People are playful. Playfulness is an approach, an experience, and maybe even a lifestyle. It is more than a mere indulgence — it is necessary. Play and playfulness may mean the same thing for some folks. We believe there is an important difference.
Play and playfulness: same same, but different. Play is an act. Playfulness is an attitude.
While someone might play tag, a board game, and other games (and we encourage it all), we are excited to also support playfulness in unexpected locations at unanticipated times.
We want to enable folks to be playful as they move through the City. To dance, to sing, to create stories, to make games out of your walk home, to host block parties, and way, way more.
Playful approaches, events, and spaces across the City encourage positive community interactions. Embracing playfulness enables a more connected, resourceful, and resilient Boston.
Chances to play and environments that foster playful approaches to civic challenges, have the potential to:
- help people think outside the box and develop creative solutions to complex problems (play and games force us to adapt and innovate)
- increase empathy and trust among participants in civic life and community settings, and
- enable resilient systems that allow for civic action.
GUIDING EVIDENCE and OBSERVATIONS
Our hypothesis is informed by a mix of academic research, civic theory, and project learnings. Research shows the social, emotional, and behavioral impact of playfulness. Urban theorists consistently return to the real and potential implications of playfulness. We’ve already launched projects that explored the impact of playfulness on civic life, including:
- Boston Safest Driver
- Boston Parklets
- Participatory Pokemon Go
- Block Quotes
- Pulse of the City
- Community PlanIt
- Participatory Chinatown
- Lunch on the Lawn, and
- the Urban Housing Unit Roadshow.
These projects have highlighted some important insights about playfulness.
Wherever you’re from — whether you are 5, 25, 45, or 85 — everyone should be able to be playful.PLAYFULNESS CAN HAPPEN WHERE YOU DON’T EXPECT IT TO
Parks, playgrounds, and fields are amazing! One reason why is the implicit invitation to play in them. Encouraging that same welcomeness in other spaces, like sidewalks, bus stops, and dead-end streets, is essential to a playful city.
A playful city rejects that the future of cities is only optimized, efficient, and smart. Instead, a playful city also prioritizes the humanness of play. This happens even when the results are messy and unpredictable.
Cultural, neighborhood, and community context matters. While anyone can be playful, what that looks like and how it comes about can take unique forms.PLAYFULNESS FOR THE SAKE OF PLAYFULNESS IS ENOUGH
Playfulness is not just a means to an end. It is important to prioritize playfulness for its uniquely human value.
There are incredible groups in the City of Boston already injecting playfulness into our neighborhoods. We propose a series of playful collaborations with community partners, starting with this portfolio of playfulness. This is our way of cheering them on, of holding them up, and inspiring new collaborations.
This model does not compete with or replace our parks, playfields, or playgrounds. Instead, it supplements them. We hope to fill gap where playful spaces are most challenging to access. We want to encourage playful approaches more generally across the City.
Through playfulness, we live curiously, explore, experiment, learn, grow, and connect with others. We believe playfulness is essential to a more engaging and human city. It’s not just okay to be playful — it is celebrated.
Below are just some of the initial projects we'll be exploring in the summer of 2018. We'd love to hear your ideas for more!
Play around the City
A public competition to reimagine Boston Public Schools bus stops with temporary, playful interventions.
A partnership with civic crowdfunding platform ioby.org to support the creation of playful “third spaces” around Boston.
Boston Basics Nudges
Using MBTA Bus Stop PSAs to encourage folks, especially families with wee ones, to build Boston Basics into daily commutes.