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Reflective environment










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Reflections are an unavoidable part of interacting with the design Playful Prayer given that prayer has political messages (Group report, 2011, description). It is therefore interesting to discuss how our prototype can be characterized as slow technology, which Hallnäs & Redström defines as “a design agenda for technology aimed at reflection and moments of mental rest rather than efficiency in performance” (2001, p.161). Testing the prototype made me realized how powerful approach the reflective and persuasive environment can be in order to immerse users into the play. In spite of abnormal space for play, it was possible to provoke a playful attitude through the reflective environment.

In the following I will therefore discuss the

environment surrounding the prototype and how it encouraged reflections prototype). .







It was a fascinating design task to encourage play in the space of the church since it for from my point of view, symbolizes the opposite of playfulness. Trough the community people engage in, they learn which social norms is appropriate. Likewise has the visitors of the church’s learned which social constraints and deep-rooted values there are attached to this religious space, which make this a interesting space to provoke a different behaviours in. The expected appropriations rules when being in the space of the church are that one should be polite, serious and humble. Children are supposed to run around and play, sing, dance or have fun - and adults are certainly not supposed to behave silly or playful. Based on this Playful Prayer wanted to explore if it is possible to perform playful around these existing norms. Obviously, the church is sacred and should be respected (Group report, 2011, ethics) but it was interesting to challenge this value-loaded space, which normally is not associated with playfulness.

However Stefan’s Kirken is probably one of the most untraditional churches in Copenhagen given that it uses humour, banners and organize modern events - based on this we chose this church. In relation to provoking a playful attitude it was strength that Stefan’s Kirken already had created a reflective and open atmosphere around the play.

The prayers obviously had political content, which inevitable

With all these elements we first of all aimed to create a

asked for the users opinion to the topic and thereby was

persuasive atmosphere that provoke users to play and than in

reflective by nature. By using loud speakers these prayers and

process of playing reconsider the social constraints around the

electric beats reached out beyond the address of the church

church and reflect upon other citizen’s prayer.

inviting people to explore the design. Besides the auditory and visual bricks, persuasive objects were placed in the space around the design, in order to create a reflective and persuasive environment. The supplementary persuasive objects consisted of inviting banners, candlelights and telephone receiver hanging from the trees, whispering flirtatious to get closer. We thereby aimed to make passing people curious enough to come closer and play. Intentionally the recording-option has been integrated into an everyday object in order to take advantage of the affordance of the receiver that would imply the purpose of the telephone receivers.


Inspired by a case in Amsterdam the original vision was suppose to project colourful and moving bricks on the entire church by using 3D projection. In relation to create a reflective environment; 3D projection was an interesting design element since it grounds in the already existing physical objects. It thereby makes it possible to change the visual perception of the church without

In relation to this Hallnäs & Redström argues that reflective environment is both inviting to reflection and at the same time is reflective in its expression, which exactly what was created with the sound and colourful bricks (2001, p. 170). Joined together it created create an enjoyment through the media, which would make reflections more possible.

changing anything physical on the already beautiful church building. This was the stepping-stone for integrating the interface into the bricks and makes the design tangible. Thereby benefiting from being able to have an embodied interaction with the church, which challenges the current interaction with the church. The church has listened to thousandth of prayers, which we attempt to symbolize by using the bricks ad a symbol of a prayer. Thereby making the interaction in the spirit of the church and offering a more personal interaction that aimed to connect users directly with the church. Second we aimed to question the regular perception of the church and the interaction with it.


The electronic music complemented the prayers and the colourful projections in a way that changed the solemn space of the church into being non-serious, fun and playful. The combination of exploration, surprises and humours content created room for enjoyment that clashed with the religious context, usual demanded social constraints open up a reflective environment with a co-existing playful attitude. Personal and frivolous prayers like “I pray that my greengrocer never closes because he has the best caramel crackers”, provoked various smiles but at the same time made room for reflection on How would I feel if my favourite greengrocer closed? The balance between serious and fun prayers, thereby contributed to a reflective - yet causal atmosphere.

