Affective Critical Play: Radical Design of Hybrid Museum Experiences

Karin Ryding

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


This dissertation takes as its point of departure Mary Flanagan’s well-known concept of ‘critical play’ – a form of play that purposely challenges dominant worldviews and power structures. The main innovation of the dissertation lies in the introduction of critical play into the museum world. This is done through the design and evaluation of two hybrid museum experiences, in which mobile phone apps are used to playfully reframe the physical museum visit. By exploring the relational and performative capacities of play, both theoretically and practically, I extend Flanagan’s work and put forward a new concept of ‘affective critical play’. In this way, my research serves as a bridge between game studies and the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), particularly in relation to research concerned with digital museum experiences.
The methodological approach I have used in my work is taken from Research through Design (RtD), in which knowledge is produced through reflections on design practice. I have engaged with a critical/reflective design methodology, which means that my aim has not been to solve a specific problem, but rather to find and explore tensions in order to reach new insights. This includes interweaving design research with museology, feminist theory, play
theory and affect theory to create a new synthesis.
The first design experiment described, “Monuments for a departed future”, is a critical play with a contested heritage. It was carried out at The Museum of Yugoslavia, in Belgrade, Serbia, located on the grounds of the former communist leader Josip Broz Tito’s palace. By enabling a distinctly personal, intimate and playful approach to Yugoslav history, the design adopts what Andrea Witcomb refers to as a ‘pedagogy of feeling’ for museums.
In the second design experiment, “Never let me go”, the design focuses particularly on the social dynamics of play. This is a two-player experience for art museums which was trialled at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen. By setting up two roles through which one player was in charge of the other player’s experience, a smartphone app was used to promote an acute awareness of the personal, social, cultural and material boundaries of the museum visit.
By challenging norms and expectations through emphasising emergence, ambiguity, defamiliarization, intimacy and trust, I propose that the design of hybrid museum experiences to foster affective critical play may serve a double purpose. Firstly, it may provide an opportunity for researchers to study play as a critical practice with transformative potential; secondly, it works as a form of disruptive innovation pointing towards radically new ways to act and interact – to experience and to become – during a museum visit.
ForlagIT University of Copenhagen
Antal sider223
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7949-046-8
StatusUdgivet - 2021


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