Week 42: 28th November – 2nd December 2016

Work on narrowing and defining the street environment:

Also  I’ve been thinking about my research approach, based on the work Stevens has done. The next logical step is to create a tool (mechanism) how to measure play in urban streets. This can not just reveal the tension between consumption and production of space, but help to give designers a tool to assessing  play in cities.

Defining the problem in context of the street (why street):

  • street has a movement function as well as a place function.
  • sections can be confined
  • easy to observe people (public space)

Traditionally (pre- industrialisation) the street had a high place or production function. In particular with the advent of the car the street was given more a movement function. While acknowledging that the street can and have to cater for both there needs to be a balance achieved in order to enable healthier neighbourhood (e.g. social inclusion, cohesion, air quality, noise, perception of safety etc.).

One may argue that the place function in streets is increasing lost. Speculation and thoughts around causes lead to change in perception of safety, volume and speed of vehicles (movement function), less objects that attract (physical attributes that appear to people), quality of micro- climates.

Urban design literature has investigated numerous ways to increase the quality of spaces through amenity. Steven argues that we need to shift towards a more holistic approach. In his book he elaborated through a discourse analysis on the dialectic of play in the city.

I believe an empirical approach through precise classifications (tool) of play behaviour in urban streets may add value to his approach.

Stevens: ” The propability of play also appears to be enhanced by greater connectivity and permeability  in the circulation network a a whole (p. 69).

When a street system is densely interconnected, any particular street or site which may be a destination in itself is also a secondary or incidental destination within many other orbits of activity (Alexander 1965).

Conclusion –> By creating a  empirical tool  that can assess the quality for play in a street –> this may be a way forward to improve health and well-being.

Heuristic inquiry through observation

Revisiting research question (test writing without play):

What makes place optimal for people( fun) in cities?
What are the environmental triggers that support improved outcomes for people (fun) in cities?
How can our cognitive behaviour (fun) contribute or create health co-benefits in cities?

Test now with the amended questions from week 41:

  • What are the aspects of peoples cognitive behaviour (fun) that reveal and facilitate change in the urban social spaces?
  • What are the  health co-benefits of fun?
  • How can this device be used to inform optimal urban experiences?

Next steps revisit my classification of play and investigate place theories?

Elements of play:


Most common play behaviour’s assessed in Potsdam (under old definition):

  1. playing around
  2. Putting something into play
  3. making play with someone
  4. playing up on words
  5. playing tricks
  6. playing for time

Callois four categories:


  1. Cycling
  2. loosing weight (jogging, running)
  3. bike racing
  4. twisting/ rotating


  1. pets (walking the dog)
  2. using computer devices (smart phone/ internet/ virtual reality)
  3. listening to music
  4. imagination/ day dreaming (holding hands)
  5. window shopping
  6. photography / reading and writing
  7. toys (playing with sticks, loose material


  1. joking
  2. speech play
  3. playing with metaphors
  4. playing music/ voices


  1. collection (coin machine)
  2. bike racing
  3. jogging

Attempt to use the results of my test phase to inform the development of the classification. However note, that these classification sit under the assumption that play is an intrinsic induced activity, that constitutes freedom, based on the acceptance of risk in its temporary transformational nature.

Note: Look into situationists, political activism and concept of ‘leisure’, habitus, place theory (what makes a place)

Consumptive street spaces

measures of elements which are examples of play:

  • distances (object to subject and subject to subject)
  • level and sorts of playful social interactions
  • movement through space (speeds)
  • level of risk/ perceived safety
  • active frontages
  • commercial use of the space (outside dinning, display of commercial goods and services)


Merleau- Ponty. (1958). Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge Classics. London and New York.

‘It requires that two perceoved lines, like two real lines, should be equal or unequal, that a perceived crystal should have a definite number of sides, without realizing that the perceived, by its nature, admits of the ambiguous, the shifting, and is shaped by its context. p.13

Müller-Lyer’s illission, one of the lines ceases to be equal to the other without becoming ‘unequal’: it becomes ‘different’. That is to say, an isolated, objective line, and the same line takes in a figure, cease to be, for perception, ‘the same’. p.13

The word perception indicates a direction rather than a primitive function. p.13

A shape is nothing but a sum of limited views, and the consciousness of a shape is a collective entity. The sensible elements of which it is made up cannot lose the opacity which defines them as sensory given, and open themselves to some intrinsic connection, to some law of conformation governing them all. p.16

‘Memory is built out of the progressive and continuous passing of one instant into another, and the interlocking of each one, with its whole horizon, in the thickness of its successor. The same continuous transition implies the object as it is out there, with, in short, its ‘real’ size as I should see it if I were beside it, in the perception that I have of it from here.’ p. 309-310.

