Long-term engagement in interactive playgrounds

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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
This thesis lays a base in the yet unexplored field of long-term engagement in interactive playgrounds. Children use the playgrounds at their schools and in their neighborhoods all their childhood. Therefore these playgrounds have to keep the children engaged over a long time. Furthermore, children increasingly adopt a sedentary life style, exchanging outdoor play for computer games. By incorporating the digital and interactive enticing aspects of computer games in outdoor playgrounds, researchers aim to reverse this trend. This thesis combines the two aforementioned aspects in one research question: How to design for long-term engagement in interactive playgrounds. The research question is answered from two perspectives: a theoretical and a design research perspective, both contributing in their own way to the current body of knowledge in their fields. The theoretical perspective answers the question by proposing three theoretically justified design guidelines, based in Self Determination Theory: challenge, adaptability and relatedness. The design research perspective answers the question by presenting a design of an interactive playground which incorporates the proposed design guidelines. A four day evaluation of the design validated if the design enticed the type of play described by the design guidelines. The evaluation was performed at an elementary school where 240 children freely played in the designed playground during their regular breaks for four days. Data was collected by observation and note-taking. The data was then analyzed using a form of content analysis. Findings include that interactive sound has both inviting and engaging capabilities, useful for long-term engagement, while light is of less importance. Secondly, the iterative design process proved to be valuable for developing for long-term engagement. Lastly, the prototypes elicited the play they were designed for using the guidelines. However, a decline in use over the four days of evaluation indicates that a longitudinal study is necessary to further validate the design and design guidelines.
Nieminen, Marko
Thesis advisor
Sallnäs Pysander, Eva-Lotta
long term engagement, interactive playgrounds, self determination theory, natural play, playground design, open-ended play
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