Interface Play: Media Environments for Ludic Cyborgs

The panel is interested in the moment of invention, the moment when the interaction becomes playful and the interface a game, and how it can be mobilized for creative strategies
Thursday, 15 September, 2011 - 13:00 - 14:30
Chair Person: 
Mark Butler
Hybrid PlayGround - transforming a playground into a video game

Chair: Mark Butler

This panel of the Ludic Interfaces Research Group (L.I.R.G.) revolves around the current state of research into ludic interfaces, i.e. playful interaction spaces (, a term that was coined at ISEA 2007/2008. It will give a working definition of this core concept that is the kernel of a new research field, map out its development and present state of the art hypotheses.

The premise of L.I.R.G. is that interface innovations and their propagation – one only needs to remember the genealogy of graphical user interfaces – have their roots in playfulness. Ludic interfaces are concrete, situated interfaces in which the playful potential inherent in all interfaces manifests itself. This potential stems from the fact that all interfaces are by definition intermediary zones that exist between heterogeneous dimensions. This is especially true with regards to computer-based interfaces. Play potency is an essential quality of the digital medium. Not only can it, given the necessary interface protocol, connect anything to anything else;  everything also becomes highly malleable once it is translated into binary code.

Ludic interfaces unleash the protean possibility space inherent in programmable media. They stand in contrast to straight interfaces: interface solutions that are solely used for a clearly defined, utilitarian purpose and teleological goal; designed from the beginning to directly enable the fulfillment of  proposed aims, without deviations. Ludic interfaces, in contrast, have a patchwork of motivational vectors that opens up a possibility space  filled with myriad paths leading toward goals that don’t have to be clearly defined. In short: The panel is interested in the moment of invention, the moment when the interaction becomes playful and the interface a game, and how it can be mobilized for creative strategies.

Paper Abstracts

The City as Ludic Interface

by Dr. Georg Russegger

The focus of this paper is the city as an assemblage of infrastructures, cultures, networks, communities and people. Architecture not only relies on building materials, but also encompasses a virtual framework that has emerged over the last decades and become a fundamental part of the urban interface. Artistic projects in public space are becoming a core vector of urban innovation, by experimentally fomenting new ways of abstraction and using the city in unusual ways to produce an unforeseen intermingling of real and virtual space. It seems that the city itself is becoming the environment of choice for media activists. How the city is being turned into a ludic interface, a playful environment and media disposition, is observable in several artistic movements and projects that transform it into a stage and place it in a performative framework. This paper will draw upon the CODED CULTURES festival and the LUDIC INTERFACES project and present examples of new artistic practices and ability profiles that use the city as a laboratory, exhibition space, communication platform or hack-space. It will use them to exemplify a deep and critical understanding of what code and culture can be and outline a broad interface definition.

Bringing the Imaginary back into Play

by Alison Gazzard

The term ‘ludic’ can be linked to many aspects of play and games, but what does it mean to be playful and where and how does this play occur? Whereas theorists write about digital games existing as goal-orientated, rule-based systems the act of exploration, discovery and pleasure of the play experience is often neglected or secondary to this statement. In writing about non-digital games Caillois’ (1958) distinguishes between “agon, alea, mimicry and ilinx” and although competition, chance, make-believe and vertigo can all exist within the digital game world, the enclosed screen of the virtual realm mean some of these categories often evolve in their interpretations. However, the ubiquity of mobile-phone technologies, integrated GPS systems and cameras allow for the geographical landscape to be transformed at the touch of the button. The growth of augmented reality (AR) technology now allows the screen to display fictional objects layered onto the quotidian world. Applications such as Layar on the iOS and Android operating systems create new platforms for playful experiences, often recreating our childhood memories of fictional worlds, imaginary places and ideas surrounding new rules of play. Through using AR we often no longer have to rely solely on our own imaginations to create fictional worlds as the mobile interface creates a window for us to see through and interact with both the place we are situated in and the corresponding layer placed on top. AR gamespaces are now digitally situated in the real world landscape, temporarily changing our relationships with the space and forming portable playgrounds of experiences. Using examples of games found in the Layar application, as well as augmented reality games developed for the iPhone, this paper will re-examine Caillois’ original categories of play as a way of understanding the ubiquity of ludic interfaces in light of our real world explorations. In doing so, it will also highlight the importance of exploration and discovery in how we perceive, perform and create spaces of playful interaction.

