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The concept of the PLAYTrack conference

From December 4-6th 2017, the Interacting Mind Centre (IMC) at Aarhus University is organising the first international PLAYTrack Conference on the theme “Playful experiences – designs, characteristics and research”. PLAYTrack is a 5-year research project at the IMC, funded by the LEGO Foundation and dedicated to exploring the questions of what play and especially playfulness mean and do for our personal performance, development and our interactions with each other.

Over the last decades, the concepts of play and playfulness in (product) design, science, education and the public, have undergone a considerable change. While previously considered as something “unserious”, “unreal” and “for kids”, they are now increasingly considered as important states and traits of what it means to be human. In addition, play and playfulness are increasingly considered human potentials that should be protected, fostered and spread to improve human well-being, development, and the surrounding environment.

It is an idealised assumption that technology and design generally are informed by fundamental research. When it comes to play and playfulness, such a basis should as a minimum consist of detailed descriptions of dimensions like experience, behaviour and physiology of the “playful state of mind”. However, despite a wide range of approaches the topic of play, ranging from biology, cognitive (neuro-)science, anthropology and philosophy, we still lack a common definition and operationalised description of what we consider as a playful state of mind or a playful experience. In particular, it remains unclear what exactly these states entail and how they are distinguished from related states, behaviours and experiences. Nevertheless, practitioners and designers of various realms have already invested heavily in the development of playful experiences and gained significant experiences with their products.

For this reason, the first PLAYTrack conference intends to take a bottom-up approach: We will firstly take a close look at some playful designs, as presented by their inventors. We will then try to frame these observations and experiential insights in more theoretical and generalizable terms on the basis of previous work of respective scholars, terms and concepts  that can finally be reflected and discussed on the basis of empirical studies as presented by invited researchers. The aim of this approach is to work towards a shared platform where we can better design, inform and improve future research on the topic.


The conference is structured across three days focusing on three design fields:

- Education

- Gamification/Organizational Psychology

- Social Interaction/Experience Design



Each conference day will be organised as follows: Morning and early afternoons are dedicated to talks and discussions. Late afternoons will bring presenters and conference participants together in groups: Each group will discuss the day’s presentations with the aim of creating proposals for future research/design on the topic. In the last afternoon session, these proposals will be presented.