What Is the Value of ‘Play’ in Our Urban Environments?

By Sophie Curtis on November 24, 2014


Sam Hill is an experience designer and co-founder of design practice PAN Studio, producing interactive objects for installations and immersive theatre, and creating experimental objects designed to find new ways of enriching everyday living. PAN Studio have created an alternate reality game using the internet and mobile devices to create fantasy worlds as virtual “layers” over the real world.

We caught up with Sam ahead of his presentation at RE.WORK Future Cities Summit in London this December.

What is the greatest opportunity in your industry to positively impact our future cities?

If we consider our industry to be “computer games” now, which I suppose it has become, then it’s the potential for these digital systems to engage with physical spaces. As digital infrastructure become more ubiquitous, the properties of digital gaming can pervade the city too. In turn this can change the way people see, use and reflect upon their urban environment.


What is the biggest obstacle to integrating emerging technology into urban infrastructure, cities and communities?
Finding the right applications, perhaps? For communities, at least, emerging technologies need be relevant on a human level. They’re far more likely to be adopted if they can clearly demonstrate having some form of experiential value – that is to say, be playful, humanising, emotionally salient, sensationally enriching or socially connective.
What will be the key skills/jobs required in the future for your sector?
We need more engineers. More makers. Though perhaps our industry gives us a skewed perspective, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people with good ideas, so much as a shortage of people who can help to realise, prototype and improve them.


What emerging technology are you most excited about - personal or business or society wise that will affect our future cities?
Everyone’s coming to grips with connect objects and their possible applications in our day-to-day lives, as products and tools. However, at PAN we’re also very excited about the potential that networked objects have for culture, creative expression and play – located games, immersive theatre and interactive installations. 

Sam Hill will be speaking at RE.WORK Future Cities Summit, London, on 4-5 December. To view the full line-up and register to attend, go to: re-work.co/cities

Join the conversation on twitter with @teamrework and the hashtag #reworkCITIES

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