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Play and Power: a Ludic Design Proposal for ICTD

DOI: 10.1145/2516604.2516628

Chirumamilla, Padma, and Joyojeet Pal. “Play and Power.” Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development Full Papers - ICTD ’13 - volume 1 (2013): n. pag. CrossRef. Web.

p.25: at a fundamental level, the role of the technology artifact has been to engineer a already-defined set of improvements. We argue here that the narrow conception of “improvement” as a static set of goals that are pre-defined as an objective of the development enterprise has undermined the user population's voice in the creation and appropriation of these objectives. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.25: This paper puts forth a notion of ludic design, drawing from work in HCI by Phoebe Sengers and Bill Gaver, as an avenue through which ICTD can begin to contend with the historical discourse of the developmental enterprise. This discourse, which we term the “developmental optic,” is one that envisions the subjects upon which it acts---the primary user audience of ICTD projects and services---as perpetually “backward,” perpetually in need of improvements decided upon by a (usually Western) other. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.25: we propose the notion of ludic design---one which takes fun and entertainment not simply as add-ons, but as central tenets to be enacted in the design and implementation of ICTD projects---as an alternative through which meaningful change and intervention can be enacted -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.25: Kentaro Toyama suggests that ICTD has approached “fun” as it relates to development in five different ways: dismissal, capitalization, association, terminalization, and unification. Dismissal rejects entertainment as a useful factor in the design of ICTD projects; capitalization takes advantage of fun to achieve other development goals; association conflates fun use of technology with other forms of development; terminalization interprets fun itself a worthwhile goal; and unification occurs when people feel their own efforts towards development to be fun in itself -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.25: This has led to the projects and artifacts of development work---including those artifacts deployed in ICTD---to narrowly envision their user populations as ones that need to be “improved” through some kind of intervention. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.26: This process of temporal distancing---of seeing the subject of development as always and already behind, in time or in being---was pushed along by the nature of the development profession itself as it solidified in the postwar period. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.26: Cultural specificity, the specific historical trajectories and traumas that particular nations had endured in order to get to the point at which they were then deemed to be “developing” by the observant eye of the international foundations—all of these specific stories, Escobar notes, were simply stripped away under this new optic, this new lens through which Western governments and development foundations now envisioned the people and nations upon which they acted. Specificity was replaced by a common language of scientific intervention that would work for all nations, for all peoples who were in the process of “developing.” -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.26: Phoebe Sengers and Bill Gaver have argued that the field of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) should be more receptive to the notion of open-ended interpretations for its projects. They note, “HCI can and should systematically recognize, design for, and evaluate with a more nuanced view of interpretation in which multiple, perhaps competing interpretations can co-exist” -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.27: Furthermore, the designers of ICTD technologies are typically separated on class, ethnicity, social status, geography etc., from their target audiences---which in turn can have tremendous impacts on the functional viability of convivial approaches to design. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.27: We think here of play as a lens through which empowerment can be perceived, since opening something to play creates a more comfortable, and perhaps more mutually respectful, environment in which users can appropriate a technology in their own terms without the weight of the selfproclaimed “seriousness” of the development agenda. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.27: This notion of play allows for design to respond to uses and motivations that might not necessarily result in an expected outcome, or even a desired one. In other words, rather than development being a pre-defined state, it co-evolves with the users' needs and desires. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.29: This openness—this possibility to allow for unexpectedly meaningful moments, like the constant glances at the camera, the chatter with friends encompassing and helping to illustrate what is undoubtedly a useful project—is key to the vision of ludic design that we are proposing in this paper. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.29: The presumption here---built into the scheduling of the community radio hour during television primetime, 7-8:30pm---is that a choice must be made between entertainment and improving oneself. One of Bailur's informants tells her that when they enquired amongst the villagers as to whether any of them were listening to the program or not, they would often feel guilty for “choosing entertainment over development, something which is good for them.” As Bailur notes in her study, part of the emphasis on development was driven by the goals of the NGOs and donor agency contributing resources to the project. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.30: Another, subtler example of how the MILLEE team paid attention to the particular ways in which children had fun with their educational games was the incorporation of ``You Win!'' screens into the final iteration of both the games they had designed for the children[17]. The team noticed that the children would often show their “You Win!” screens (previously implemented in only one of their games) to their fellow classmates or to the researchers themselves, obviously delighted in their accomplishment. Taking a cue from this, the researchers implemented the screen in the final versions of both games they designed for the children. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.31: Developmental discourse, as it has been historically constructed, has mostly served to render immobile those lives in which ICTD projects and researchers hope to intervene. Paying attention to play, and to affect, is above all a move to reinsert the dynamism and mutability of everyday life into how ICTD in particular---and developmental work much more generally---envisions and conceives of those people to whom its interventions are targeted. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.32: In his essay on designing for homo ludens, Bill Gaver writes: Scientific approaches to design need to be complemented by more personal, idiosyncratic ones. It is difficult to conceive of a task analysis for goofing around, or to think of exploration as a problem to be solved, or to determine usability requirements for systems meant to spark new perceptions. Instead, designers need to use their personal experiences as sounding boards for the systems they create. Balancing this, they need to engage with, and often lead, a conversation with the people for whom they are designing, lest their designs become purely selfindulgent [14]. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014