Ludic Interfaces and Speculative Design

Although play has long been understood as an integral part of humanity [1] and an essential condition for the development of human culture, it was often dissociated with so-called serious activities. In the last decades — mainly pushed by the popularization of the game culture — ludic activities that are defined by play, or help to define it as an essential human behavior, crossed the frontier of pure entertainment and have been explored in various contexts of society and culture, such as work, health, and education.

Ludic approaches in art and design are associated with reflective explorations [2] and focused on meaning-making [3]. Through the outline of ludic interfaces [4], they promote playful experiences that offer possible actions and meanings for people to explore interactions, interfaces, and activities. By appropriating characteristics found in games and artistic and interactive media, ludic interfaces may serve for social critique and for deconstructing cultural and societal rules, roles, and settings [4]. Hence, acting as a ‘mechanism for developing new values and goals, learning new things, and achieving new understandings’ [3].

From this ludic perspective, art and design intersect with critical and speculative design as approaches where research, experimentation, and practices are not restricted to offering answers or implementable solutions for critical challenges [5]. Its outcomes also deemphasize the pursuit of external goals and, therefore, are receptive to open-ended approaches which explore alternative presents and possible futures [6].

Given this scenario and acknowledging play as form of research*, the Interest Group in Ludic Interfaces and Speculative Design (iLudens) — connected to the Computation, Hybrid Practices and Culture Research Program of i2ADS — aims to draw special attention to playful-making as a developmental method in practice-led design (and art) research [8] and act as a space for researchers, designers, artists, students, and practitioners to:

a) Connect and discuss themes at the intersection of ludic interfaces and the post-digital culture;

b) Propose and develop artistic research and practice that explores how media and technologies and their aesthetics could support ludic experiences in multiple domains of life.

c) Question existing paradigms and reimagine products, services, systems, and processes (either physical, digital, or both) toward other ways of living.


Topics of interest
iLudens welcomes research and practice that dives into a ludic transformation of reality through design explorations aiming to raise reflection, promote engagement, and produce meaning under (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • Ludic and Speculative Theories, Concepts, and Methods
  • Creativity, Imagination, Improv, and Role Playing
  • Ludic Art and Conceptual Ludic Art
  • Communication Design and Visual Narratives
  • Prototypes, Diegetic Prototypes, Cinematic Scenarios
  • Media, Transmedia, Experimental Media, Imaginary Media
  • Computational Aesthetics and Artificial Intelligence
  • Interaction Design, User Experience, and Player Experience
  • Play, Games, Serious Games and Gamification
  • Toys, Smart Toys, and Internet of Toys
  • Other-than/More-than Human Perspectives
  • Interspecies Interactions, Human-Animal-Computer Interaction
  • Playful Cities and Connected Cities


Fabrício Fava (Moderator, i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)
André Rangel (i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)
Bruno Giesteira (ID+, Group HEAD, i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)
Camila Mangueira (i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)
Eliana Penedos Santiago (ID+/FBAUP, PT)
Miguel Carvalhais (i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)
Pedro Amado (i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)
Rodrigo Carvalho (i2ADS/FBAUP, PT)


[1] Huizinga, J. (1949). Homo Ludens. A study of the play element in culture. Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.

[2] Sengers, P., Boehner, K., David, S., & Kaye, J. (2005). Reflective design. Proceedings of the 4th decennial conference on Critical computing: between sense and sensibility (CC ’05), 49–58.

[3] Gaver, W., Bowers, J., Boucher, A., Gellerson, H., Pennington, S., Schmidt, A., Steed, A., Villars, N., & Walker, B. (2004). The Drift Table: Designing for ludic engagement. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI04) Design Expo, 885–900.

[4] Fuchs, M., Russegger, G., & Carbonell, M. M. (2013). Ludic Interfaces. In N. Webber & D. Riha (Eds.), Exploring Videogames: Culture, Design and Identity (pp. 31-40). Inter-Disciplinary Press.

[5] Augner, J. H. (2012). Why robot?: Speculative design, the domestication of technology and the considered future. [Doctoral thesis, The Royal College of Art]. RCA Research Repository

[6] Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2013). Speculative everything: Design, fiction and social dreaming. MIT Press.

[7] Philpott, R. (2013). Engineering Opportunities for Originality and Invention: The importance of playful making as developmental method in practice-led design research. Studies in Material Thinking, 9.

* “Play is the highest form of research” — Albert Einstein quoted in Gestel, N. V., Hunt, J., Quinn, D., Kream, R., Houssenloge, K., Holt, J. & Hunt, J. (2008). The Unschooling Unmanual (1 edition.). The Natural Child Project.