The interface aimed to be playful in that sense that it suggested

auditory aesthetics. By combining different prayers with different

exploration instead of explanations. Without knowing the

music, it seemed that users enjoyed composing certain sound

consequences of their action, users began to play with the

expressions. Some also bodily engaged themselves by moving

prototype. It quickly became clear that this verbal or visual

their body according to the electronic beat.

explanation planted an itching curiosity about which sounds were hidden under which bricks. The surprising element thereby strengthens the play, making users wanting to continue to explore the consequence of their actions. After some time they realized what the prototype contained and the message of it. This is also one of the way in which technology can be slow; it takes time to see what it is (Hallnäs & Redström, 2001, p.167). In addition it also seemed that the slow use of the technology came as a result of the concentration on aesthetics since it was reflective, which also can be a slow technology characteristics. The majority of users shared the same behaviour pattern, which were when they had archived an overview of where the different sounds where hidden, they challenged themselves. Then the play shifted from being focused on exploration into the creating

It was satisfying to experience how these reflective design

The aesthetics expression (colourful bricks and electric music)

frames actually brought users into a reflective mood. It seemed

aimed to support the desire to be present; thereby strengthen the

that it felt natural to reflection upon both on the information being

reflective effect. When testing the prototype, it was found that the



aesthetic functionality had an immersed effect, which resulted in

technology. The reflective behaviour manifested in users

engaged and present users. Slowness thereby becomes a

standing still, looked concentrated and just listening. The majority

consequence of a being focused on the aesthetically design,

started with listening separately to prayers and only accidental

which at the same time was reflective in its expression (Hallnäs &

combining the prayers with electronic music. Their full attention

Redström, p.168). According to Hallnäs & Redström to fully

was on the message in the prayers and the process of

grasp Playful Prayer through its behaviour, users has to stop and

interpretation it. One user actually looked away from the screen

reflect for a moment each time a new prayer is articulated (2001,

in order to optimize her hearing sense, which emphasized her

p.165). Only over time they could grasp the whole interpretation

willingness to be present. Smiling faces and indicated that we

of the design (ibid) Not surprisingly users who seemed to extract

successfully created an enjoyment through the media, which also

the most enjoyment, were the ones who were present and took

would make reflections more possible.

their time to explore the different outcomes of touching the

Our prototype also aimed to questioned whether or not the

bricks. In relation to this an impatience man’s experience is worth

church should renew itself and embrace the technological

mentioned since it differentiated from the rest of the users. This

development e.g. if the traditional method to pray should be the

man used approximately 1 minute touching all bricks at once.

only option for praying. This is exactly what slow technology is

This resulted in repeatedly silence followed by overlapping

about - exposing technology in a way that encourages people to

sounds since the prayers started backwards each time a new

reflect and think about it. (Hallnäs & Redström, 2001, p.169).

brick was touched. As this was clearly not attracting him, he







quickly stopped. He did not appeared to feel invited to reflection

This should be designed in a way that does not constrain the

and thereby not engaging in the presence of the content. This is

value of explorations and surprises. As designers we can try to

a distinct example of important engagement is and how

design for a specific use of the design, but we can and should

technology can be interpreted different than designers has

never try to control users interpretation of the design since we

designed for (Sengers and Gaver, 2006). It seemed that his

might (ibid). Another challenge is also that users and designers

interpretation of the prototype in the state of mind he has in, was

may have different mental models of perception of what is

that it should enable more user control and not be focused on

enjoyment (ibid).

time presence. Since there also was a correlation between time and enjoyment with the majority of the users, I am convinced that if the impatience man had spend more time playing with the bricks and had a more playful attitude, he would have gotten a more fun out of it and maybe felt more immersed. Hallnäs & Redström support this by stating: “Accepting an invitation for reflection inherent in the design means on the other hand that time will appear, i.e. we open up for time presence” (Hallnäs & Redström, 2001, p.167). This suggests that in order to truly achieve pleasure and provoke reflections, being presence and patience was key factors in Playful Prayer. Without having the capacity to listen, the political prayers can on the contrary can be experienced as noise. The examples with the impatience man, also indicates that we could had done a better job in making the system easy to understand and intuitive to use (Sengers and Gaver, 2006, p.100).

Through technological aesthetics, which had a fairly immersing effect,








environment in spite of a value sensitive space. With our prototype of playful prayer we explored how it can be fruitfully to simultaneously provoke a playful and reflective attitude. Playful prayer successfully attracted curious user who felt tempted to play taking advantages of persuasive elements. While the affordance in the telephone receivers implied how the object should be used, the colourful bricks were open to interpretation. It was possible to make reflecting upon the recorded prayers for Nørrebro, playful and evoke enjoyment although it demanded engagement, time and the ability to be presence.


“Slow Technology - Designing for Reflection“ Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 5 (2001), Hallnäs, Lars, and Johan Redström “Staying Open to interpretation: Engaging multiple meanings in design and evaluation” (2006). Sengers, P. and Gaver, W. Group report; “Playful Prayers” (2011). Emilie Grambye, Louise Jensen, Line Mulvad, Morten Winther. Course: Designing Digital Play








Reflections in Designing digital play  

This is 2000 word on my reflections "Designing digital play" @IT-university, Digital media & design