Ludic strategies in public environments

by Dr. Dr. Moisés Mañas Carbonell and Prof. Dr. Martinez de Pisón Ramón

Starting with a concept of environment not only as "what is around us" but as the cultural and visual agents we interact with, it appears that situations and interactions between individuals and media content are building a new kind of citizen, a gamified citizen that needs strategies to cope with the curious order of public relations we call ludocracy.

Playful Potential – A Short Geneaology of Ludic Interfaces 

by Mark Butler

This paper will look at the development of digital culture and the role of the ludic therein, using paradigmatic examples from the history of programmable media. From the beginning, the development of personal computing and its interfaces has shown playful characteristics. A geneaology of playful interaction can be reconstructed from the development of Spacewar! by the early computer hackers at M.I.T. through the research done at institutions such as Xerox PARC and Stanfords Augmentation Research Center up to contemporary computing culture. In reconstructing this development, the paper will take a critical look at ludological concepts and their applicability to digital media culture. Is it still apt to speak of the homo ludens (Huizinga) or is the term “ludic cyborg” (Adamowsky) more appropriate? Can play space be clearly demarcated or framed, as classical play theoreticians would have it, or has it become so deterritorialized in contemporary culture with its alternate and augmented reality games, time-consuming online game worlds and full-body kinaesthetic interaction that we need to rethink our concepts? And is the strict differentiation between work and play that we have inherited from the 19th century still helpful in coming to terms with the current cultural situation at the beginning of the new millenium?

Re-conquering the gamified city.  An old battle on a new urban ground

by Daphne Dragona

Have we really entered the era of gamification and what does this new notion imply for the urban environment? Images of new adventurous cities have appeared, described as networked gamespaces offering excitement, fun and socializing to cizitens that seem to be full of energy and desire for challenges, rewards and status. The magic circle has expanded to a ludic urban terrain that goes beyond any prior expectation. There is no longer an outside as all is diffused interconnected and accessible at the same time. By following new rules of a hybrid gameplay, the city awaits to be tagged, appropriated and enjoyed. Roles can not only be taken but also generated and modified by inhabitants themselves. But is this a new celebration for a gaming generation or an unfortunate ludic decadence? Are players being underestimated in this new condition? Whatever happened to the digital playful multitude whose potentialities are the very core of today’s urban and digital wealth? The new supposition of gamification is bringing back once again the old battle between game and play, between constraints and freedom, between conventions and anarchy, between areas that are being commodified and areas that become common. A new call for active players therefore emerges, not only in order to hack the new marketed urban gamespace but also in order to re-conquer the city by re-appropriating its very wealth and essence: that is the disposal, interest, capability and knowledge of the players themselves.

Isn’t this battle a mere metaphor for the tradegy of the post-fordist condition longing for political subversion and substantial change?

Bios of the Participants

Georg Russegger

Georg Russegger is Scientific Manager of the research and development project »Ludic Interfaces« at the Interface Culture Lab, University of Art and Design Linz. Together with the association »« he is artistic director of the CODED CULTURES festival ( in Vienna. Georg Russegger received a Ph.D. in media- and communication-theory and did a Post Doc. at the Graduate School for Film and New Media (Tokyo National University of the Arts). His last books are titled »Coded Cultures« (Editor)  »Smartject« (Author) and focused on creative delineation-practices in human-mediated processes of self-organization within complex media environments. As an artist he received a diploma in media arts at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and works under the alias Grischinka Teufl ( Since 1999 he is active in artistic and scientific fields based on research about new artistic practices, media-integrated knowledge-cultures and their greater impact on project design and individual self-empowerment

Alison Gazzard

Alison Gazzard is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in New Media at the University of Bedfordshire, UK where she also holds the position of Editorial Assistant for Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. She was awarded a PhD from the University of Hertfordshire titled ‘Paths, Players, Places: Towards an Understanding of Mazes and Spaces in Videogames’ and an MA in 3D Computer Animation from the National Centre of Computer Animation at Bournemouth University. Her research on videogame spaces, players, mapping and location-based media has been presented at various international conferences as well as being published in journals such as Game Studies and the Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds. Her current research interests include play, paths, journeys and time in both real and virtual world spaces

