The Transformers

When you think of a city, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most likely it is the stuff that it is made up of: its streets and buildings, its parks and squares. But what sets a city apart, aside from its architecture, is how all that stuff is put to use. A city’s nightlife, a city’s cuisine, a city’s culture. In other words, what people make of the space they live in when they are at play.

Play isn’t limited to the ‘soft side’ of urbanism. In fact, it turns out a building isn’t some prefixed structure capable of doing one thing only. Adaptation and reuse continuously transform what a city’s architecture is for, often from the bottom up. In this way, a city’s people shape their homes as well, quite literally.

What is at work in this process of city transformation, is nothing less than play. In cities, just as in games, people and the space they inhabit shape each other. Thus, in our Western cities, where reuse is overtaking construction of new space, we are all becoming architects.

In this session Kars looks at how game culture and play shape the urban fabric, how we might design systems that improve people’s capacity to do so, and how you yourself, through play, can transform the city you call home.

Kars Alfrink is ‘Chief Agent’ of Hubbub, a networked design studio for applied pervasive games. Hubbub works with organizations to create games that take place in public space, engage people physically, and are socially relevant. Amongst other things, these games are used to encourage good citizenship and to facilitate cultural participation.

Besides this, Kars teaches at the Utrecht School of the Arts, where he mentors students who are pursuing a Master of Arts in Interaction Design or Game Design & Development. He is also the initiator and co organizer of ‘This Happened’ — Utrecht,a series of lectures dedicated to the stories behind interaction design.

In his spare time, Kars practices a traditional Japanese martial art, and tries to keep up with geek culture.

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