‘Movement is merely an accidental attribute of the moving body, and it is not, so to speak, seen in the stone. It can be only a change in the relations between the stone and its surroundings.’ p.312

‘The phenomenon of ‘shift’, and implies the idea of a spatial and temporal position always identifiable in itself.’ p.313

Gestalttheorie –> Wertheimer talks of Erscheinungen and Darstellung p.318

‘Consciousness is removed from being, and from its own being, and at the same time united with them, by the thickness of the world. … The consciousness of the world is not based on self-consciousness: they are strictly contemporary. There is a world for me because I am not unaware of myself; and I am not concealed from myself because I have a world.’ p. 347









Week 32: 19th – 23rd Sept. 2016


Method test on the ground

Carried out in Potsdam on 20, 21 and 22nd Sept. 2016

Content research suitcase

Notebook, pens in different colours, tripod, poster, information flyer, maps, GoPro camera, microchips (two 64 GB), 5 extra batteries, mobile phone (includes Apps for noise level recording, interview recording, time, and weather analysis, panorama picture function), external hard drive  (2 Terra byte) for data storage.


20th September 2016

Inspection of location as well as testing of phase one (investigation for traces of play)

Location: pedestrian zone and shared space Brandenburger Strasse, Potsdam

Weather condition: sunny, no wind, 27 degrees

Notes: Took many pictures of grafitty, stickers on electricity boxes, marks on street furniture (including benches, bike racks and street light poles), bike rental station, bins with stickers, bicycles, charcoal drawings on footpath “Frieden”, flower beds, signs

Walked over to site two ( dutch quarter shared space environment). Due to the fact that there were no benches in the public realm I did not decide to go forward with this site. As agreed in the Ethics approval I need to remain in the public realm for research.

21st September 2016

Arrival at Position Nr. one (Brandenburger Strasse corner Lindenstrasse)

Time: around 6.30 am

Weather: temperature in the morning 14 degrees, few clouds, no wind, sunny

Noise level recording: Time 7:05 am (Normal conversation level, loud singing, inside car) –> dB statistic on external hard drive)


Notes are recorded in the black notebook.

Reflection on my own action:

In the beginning I recorded too much information and feelings –> the later the day it became more and more clearer what is relevant information and what is less useful.

  • people started to walk through the area from 7.20 am onwards
  • most playful behaviour is riding bike, listening to music, playing on mobile phones, window shopping, play around, joking around
  • morning tea (warming up from 8.40 am -9.20 am)
  • all three additional camera batteries were all depleted  at 12 noon –> abort observation for the day and trying to get more battery packs.
  • through traffic was possible (for vehicles)

First position:



Arrival at second position: Brandenburger Strasse corner Dorusstraße at 9.20 am

Weather: temperature in the morning 21 degrees, no wind, sunny

Noise level recording: Time 9.47 am (Normal conversation level, inside car) –> dB statistic on external hard drive)

Reflection notes:

  • Street dynamic has changed as bicycles starting to disappear. Pedestrians take over.
  • New kinds of play behaviour starting to emerge: more groups, people walking hand in hand, more people walking their dogs, more people on phones and window shopping.
  • Data is listed in detail and recorded on external hard drive.
  • try to record a 360 image
  • through traffic for vehicles was partly possible (one side only)




In the afternoon results of playful behaviour have been added to the assessment matrix.


 22nd September 2016

Arrival at Position Nr. one (Brandenburger Strasse corner Herman- Elflein Strasse)

Time: around 6.50 am

Weather: temperature in the morning 11 degrees cool, light wind, sunny

Noise level recording: Time 6:51 am (Loud singing, inside car, normal conversation)

Remarks on recording:

  • much better in quality, richer and precise
  • I am starting to record just useful data in combination with time of activity and visual assessment in relation to body weight.
  • unable to contact and disrupt people in all kinds of play activity such as riding bike and listening to music and joggers
  • pavement type has an impact on movement and kerbs in relation to demarcation
  • through traffic was possible on one side only
  • due to the location near a landmark building more people stopped here and engaged in playful behaviour (in the form of photography) than in any of the other positions. –> perhaps a direct correlation between objects (built environments) and the subject




Morning break between 8:40 am – 9.20 am

Second noise level test: 10:03 am (loud singing, insight car, automobile)

Due to the cool morning temperature the battery life became shorter, despite of the fact that I had one more battery  I was urged to conclude observations around 1 pm.

–> need to get hold of at least two more battery packs. However I was able to use the afternoon to fill in the play matrix.


I was able to record until my batteries died. With the second microchip I can record now easily up to 10 hours of data. When exporting them onto the hard drive I am able to take high resolution screen shots of examples of playful behaviour. Also I can do an exact count of bicycles and pedestrians if required.

I found it difficult to leave the equipment behind and start unstructured interviews with people who displayed playful behaviour as there were suspicious individuals around, that could take advantage of the situation.

