Let’s Play Something New!: Designing for Digital Malleability in Outdoor Playgrounds

Let’s Play Something New!: Designing for Digital Malleability in Outdoor Playgrounds

Authors: Jon Back, Karin Johansson, and Jonas Hangvar

Abstract

Outdoor playground design has traditionally involved building installations that after inauguration remain stationary and rigid. New technologies open possibilities to reinvent playground design, but also provide new challenges. This paper focuses on how an outdoor playground can be made malleable through digital technology, and how such a design can increase play values and provide more flexible possibilities for an iterative design process, also after inauguration. During a total period of 5 years, using a Research-through-Design, and more specifically Reflective Design, approach researchers participated in a co-design project where a hybrid Internet of Things-enhanced permanent outdoor playground was developed and studied. The installations have been up and running around the clock, and used daily, for 2.5 years. The study suggests ways to design digitally malleable playground installations in permanent playgrounds. Further it points to areas where malleability functions may be restricted, due to reasons such as municipality policy, security and resources. It shows that the malleability functions were mainly used to increase usability, for educational purposes, to enhance play values, and to allow for appropriation and co-creation. The malleability features enabled an interactive design after design approach, and those possibilities were utilised in several ways, adding values to the playground, compared to rigid playground designs.

Journal:
Mindtrek '23: Proceedings of the 26th International Academic Mindtrek Conference
Year:
2023