Interactive Play Environments: Digitally Augmenting the Built Environment to Mediate Play

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Perustieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
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Human-Computer Interaction and Design
Degree programme
Master's Programme in ICT Innovation
56 + 3
This master’s thesis expands the field of research in interactive playgrounds by examining the role of the built environment that is augmented with digital technology for richer interaction possibilities in such playgrounds. Based on a literature study, this thesis distinguishes interactive play environments from interactive playgrounds, since these often do not reflect the impact of the environment on play very well. The research question being raised is then as follows: “How do children use the digitally augmented built environment in their play?” The thesis describes the process of designing and prototyping an interactive play environment that features communication and a tube to throw objects through as play concepts. Six different prototypes shape the interactive environment in close interplay with landscape and existing built environment. The prototyped environment is then evaluated in a 4-day study at a Swedish school with approximately 240 children during their recess times. This study uses observation as the predominant data gathering method. The gathered data are analyzed based on content analysis. As an answer to the research question, this thesis describes the play that happens in an interactive play environment and draws conclusions on the influence of such an environment on play . The results of the study indicate, that the digitally augmented built environment has an impact on play in stimulating certain new play patterns. It shows its potential mainly as a mediator between the children and the environment, thus stimulating children to explore their environment through play and discover dormant values of the environment. Although we found that the digitally augmented built environment influences play, this study cannot confirm that the digital components embedded in the built environment actually improve the play. However, the increasing presence of digital technology in society in general makes it inevitable to think about how this presence should be reflected in children’s playgrounds in the future and this work can give some directions for that.
Nieminen, Marko
Thesis advisor
Hansson, Lars
interactive playground, built environment, open-ended play, play, interactive play environment, playscape
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