Also choosing my position based on the notion of available bench space may be not as optimal as vantage points. A small camping chair would be good to have.

The decision to drop the other street environments is due to the high amount of time it may take to storage, recharge and analysis the research data. This testing phase led me to the conclusion to drop two of the three subunits in each city in order to work with better quality data on a confined space. Otherwise I may need to spend carrying out research in each of them for 10-15 days (pending on weather condition) and almost the same time to analysis the data of each day.



Week 27: 15th – 19th August 2016

Meeting with supervisors

  • took place in week 26
  • received valuable feedback on my summary one pager. As I understood the entire PhD hangs off these 500 words.
  • Also I’ve received a valuable article, that creates a useful bridge between physical activity and play where observational methods were used.
  • Thiel, A., Thedinga, H. K., Thomas, S. L., Barkhoff, H., Giel, K. E., Schweizer, O., … Zipfel, S. (2016). Have adults lost their sense of play? An observational study of the social dynamics of physical (in)activity in German and Hawaiian leisure settings. BMC Public Health, 16, 689. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3392-3
  • Conclusion of paper was: in order to get adults more physical active focus on fun message and carry out further studies in leisure time environments.
  • As the predominant form of public realm in cities is street space, it supports the notion that my research can add value and is so far unique.

fieldwork preparation

  • Work on observational coding table continues. I am focusing on types human playful activity, environmental composition (spaces and places) and supportive information (age, gender, body composition, time).
  • important that these measures can be related back to my original research questions.

Documents attached Purpose of research 2081016
fieldwork play types



Week 21: 4 July – 8 July 2016

observation checklist (Spradely (1980). Participant Observation, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, p. 78) :

  • space: physical place or space
  • actor: the people involved
  • activity: playful behaviour
  • object: the physical items/environment
  • act: single actions
  • event: set of related activities which people carry out
  • time: sequencing which takes place over time
  • goal: what are these people try to accomplish
  • feelings: felt emotions and expressions

fieldwork diary (Wilkinson (2003). Using Research Instruments-  a guide for Researchers)

used to plan dates, observation sessions, record time spend in the setting, length of major events

structured (counting of events and relationships) and/ or descriptive approach (look beyond measures to understand and explore the meaning of such events) p.129

data driven research benefit: can find questions and answers that cannot be found by any other means.

Ethics approval

Yesterday I’ve received an email from Ethics raising further concerns in relation to my research project. In order to respond to their concerns I worked today on a draft response, which can be discussed at tomorrows supervisors meeting. Also the supervisors received a copy of the one pager about my research intent.

Draft response the ethics concerns can be accessed here. ethic concerns

Supervisor meeting

Meeting with Milica and Andrew – discussion of ethics –> need to rework and have a meeting with Hendrik

Take children completely out, make contact with Hanoi to translate the consent form.

Need to scale down the scope: agreed on using the street as subunit across each unit.

Street research

Any street with more than 200 cars per hour, at any time, will be consider as a major road and therefore starts to destroy the neighbourhood identity. Alexander (1977) Pattern Language p. 84


people from all cultures have the general need of some kind of mixing, which is possible in a promenade. p.170

if there is a promenade within 10 min the more people will use it.

a place with less than 150-300 square feet of paved surface feels dead or uninviting

10-min walk accounts for 1500 feet –> perfect length for the promenade (needs 16.000 people.

use between 6-10 pm. p.171

Shopping street:

depend on access and need a location near major road, however the street itself needs to be quite, comfort and convenient from pedestrian path in surrounding areas.



can make






All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and woman merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;And one man in his time plays many parts,
His act being seven ages.

p. 140

Erik Erikson “Idenity and the Life Cycle” in Psychological Issues, Vol.1, No. 1, NY 1959.

8 phases of life
1. Trust vs. mistrust: infants
2. Autonomy vs. shame and doubt: very young child
3. Initiative vs. guilt: child
4. Industry vs. inferiority: youngsters
5. Identity vs. identity diffusion: youth, adolescence
6. Intimacy vs. isolation: young adults
7. Generativity vs. stagnation: adults
8. Integrity vs. despair: old agep. 141f.






Week 16: 30th May -3rd June 2016

Two days of drafting the research proposal passed.

On Monday uploaded the document onto Moodle and undertook a urkund check. Awaiting the results, if there are any…

Revisited the creative research literature in order to verify option for creative output. Currently I tend toward a book for the following reasons:

  • more permanent (output) –> what do I want to get out of the PhD.
  • easier to distribute through different countries where I will undertake research.
  • a book can better inform policy over a longer period in time.
  • equally labour intense than a exhibition
  • challenge to find an appropriate publisher and someone who covers the print cost for the first edition.

–> Addtional option to link book to an online exhibition (videos, photos etc.) hosted by USG.

