities and enriches our lives socially and emotionally?

And to answer that question, we synthesize and echo existing research that talks about the socio-emotional relevance of the play. Because much of that knowledge is already there,

so what we do here is to convey it in a way that appeals to the HCI community.

To do that, we present a bridging concept that characterizes the design space of Technology for Situated and Emergent Play.

For those who are not familiar with them, bridging concepts are intermediate level knowledge forms that bring together relevant theory and illustrate it through tangible, graspable design exemplars.

So we thought that a bridging concept would be a fantastic way of presenting theories about the relevant socio-emotional qualities of play,

in a way that they were clear to designers of playful technology.

To develop our bridging concept, we began by doing a review of play scholarship from diverse areas, including psychology, sociology, cultural studies, philosophy, design, or the arts.

As I said earlier, the play has been vastly studied before.

We looked for technology design exemplars that embodied the concepts that came up in our review. Because again, our goal was to bring the theory down to earth so it was relatable to HCI folks.

Second, the play has the capacity to give people a sense of agency, to afford experiences where we feel empowered to make an impact and decide our own path.

And playful technology certainly has the capacity of supporting that. A clear example is a Keep-up-with-me table, a design by Mitchell et al..

This design is a mechatronic dining table that enriches the social dimension of a meal by promoting synchronized eating between diners. The way it works is pretty simple:

if you have more food left than the person in front of you, your plate will be lifted up;

This strange mechanism creates a playful disruption that invites diners to be more aware of each other in a bizarre yet fun way.

Another pro-social behavior that plays can support is bringing people physically together. That can be desirable in situations where people share physical space but do not interact directly.

in ways that have a positive impact on their individual and collective well-being. And that’s all from me!

Thank you for listening to this, and I hope that you’ll read the paper if you’re interested. Also, here’s mine and my co-author’s e-mails in case you have questions.

We are super happy to chat if you find this interesting! Stay safe.

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