Ludic interface

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Student experiment in Interface Design developed at UP Valencia

In Human-computer interaction, ludic Interfaces is the name for a discipline and for a type of user interfaces. Ludic interfaces are playful interfaces. The notion of "homo ludens", introduced by Dutch anthropologist Johan Huizinga,[1] is the conceptual backbone of the tools the discipline is looking at. The tools and concepts applied with the concept of ludic interfaces differ from traditional technological systems as they are playful, user-generated and user-driven, flexible, low-cost and cooperative. Ludic interfaces share methods and knowledge from computer games, artistic experiment, interactive media, media conversion, social networks and modding cultures and result in tools that offer an ease of use and playfulness to cope with a society in change.[further explanation needed]

Core concept[edit]

At its core, "ludic interfaces" is a subcategory of interfaces in general. The notion is not restricted to electronics or Human-computer interaction, even if the terminology was developed in respect to digital technology. Various authors suggest to use the term "ludic interfaces" for non-digital phenomena, e.g. architectural facades, skins, wearable computers, media art.[2] "Ludic Interfaces" is also a Masters programme development on a European level. It is the title of a European collaboration in creating a network of Academic Institutions and of world leading Media Centres to investigate, design and test publicly shared digital content. The programme development is a joint project by the University of Potsdam, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Universität für künstlerische und industrielle Gestaltung in Linz, and by the University of Salford in Greater Manchester.


Ludic interface design was first defined in 2002 by William Gaver, in "Designing for Homo Ludens",[3] expanded in a later article in 2009.[4]

The term was revisited in 2008 by ISEA curators Gunalan Nadarajan and Vladimir Todorović to describe a panel section of ISEA2008 in Singapore.[5] The term was introduced with the aim of counterbalancing the tendency of "infantilization of play" and stressing the "complicities between technology and pleasure".

In the same year a group of game artists and scholars led by Mathias Fuchs started lecturing and writing about the theory of Ludic Interfaces and applied for a European grant to develop a Masters programme in Ludic Interfaces.[6] The application was successful and the development has successfully been completed in 2013.[7]

The notion of "ludic interfaces" has also historical roots in artistic practice and analysis of interfaces (cf. Christa Sommerer, Laurent Mignonneau),[8] the notion of "playfulness" as a design and arts strategy, or the "Ludic Society" arts organisation.


Ludic interface experiment by student Jess Kilby from University of Salford, using RFID tag technology for a digital tarot reader.
Ludic interface by Mathias Fuchs, using Djing tools in combination with a game engine: "postvinyl"

Jess Kilby’s RFID Tarot table consists of a hand-painted black table with letters and signs drawn upon it, and a white set of cards containing radio-frequency tags. The installation is an example for a ludic set-up where the interface contributes significantly to the magic of the game. Hidden information within the blank cards allows the RFID reader, a digital tarot reader automaton, to interpret information hidden from the human eye. Kilby’s system interprets the information contained within the cards and displays videos of a frightening future. The game could certainly be implemented as a Flash simulation or be built for a 2D monitor display system, but without the materiality of the ludic interface, without the special lighting, and without the artist dressed in a fortune teller’s dress the game would not work at all. The same holds true for Mary Flanagan’s “Giant Joystick”. It is the interface with all its materiality, erotic connotations and haptic features which makes the ludic installation work so well. Ludic interfaces can also facilitate play in a musical sense. The "postvinyl" performance, originally commissioned by futuresonic festival Manchester in 2004 recontextualizes a computer game in a performance environment.


  1. ^ Huizinga, Johan (1994 (orig. 1938)). Homo ludens. Vom Ursprung der Kultur im Spiel. Rowohlt Verlag. ISBN 3-499-55435-6. 
  2. ^ Sommerer, Christa/ King, Dorothée/ Mignonneau, Laurent (2008). Interface Cultures: Artistic Aspects of Interaction. Transcript Verlag. ISBN 3899428846. 
  3. ^ Gaver, William (June 2002). "Designing for Homo Ludens". I3 Magazine. 
  4. ^ Gaver, William (2009). "Designing for Homo Ludens, Still.". In Binder, T; Löwgren, J; Malmborg, L. (Re)searching the Digital Bauhaus. London: Springer. pp. 163–178. 
  5. ^ Nadarajan, Gunalan (2008). ISEA2008 Conference Proceedings. ISEA2008 Pte Ltd. ISBN 978-981-08-0768-9. 
  6. ^ An interview about Ludic Interfaces by Digital Arts and Architecture Lab with Mathias Fuchs can be found on$1E$2F$3
  7. ^ Arina Stoenescu (August 19, 2009). "Future Forms and Applications of Ludic Interfaces". Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  8. ^ Sommerer, Christa/ Lakhmi, Jain/ Mignonneau, Laurent (2008). The Art and Science of Interface and Interaction Design. Springer Verlag. ISBN 978-3-540-79869-9. 


An introduction to the field appropriate for general audiences is a publication to be issued in summer of 2010 by furtherfield, London.

Notable conferences in the field include:

External links[edit]