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The Playfulness of Interactivity

Andy Polaine

The last fifteen years have seen a proliferation of interactive media, many of which form a significant part of our everyday experiences. As yet theories of new media have failed to explore the underlying language of interactivity but have focussed rather on an historical relationship to screen theories, socio-linguistic commentary, technological developments and usability theory. This paper re-interprets interactivity as a physical rather than psychological activity and that interaction is a circular process, not simply a mechanism to control devices.

Central to designing for interaction is the phenomenological philosophy of remaining a perpetual beginner, the notion of play and the meditative state that play encourages. Existing works and research are cited that evidence the ability of simple and playful interactions to create successful and emotionally engaging experiences. Two strategies for creating engaging interaction are suggested – playfulness and interaction as content – as is the need to redefine the interface in terms of action and experience rather than objects and information retrieval.

Interactivity, play, new media, Emotions, design, phenomenology, psychology, games, Toys