Animated Props for Responsive Playspaces

Seitinger, S. "Animated Props for Responsive Playspaces"


Playgrounds are special places within the urban landscape specially designed for children. Here, they encounter the outdoors and the physical properties of large spaces through play, which allows children to develop their physical skills, explore the natural and built environment as well as interact with their peers. Even more importantly, children direct their own play activities in playgrounds in an open-ended way. As digital technologies become increasingly present in children's lives an important question arises regarding their role in playgrounds.

This thesis contributes to playground design in a meaningful way by exploring how digital technologies can enhance children's open-ended and physically active play in outdoor settings. Can animated playground props support and possibly enhance open-ended and physically active play in playgrounds? This thesis expands the repertoire of objects conceived specifically for children's outdoor play environments through a review of existing technologies and designs followed by a design exploration with a new category of animated playground prop.

I develop an ecological approach to children's digital playground props which takes into account the links among children " props " play settings. In playing with objects, children gather information about the physical characteristics and embedded meanings of their three-dimensional surroundings. In other words, children's interactions with play props are one lens for experiencing the world. This theoretical framework leads me to a new category of animated prop called "space explorer".

The thesis describes a design process for one prop, an autonomous, pneumatic playground ball which is part of the "space explorers" category. The method combines design development with input from children in two workshops about their playground and specific objects. The design and research exploration concludes with reflections and recommendations for future attempts to design more autonomous and responsive objects which can enrich children's outdoor play experiences.

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