PhD overview (500 words)
The phenomena of play in cities
Play is an intrinsic induced activity, that constitutes freedom, based on the acceptance of risk in its temporary transformational nature. It includes attributes such as spontaneity, curiosity, voluntary and creative processes that occur outside of the ordinary. This purposeless activity is necessary to the human identity as an exploratory pursuit of pleasure and comfort outside of social purpose.
Until now the dialectic between play across the lifespan and the city has not been understood well. Western research tradition excepts play as phenomena in opposition to or as a negation of resisting order of things. Play is perceived as secondary state of reality granted and justified from bottom up in context of children or animals. In contrast, eastern cultures consider play as top down phenomena, the highest form of ontological state. Play as the primary form of knowing is given alternative states of reality higher status. Only a small number of researchers theorised play as the highest ontological state of being. The identified research gap and unique epistemological contribution on play is placed beyond targeting child participation and their right to play, but also by interrogating change based on playful activity as an optimal experience in adults and elderly people.
This research adopts Stevens (2007) exploration of play in a theoretical context and by using Lefebvre’s theories (1991) on the production of space to theorise playful behaviour in cities. The researcher will focus on the novel approach of exploring the phenomena of play and its varieties in cities in an international cross cultural context in the nexus of street environments as a place for optimal experience that can improve health and well-being.
Based on the theoretical context and through deployment of different qualitative methods on a single revelatory case study, the author explores the following set of questions:
Why do people prefer certain environments to play in cities?
What are the co-health benefits of play?
Where does play as an optimal experience occur in streets?
What makes these places meaningful to play and how do these places feel like?
What are the environmental triggers that support play in cities outdoors?
How can cities become places where play is recognised as a design consideration?
Three different street environments comprising of pedestrian zones, shared spaces/path and residential street serve as subunits to the case study. Validating the essence of our human existence through connecting the subject – internal experience- with the object – material world around us. A transpersonal inquiry into human experiences includes object to subject and subject to subject relationship on three levels. The first phase will investigate physical traces. The second level phase will use observational study ranging from outsider, marginal participant to full participant. The third phase includes a short unstructured interview to gain further insights in relation to the degree of optimal experience in the realm of memory.
This research intends to provide empirical evidence of how playful activity can engender a more conscious human centred urban design approach of cities that enables more often opportunities for optimal experiences through playful activity across all ages and cultures. Subsequently the research may assist in improving the overall health and well-being of people and the liveability of cities.
Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Cambridge, Mass., USA;Oxford, OX, UK;: Blackwell.
Stevens, Q. (2007). The ludic city : exploring the potential of public spaces. London; New York: Routledge.
Supervisor meeting on 22nd was very helpful in revisiting my research question. Need to refine and reduce amount. I may not be able to answer all of them.
Also stated the exercise to create a matrix that helps me to assess the urban design component in the lead up to the fieldwork test in Germany mid September.
The discussion with Steve reminded me of the need to focus on the everyday life in cities, as designers are easily drawn to top down approach. I do not intent to make my topic a power struggle approach after Foucault. I’d rather focus on the ontological state offside power. Also the meeting was useful in a sense that he believed that we with our narrow perception create nature, the environment through symbols (e.g. language). Some languages have more words other create nuanced wording. At the end of the day he agreed that we are unable to perceive the external reality in a correct manner.
He also kindly offered to attend the confirmation seminar and be an advisor to my topic.
Maurice Merleau- Ponty is useful to explain the phenomenological approach in the beginning in relation to our perception of the environment. To a degree he may offer a good pathway into the constructionism approach.
New lead question: What are the health co-benefits of play in cities?
Revised sub-questions: What makes places optimal for play in cities? What are the environmental triggers that support play in cities?
Developed and refined the environmental assessment and play behaviour assessment matrix further for testing as suggested by Andrew.
Printed all Ethics forms and posters in order to be able to test research on the ground while I am in Germany.
- Site observation, environmental assessment, documentation for traces, validating section for spatial vantage points for observation.
- Observational study on 5 days each in setting (during observation, note keeping and potential engagement, reflexion and self assessment to validate findings. Carrying out unstructured interviews where possible.
- Evenings: review of recordings during day time and fill in Matrix plus storage of qualitative observations and interview recordings (once agreed by subject)
Andrew suggested at yesterdays meeting to drop the suburban street context in Canberra. reason one: very different parameters at play
reason two: two street types better as it is more manageable