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The Medium Doesn't Matter

05/19/2010 8:45 AM Bartos theater
Laura Seargeant Richardson, Principal Designer, frog design, Inc.

Description: In an era of packaged toys and online games, have our children lost the knack of creative play? While American kids may never again prefer sticks and other found objects to the manufactured experience, Laura Seargeant Richardson of frog design believes children can still evolve from game consumers to game designers. In a talk that reveals the future look -- and feel -- of games, Richardson advocates making space in the physical and digital worlds to abet children's inventiveness.

For Richardson, basic requirements for creativity involve open environments and tools, flexible rules that kids can make or change themselves, and what she calls "super powers." Richardson and a partner have been experimenting with a game along these lines. They have developed a "gleeve," a gloved sleeve with sensors, RFID reader, speakers, microphone and camera that can be used straight from the box, but which also allows the user to devise new games, or reconfigure traditional ones. With this device, "hide and seek can take on a new element of strategy," says Richardson.

She has come up with a list of "21st Century Super Powers of Play." One involves manipulation _ such as the transformation of a familiar object. Richardson shows a 'hacked' Fisher"Price record player that can read a child's drawing as music. She cites as well "thinking with the body," and collaboration. Yet another 'power' involves multidimensional thinking. This is an area dear to Richardson's heart. She has been studying synaesthesia, where two senses link up in unusual ways, so for instance, the letters of the alphabet take on particular smells. She reads a short story, "Yawns Are Yellow," that she composed with her young daughter.

Many of these game 'powers' turn out to have analogies in the grow"up world, Richardson notes. NASA and Boeing engineers must demonstrate they can work with their hands, not just model in virtual reality. Shrinky Dink plastic jewelry inspired an advance in microfluidics and launched a nanotech company. Richardson herself is always at play. She discovered that wearing Crayola 3D glasses in the real world enabled her to see common things in new ways (a crosswalk sign jumped out at her). She wondered if 3D could assist in instruction: "What if you could see prime numbers in a new plane?" Richardson advocates introducing children early to the notion that there are "different ways of seeing." This spurs freedom of thought, and the kind of play that is critical to expanding our "creative economy."

About the Speaker(s): Laura Seargeant Richardson was previously Director of Design Strategy and Research at M3 Design. She has written for Gizmodo, Interactions Magazine, and frog's Design Mind. She has also contributed to Forbes and Forrester Research.

Richardson specializes in the emotional, social, participatory and future design of products and environments. She has been involved in game design for adolescents, including participatory game creation with teens. Her most recent projects include the future of digital signage, the future of electric vehicles, and the future of play. She recent argued for a scent alphabet and learning in 3D in her article, "Seeing the Future Synaesthetic."

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, The MIT Education Arcade

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

Category: Events | Updated 5 months ago

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December 16, 2011 16:47
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