Ideas for the design of the creative output

Zardini, M. (2005). Sense of the City: an alternate approach to urbanism. Montréal Lars Müller Publishers.

PhD proposal

The PhD proposal can be accessed here: PhD Proposal 


Week 14: 16th May – 20th May 2016

Session day with Tim

Going through the Ethics proposal

What am I allowed to observe in public spaces?

Don’t over think!

Focus on types not details –> observation, targeted interventions

Affrica Taylor Affrica.Taylor@canberra.edu.au contact her in UC Education

(nye-not yet examined)


Ethics approval

Completed on the 18/05/16 the Ethics form Ethics_Form_GHM180516

Consent form for ethics can be accessed here: Research Consent Form

To be submitted after supervisor approval to:   humanethicscommittee@canberra.edu.au

Access here revised Introduction presentation GHM

Things to do:

  • Amend title to “The phenomena of play in cities” (research office has been contacted)
  • finalise PhD proposal
  • continue literature review (focus on papers in order to prepare reading list for students)
  • submit ethics form to supervisor –> then submit to the ethics committee (next meeting is 28th June 2016, to be lodged on the 14th June 2016 noon electronically)


Week 13: 09th May- 13th May

Continuing to develop some kind of research design

A potential theory or confirmation of a theory may come out at the end rather testing a pure hypothesis!

  • A- priori (generated from theory, literature) –> health and wellbeing
  • A posteriori (from data gathered)
  • Look beyond language (because different words will we coded differently)

Supervisor meeting

Important not to have a lead question for (lived realm) –> analysis of their response  –> I will do the lead back to “play”

try a matrix diagram to create cross connection from affordance to Lefebvres realms.

use a play theory that I can lay over with Lefebvres theory.

Keep working on Ethics and proposal (for presentation) –> identify a confirmation seminar date.

Status DAAD grant application

Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme application form 2016

Research on affordance

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston, Houghton Mifflin.


  • Gibson argues affordance is an automatic process that is an integrated part of perception.
  • People perceive things as part of their routine and consider at least to a degree what they could do with that.
  • The potential use of an object to the individual.
  • Question with regards to play is not “what is this?” rather “what can I do with this?”(Kaplan, S. and R. Kaplan (1982). Cognition and environment: functioning in an uncertain world. New York, Praeger. p. 93)
  • Identity of the elements can be explored and elements rearranged.
  • Familiarity is an outcome of a exploration (starting point for play)
  • Even when rearranged object are manipulative,  but manipulation need not to be of concrete objects.

Cognitive maps require a evaluative code in order to be effective guides to action (Kaplan, p.94).

Create tables of possibilities –>  Preference, Type, Material and time dimension

Brendan Gleeson (2016): To a new Babylon, Griffith Review, Melbourne

Gleeson reflexes in his essay on the nexus between tradition, faith and reason. Drawing Terry Eagelton’s work (Hope without Optimism 2015) on the great force of the power of theology as a pathway to resolve the human dilema. Gleeson create a bridge to mental health and outlines that depression will be the second most common disease in the world by 2020 (WHO). Further he indicates that Hannah Arendt’s work (The Human Condition, 1958) and writings of Ivan Illich critic of western society. The critique was directed towards imagination of a world beyond capitalism and excessive trapping of industrial modernity. His imaginary future included a ‘convivial modernity’ where technology were seen as tools and limited to the principles of human and natural sufficiency. –> Bicycle was one of these ideal tools.

Are we creating good enough cities? While asking himself the question he outlines the limitation of utopian scenarios and points towards Eagelton ‘Images of utopia are always in danger of confiscating the energies that might otherwise be invested in its construction’. In addition he notes, that utopian thinking rarely produced anything other than misty eyed pieties that haven’t particular helped anyone.

Gleeson also point out and that is of particular interesting in relation to play as a cognitive behaviour, cognitive behaviour therapy is transfixed with the integrity of the present, evoking a civilisation that cannot mobilise the imaginative energy that is needed to face an imperilled future. –> resulting in higher rates of alienation or as Gleeson puts it ‘to be trapped in exile from human meaning and possibility.

He also highlights that Arendt warned about the collective consequences and summarised it in an ‘outbreak of human stupidity’ with an decrease in common sense supported by an increase of superstition and gullibility.

Conclusion: see the means to transform and renewal with hopeful ideas that can be implemented in the here and now –> embracing possibility of collective imagination in dark times through play.

Mental time travel (a way to capture the lived spaces of Lefebvre’s idea)

Reflexive work on research endeavour

Development of ppt summarising the research journey and development so far.

Draft Introduction presentation GHM

This includes Research question, research paradigm, research design matrix, methodology, initial methods.

Note: I find myself working intensively with the blog in order to keep track of though development.