Future cities play as hard as they work: UWE collaborates on conference exploring playful approaches to urban spaces

Issue date: 09 September 2014

A post box with a speech bubble coming out of it 'talks' to a passing woman.

Date: 10 September - 11 September 2014
Venue: Watershed, Bristol
Time: 12:30

How to use playfulness to connect people to each other and to the places they live and work in will be explored at a two-day conference at the Watershed, Bristol on 10 and 11 September. Called Making the City Playable, the conference is convened by Watershed, the Festival of Ideas and UWE Bristol's Digital Cultures Research Centre (DCRC).

The Conference brings together a diverse group of thinkers, makers, planners and civil disobedients who will look at cities as playable places and ask, how will citizens, urban planners, tech giants, small companies, artists and designers imagine and make the cities of the future?

The Playable City is a people-centred counterpoint to the notion of the Smart City, challenging public narratives around technology-driven cities which often feature a fear of isolation, or the extinction of community and conversation.

The conference will feature playful interventions, networking, debate and discussion, artist commissions and an academic strand. Speakers are bringing their experiences from cities as far afield as the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal.

The line-up includes Google Creative Lab's Tom Uglow, artist and DCRC researcher Tine Bech, architect Usman Haque, digital engagement strategist Katz Kiely, artists Luke Jerram – responsible for the 300ft water slide on Park Street – and Paolo Cirio, Ogilvy's Tara Austin and UWE's Seth Giddings and Tom Abba.

UWE's Digital Cultures Research Centre Director Mandy Rose says, "The Playable City theme is at heart of our work at the DCRC. You can see it in the creative projects that Tom Abba has been making as part of the Circumstance Collective and in the art work of researcher Tine Bech. It's there in Seth Giddings explorations of contemporary childhood play. We are very excited to be involved in bringing an international conference together where people from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives will explore and test the potential and limits of the concept.”

The academic strand is convened by Dr Michael Buser (Architecture and the Built Environment, UWE Bristol), Dr Kirsten Cater (Computer Science, University of Bristol), Professor Jon Dovey (Screen Media, UWE Bristol), Associate Professor Mandy Rose (Digital Cultures, UWE Bristol) and Dr Angie Page (Policy Studies, University of Bristol).

The winning project of the 2014 Playable City AwardShadowing by Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier, will be unveiled as part of the conference. This brand-new artwork will give memory to Bristol's city street lights, enabling them to record and play back the shadows of those who pass underneath, inviting interaction between those who share a space.

For more information and to see a live stream from the conference see Making the City Playable.

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