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Co-designing playful interactions for public health in green spaces

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Abstract

Public green spaces such as parks are key contributors to peoples’ health and wellbeing. Users often underutilise these green spaces in terms of undertaking casual physical activities and are recognised as having the most to gain from participating in their use and development. The Active Parks project aimed to co-design a concept for a playful and interactive ‘health trail’ in a green space to explore the effects of playful interactive experiences on the casual physical
activity of park users.
In a series of co-design workshops with local residents, the Lancaster City Council and NHS Lancashire Public Health, a numbers of ideas and concepts were developed, which informed the design proposition of the health trail offering new ways of motivating and taking physical activity specific to local people in their park.
Three versions of a proof-of-concept digital prototype - large-scale musical instrument - were developed to explore how it could be used and implemented in the park. Pilot testing showed that the prototypes encouraged positive experiences of intergenerational casual physical activity among young children and teenagers, their parents and grandparents. Users described the experience as ‘fun’, ‘magical’ and ‘brilliant’ and were positive in their feedback about the
prospect of the idea becoming a reality in their park.
Reflecting on the co-design process the paper recognises the successes of the project while questioning a lack of opportunity for participants to engage in the rich knowledge generation experience of prototyping in the evaluative design phase as a barrier to further innovation.