Call for Proposals

CounterPlay ‘17: The Power of Play

Conference and festival

March 30th-April 1st

Dokk1, Aarhus, Denmark

Deadline for proposals: November 28th, 2016 (but we’ll always listen to new ideas)

The Purpose of CounterPlay:

Play makes life more fun and enjoyable, and playful attitudes enable us to engage in collective collaborations and act with agency in a complex, globalized world. The purpose of the CounterPlay festival is to explore, inspire and support play in all areas of society.

The Power of Play:

Play is a powerful force that exists throughout our lives, from we’re born until we die, and it holds the potential to add another dimension to every experience, every encounter and every relationship. Take a look, opportunities to play are all around you, however serious or distressing life may be. It doesn’t matter if you engage in wild, rambunctious, maybe dangerous, physical play, if you prefer the calm, whimsical play of drawing, writing or even thinking, or if you simply approach work or your daily, menial tasks in a playful way. While there are many, many completely different forms of play and of being playful, they all share at least one essential trait: When you play, you become an active participant.

We wish to explore the potential role of playful participation, for individuals, communities and society at large. How might it facilitate a stronger sense of agency (Henricks, 2015) and become a catalyst of adaptability and change (Sutton-Smith, 1997)? In what ways can play inspire and encourage us to question the status quo and challenge the rules? When will our innate playfulness spark our imagination and curiosity (Bateson & Martin, 2013), and will it enable us to see that the world could be transformed into something else (Henricks, 2006, 2015)? Should we consider play a political act that can shape societies? Could it even make democracy come alive through new forms of participation? Can play bolster our courage, so we dare to speak out and challenge established power structures and hierarchies (Sicart, 2013)?

We invite you to submit proposals that explore the power of play across different areas in society, from practice as well as research, from private companies to open public arenas and cultural institutions, from kindergarten to universities, from places of work to places of leisure. In essence, everywhere people work, learn and live are possible spaces for play, and we want to investigate what it means and how it might unfold.

Formats & proposals:

The theme is a lens through which we investigate ways of thinking and talking about play: through conversations, workshops, papers, dance, drawing and – most importantly – through play. We insist that the festival must be a safe and inclusive space for a diverse community of people, where failure is an opportunity to learn, where taking risks is natural, and where you feel comfortable playing with strangers. We emphasize the playful, exploratory, experimental cross-pollination, collaboration and co-production – of knowledge, ideas, projects, concepts and prototypes. Consequently, we are particularly interested in contributions that are of a participatory nature.

Proposals could be for workshops, paper and panel presentations, maker-spaces, concerts,  or take a variety of other explorative forms. Proposals should be 200-300 words and describe the core theme(s) of your contribution. As part of your proposal, please inform us about the minimum requirements for your session (materials, tools, technologies, space), but please also consider what you can bring yourself and how you can keep it simple. Additionally, we ask you to include a short bio of 50-75 words of each person facilitating the session along with a photo (for the description on our website).

Submission & deadlines:

Deadline for submissions: November 28th, 2016 (but we’ll always listen to new ideas, so don’t hesitate to get in touch).

Submit your proposals to, who will also be available for questions and (online) conversations as required. We *love* to talk about play, so don’t hold back.

If you want to know more about the festival, see:

References & inspiration:

  • Bateson, P., Martin, P., 2013. Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation, 1 edition. ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York.
  • Brown, S., Vaughan, C., 2010. Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Reprint edition. ed. Avery, New York.
  • Koven, B.D., 2014. A Playful Path,
  • Henricks, T.S., 2015. Play and the Human Condition, 1st Edition edition. ed. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield.
  • Henricks, T.S., 2006. Play Reconsidered: Sociological Perspectives on Human Expression, 1 edition. ed. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
  • Sicart, M., 2014. Play Matters. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    Sutton-Smith, B., 2001. The Ambiguity of Play, 1 edition. ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

See also our list of books about play.