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Playful Animals: An Invitation to Participate

Westerlaken, M. Playful Animals: An Invitation to Participate. Extended Abstract in Proceedings of Digra/FDG (Dundee, UK, August 1-6, 2016).

Westerlaken’s publish contribution, alongside her presentation at DiGRA2016, offers an understanding of designing playful encounters with animals, considering digital design in a broader design discourse. This wider view of design links the design of games with design of toys, and other playful objects. The paper focuses on the ‘invitation to participate’ as a voluntary action and poses that this could be an important space to consider inter-species relationships and philosophy.

During the presentation Westenlaken presented a series of design workshop that she developed to create escape rooms for Ants. The materials and context allowed for rapid iteration and observation from the designers. The design process and findings are reflected on in her post Designing with Ants: Some Reflections. Alongside the design workshops she kept a design journal and interviewed designers as they prototyped.

Useful Quotes

“given the current aim for diversity in games, an invitation for a\nimals to enter games research seems timely, could benefit the field of game studies, and investigate the boundaries of play.”

“Regarding play and playfulness, several authors have emphasized that the voluntary and shared nature of play makes it suitable to explore interaction design with animals (Westerlaken et al. 2014; Wirman 2014)”

“As designers, we aim to encourage animals to show us new interaction possibilities, and allow them to interpret and complete playful interactions in their own ways. If this means that, for example, an orang-utan spends a considerable amount of time smearing the tablet screen with food and body fluids rather than pressing buttons with fingers (Wirman 2014), this approach can help us to discover new interaction modalities that we, limited by our human mind and body, never thought of before in the context of game/toy design.”

“there is a deeper post-modern value at stake, in which alternative ways to investigate philosophical ideas can be explored. This type of multispecies philosophy could be a way to foreground the experiential nature of what it means to be an moral person (Driessen et al. 2014)”

“The current search for conceptual and practical tools can help to re-articulate the dominant anthropocentric world-view and introduce a foray into new areas that places humans and nonhumans on a more equal ontological footing.”

“approaching differences between humans an animals through design practice, using subjective understandings, qualitative data, and exploring play together in a meaningful way, allows researchers to start developing an eye for the individual player and the complexity of encounters (Driessen et al. 2014).”

Further Reading

Driessen, C., Alfrink, K., Copier, M., Lagerweij, H., and Van Peer, I. (2014). What
could playing with pigs do to us?, Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual
Culture, 30, pp. 79-102.

Pons, P., Jaen, J., and Catala, A. (2015). Envisioning future playful interactive
environments for animals. In A. Nijholt, ed., More Playful User Interfaces, pp.

Westerlaken, M., and Gualeni, S. Becoming With: Towards the Inclusion of Animals as Participants in Design Processes. Proceedings of the Animal Computer Interaction Conference, ACM Press(Milton Keynes, UK, November 14-15, 2016).

Published inPhD