Moisés Mañas Carbonell

Dr. Moisés Mañas Carbonell ( is an artist, interactive designer and professor of Interactive Art in the Fine Arts Faculty of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (since 2001). He is member of the research group, Laboratorio de luz. He has also been a member of the Technical Committee of the International Congress ACE program 2005, 2006 and 2007 (International conference on Advances in computer entertainment technology, ACM SIGCHI), Member of the artistic committee of the DIME-ATS, 2006 and 2008 (Digital Interactive Media Entertainment & Arts). Festival Jury Ciber @ rt Bilbao 2004, between other more. His work has been presented and awarded in many festivals and exhibitions related to art and technology, in and out of Spain since 1998 as, MAM ( Santo Domingo) 2011, Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo  de Mérida (Venezuela) 2010, Digital Image-Space Festival ENTER (Canary-2009), Neue Galerie - Graz (Austria) 2009, “MEIAC”.Badajoz (España) 2008, ZKM - Germany , 2008-09, La Laboral, Gijón (2009), Bienal de Valencia, 2007, File 04 (Sau Paulo. Brazil, 2004), Mediaterra 2000 and 04 (Atenas. Greece), Inmedia 2000 (Michigan, USA ) Observatory-2000, Valencia, Intertecno 2000, Valencia, Audiovisual Creation Festival of Navarra 98/99/00, Ciber@rt 1999, "Les brassieres" , Liege. Belgium. 2001, etc

María José Martínez de Pisón

Dr. María José Martínez de Pisón works alone and collectively with the Laboratorio de Luz, in the spheres of university research, artistic activity, and production of projects. She is  Professor in the Fine Art Faculty of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (since 1985). Her research is in the area of visual perception, interactive video, interactive installations, relationships between languages, and technique in multimedia artistic practices. Martínez de Pisón has served as director of Laboratorio de Luz/The Light (, since 1990. The Light Laboratory is a research team located in the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and acts as a space of encounter, study and research of technical, aesthetic and expressive principles connecting with image-light.  Martínez de Pisón’s research is focused on the development of R&D projects: interactive devices of image projection or visualization, made with digital images for the art field and compatible applications. This activity is combined with theoretical reflection, and cultural, educative, and social projects. Laboratorio de Luz’s projects have been exhibited in both institutional  and private spaces in Europe: Arteleku, San Sebastian and  Elba Benitez Galery, Madrid, Spain (1993), Centre d´Art Santa Monica, Barcelona, Spain, (1994),  IVAM Museum ,Valencia, Spain (1995),  Helga de Alvear Galery, Madrid (1996), Lwudig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germani (1995)  Espace Les Brasseurs. Art Contemporain, Liège, Belgium (2001), Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid, Spain (2002), Fournos Center for Art and New Technologies. Atenas, Greeze (2004), Cabanyal Portes Obertes. Valencia, Spain (2005) Centro Párraga de Murcia, Spain, (2006). La Laboral. Gijón, Spain (2007).  ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany (2008). Centro Andaluz de Artes Contemporáneo (2009

Mark Butler

Mark Butler is a cultural scientist, futurologist, and the Scientific Manager of the research and development project Ludic Interfaces at the Institute of Art and Media at the Potsdam University. He has worked extensively on the culture of computer game-playing and is currently completing his Ph.D. on playful techniques of the self. As a doctoral member of the Science & Technology Research Group of the Daimler AG (2004-2008) he has undertook future-oriented research on wo/man-machine-interfaces. He is a founding editor of the peer-reviewed journal ilinx - Berliner Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft and a member of the Digital Games Research Network. Recent publications include the monograph Would you like to play a game? Die Kultur des Computrerspielens (2007) as well the following papers: „Becoming Zerg. The machinic embodiment of the StarCraft player“ (2011) and „On Reality and Simulation in an Extra Moral Sense. The Playful Logic of Life and Death in Liberty City“ (2010)

Daphne Dragona

Daphne Dragona is a media arts curator based in Athens, Greece.  She has collaborated with centers, museums and festivals in Greece and abroad, such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art (Athens), Medi@terra Festival (Athens) , LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre (Gijon), Alta Tegnologia Andina (Lima) and  Transmediale  Festival (Berlin). She has participated with lectures and presentations in different conferences and symposia and articles of hers have been published in books and magazines of different countries. She is also PhD candidate in the Faculty of Communication & Media Studies of the University of Athens.