INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG NOVEMBER–DECEMBER 2015 INTERACTIONS 57
its spatial implications, are all under
the influence of parkour, as well as
many other marginal urban practices.
Such remakings of the city are not just
foibles in perception by individuals,
but are also a feature of the shared
perception of a group: “PK vision
does not solely reside in the eye of the
individual traceur. It is a collective
process that comes about as traceurs
interact with each other” [ 7].
Kidder relates the practice to online
videos, which are after all the main
source of inspiration for parkour: “The
traceur’s imagination is inspired from
images and texts circulating within
the virtual world” [ 7]. Such marginal
urban practices are in wide circulation
and color the way many of us see the
city. They also bring into question our
usual ways of seeing and interacting.
The city is, after all, made and remade
through many perspectives and
interactive possibilities. No doubt
there are other perspectives yet to find
expression, and yet to provide overt
influence on the design of cities.
In her advocacy of agon, Pullan is keen
to point out that there really are no
rules for agonistic play. Identification
of the protagonists, their differences,
and their motivations are fluid,
contingent, and subject to the
workings of interpretation, and rightly
exercised, debated, and worked out
in public life. So an architecture
that provides space for public life is
crucial for the working of agon. She
concludes: “Place, by being structured
in everyday activities rather than
regulatory systems, can begin to
open a territory where the necessary
flexibility of agon can exist, with all
of its paradoxes and ambiguities. It is
in the combination of the two, rooted
in both the everyday life and political
possibilities of cities, that agonistic
practice may find a home” [ 3].
So agon, contest, as a set of rich
urban practices, provides a good
place to think about interactive
architecture, in which networked
digital technologies and digital
content are inevitably complicit, and
which bring interactivity to light in
new ways. It’s an architecture that
gives space to public life and the
workings of agon.
To follow this line of argument is
to emphasize two main propositions
about interaction design. First,
interaction design is primarily
concerned with interactions,
collaborations, and even conflicts
between people within communities,
rather than just individuals interacting
with machines and technological
systems. Interaction design within the
setting of the city as a site of contest
brings this communal nature of
interaction into sharp relief. Second,
as well as designers providing tools
and technologies that facilitate social
interaction in cities, there is scope for
them to make their presence felt as
active and conspicuous participants
in city life. Citizens interacting
with networked parking meters,
environmental monitoring and
surveillance systems, and distributed
rich media entertainment are like
savvy video game players. They are
DOI: 10.1145/2834891 COPYRIGH T HELD BY AUTHOR. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00
interacting with design teams and
those sociotechnical systems of which
the designers are a part. There’s a
message here for the consumers of
such systems to engage with the design
of their interactive environments, and
for designers to be open to the contest
and play of co-design.
1. Wiberg, M. Interaction design meets
architectural thinking. Interactions 22, 2
(Mar.–Apr. 2015), 60–63. DOI: http://doi.
2. Caillois, R. Man, Play, and Games. The
Free Press of Glencoe, New York, 1961.
3. Pullan, W. Agon in urban conflict: Some
possibilities. In Phenomenologies of the
City: Studies in the History and Philosophy of
Architecture. H. Steiner and M. Sternberg,
eds. Ashgate, Farnham, England, 2015,
4. Winnicott, D. W. Playing and Reality.
Routledge, London, 1991.
5. Brown, S. and Vaughan, C. Play: How It
Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination,
and Invigorates the Soul (Kindle Edition).
Avery, New York, 2009.
6. De Nora, T. Music Asylums: Wellbeing
Through Music in Everyday Life. Ashgate,
Farnham, England, 2013.
7. Kidder, J.L. Parkour, the affective
appropriation of urban spaces, and the
real/virtual dialectic. City and Community
11, 3 (2012), 229–253.
Richard Coyne is professor and chair of
architectural computing at the University of
Edinburgh. He is the author of eight books
on design, digital media, and architecture,
including The Tuning of Place: Sociable Spaces
and Pervasive Digital Media (MI T Press, 2010).
His next book is Mood and Mobility: Navigating
the Emotional Spaces of Digital Social Networks
(MIT Press), appearing in late 2015.