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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Play-Space as a Research Tool

We are interested in investigating the affective feedback system between body and space using a physical play landscape, outfitted with bio-sensing technology of the EEG headset. As our design project, we wanted to create a series of experiments and we set these aims: 

  • How environmental stimuli are perceived and alter inner states
  • How spaces activate the body and stimulate us to explore

We thought to use play as a context for our experiments as people would be more open to explore their body movements and move in more unusual manners. We are taking existing spaces with specific everyday functions and hacking them into interactive play-spaces (hack in both the meaning of hacking the physical spaces, and hacking the actions of people using the space). By choosing spaces with specific everyday functions — like walking, climbing stairs, sitting — we could insert interactivity to make these functions less passive.

Experiment #01: Mind your Step

For the experiment, Mind your Step, we were looking at how the act of climbing stairs has become so habitual that we usually do not pay attention to each step as we walk up or down the stairs. Taking reference from William Forsythe’s swinging pendulums in his work Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2, we set out to create a time-based obstacle that would make people actively aware of their movements. We chose a flight of stairs in the auditorium to hack, and made moving platforms for some of the steps which people have to avoid as they travel up or down. As such, each step becomes a more deliberate motion, where people have to predict and time their next step.

 

Experiment #02: Don’t be a Couch Potato

For the experiment, Don’t be a Couch Potato, we wanted to turn the act of passive sitting as an audience into one that is more active and playful. We screened a movie and, using openFrameworks, made it difficult to watch by distorting it and adding filters to it — e.g. spinning the frames, slowing it down / speeding it up, inverting the colours. On the auditorium seats, conductive aluminium tapes (ground wires) are pasted all over, with buttons that controls the filters of the distorted movie. To activate the button, and hence remove the filter, the audience has to connect one part of the body to the button and another to the ground (the tape), using the human body to complete the circuit. All together, they can collaborate to activate the right buttons to make the movie comfortable to watch; the audience has to “work” for the movie.

 

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