Working on CounterPlay ’16, it’s clear that we need to also focus on the way the festival is organised. Even though we want CounterPlay to be deliberately (somewhat) chaotic to support a more relaxed, informal and playful atmosphere, we also strive to make it as meaningful as possible.
It’s a constant dance between rigid structure and full-blown chaos. Some people want more of the former, while other wish for more of the latter. People are different, and there’s no way to make everybody happy, but we’ll try to keep learning from our experiences. It needs to feel right, and that calls for some consideration and changes on multiple levels. I think the festival should retain some of the conferency elements, while also moving more towards a proper festival. So far, CounterPlay has mostly been for those who pay to participate in the whole shebang, and while that is a good foundation, we also need more open access to parts of the festival. Maybe the festival could be an entire week of playful events and then the confestival (that is supposed to be more festival than conference) would be Thursday-Saturday?
How do you structure something like this? For the first two festivals, we’ve used three parallel tracks representing (roughly) culture & society, education and organisations. It also served the purpose of signalling the different approaches to playfulness. It was a way to say:
Hey, this is not just for teachers / librarians / consultants / leaders / journalists / politicians / game developers / commuicators / and-so-on
Rather, it’s for all of these people and many, many more. We wish to cultivate communities of different people, professionals, who can benefit from playfulness in their everyday life and work. This remains at the core, but I think, however, that we may need to create a more flexible and transparent framework and maybe it’s time to leave the three rigid tracks behind. Maybe we should instead use a combination of a more elaborate tagging system with informative keywords and an indication of the complexity of each session. If a session is based on,say, specific experience with designing for urban spaces, and it requires a bit of knowledge beforehand, it could be tagged: Creative Development Design Urban Spaces Complexity: Medium We would still have to schedule things, so too similar sessions are not right on top of each other, but I think we could make things a lot more flexible and transparent with the right tagging system.
We’ve been experimenting with many different formats, and we’ll undoubtedly continue to do so. What we really want, is to increase the level of interactivity: less one-way talk, more debate, action and play. We suggest that every contribution is playful by nature, but we should probably take it further and have less traditional talks. Maybe we could reduce the “talks” to a handful of keynotes and some super short talks (e.g. Pecha Kucha or Ignite) and focus more on the activity-based content? Maybe something like this, where the main formats are PLAY/CREATE/DEBATE?
The festival always aims to explore playfulness from many angles and in many different areas of society. We won’t try to force everything into boxes and categories, but we will be selecting specific themes to investigate in a bit more depth. For next year, we are currently exploring a few themes in more detail:
Aside from these, we are still open to suggestions.
I would personally like to also explore areas like “playful activism” and “playful global citizenship”, but let’s hear what you think.