Playfields – a workshop on playful research methods in urban spaces.

The University of Siegen invited students and interested people to attend a workshop on play-based fieldwork and research at Siegen’s campus ‘Herrengarten’ in early February 2017.

The app ‘playfields’ was introduced by Dr. Jana Wendler (Manchester) and Dr. Alex Gekker (Amsterdam) – part of the ‘playfields’ team, based at the University of Warwick, UK.

Playfields is a smartphone app which allows the ‘players’ to design games in an urban setting. The workshop explored urban phenomena and social issues in a playful and experiential way. The workshop was designed to playtest the app for playful fieldwork and the playin’siegen team was excited to be part of it.

Firstly, Dr. Wendler and Dr. Gekker gave an overview of their research methods and shared insights about learning processes while playing and gaming. Shortly afterward the participants, resp. players tried the app out by generating research themes in small groups. Following the groups assigned their own research themes to another group.

The predefined playing field is created by allowing the app to use maps of the urban environment in which the players are located. The goal of the compiled game is to tackle given tasks within a timeframe. One group, for example, had to explore the city of Siegen to look into the behavioral phenomenon of bottle collectors who are collecting empty, deposit bottles in public places. The first assignment was to find and observe said bottle collector. The group immediately found one near the train station. The second mission for a chosen group member was to find as many disposable bottles as possible on his/her own within the predefined play field. Within the game and tasks, the players are able to get creative. For instance, they can establish a high score of the received deposit of the collected bottles to compete against each other.

Concluding from an academic point of view, playful approaches on gaming and playing are suitable for empirical research – such as the app ‘playfields’. The example of the research theme “bottle collectors” demonstrates how social phenomena can be explored and experienced in a playful way.

The introduced app is exciting for academics and others alike as everyone can become a scientist by handling research questions in an easily accessible and fun way.

The app is currently in the beta-testing phase. With no doubt, ‘playfields’ would have been a great addition to playin’siegen 2017. Well, maybe next time?

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