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25th Anniversary series: The Renaissance of the Digital Age, and How Play and Creativity will Evolve

September 9, 2015

“Renaissance” is the re-birth of new concepts out of the old. It is the deconstruction of what has been done and understanding its fundamental principals in order to create new meanings out of the previous. We are in the era of rebirth of new adaptations, transitions, transformations of previous concepts, and still in the search of re-creation. This is similar to the Italian Renaissance, where dynamics were challenged, new technologies were introduced, new perspectives were show-cased, and amazing minds gathered. The excitement and the shock of uncertainty were all in the same place. Minds questioned, challenged but also learned from each other.

It is these sociocultural contexts that build the most magnificent cities, architecture, literature, art, music and science. And within these interactions the most amazing adaptations took place. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi1 concludes, “Creativity does not happen inside people’s heads, but in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and sociocultural context” and continues in his book, Creativity; “It’s a systemic rather than an individual phenomenon”

If we were to travel in time to the Italian Renaissance one important similarity would emerge; it is the social cultural communities interacting with each other. Today this is done in a different context mostly and massively through the digital worlds but the concept is intact. Anyone who would like to interact, follow, learn, share, compete can find mediums that will make it happen. We’re in THE SAME location. It is the Renaissance of Digital Age.

The 21st century requires people with the skills of adaptation, flexibility, critical thinking and the entrepreneurial mind set for building the future. Generations that are growing with these expectations need to develop creative minds that will be able to innovate, evolve and define tomorrow’s world. With this in mind, trends such as Personalisation, and Customisation formed the DIY Cultures that were followed by the subcultures of Makers Culture and Hackers Culture shape future visions.

What does this mean in regards to Play experiences? By the definition of Play; it is the outcome of manifestations of connections with ourselves, others and/ or our surroundings to achieve deeper meanings. While we create we form new connections. In the process we forget time, and space but just focus on the creation itself. It is the Playful Mind, which can see the subject in multiple perspectives. Analysing younger generations, we observe that they learn, explore, experiment, analyse, take risks and master their skills through their playfulness. Exponential growth of Technology has also enabled people to break boundaries and create new lifestyles; new communication styles merged from formality to causality and playfulness made it possible to create new communities and cultures through the experiences.

One of the best examples for this would be the playful Apps that promote healthy behaviours such as the Nike ID Fuel Band, users can experiment and follow their development by engaging with the product / services and adopting to their needs. This behaviour also builds a community where users can share their experiences and support each other. Another impact we see influencing is the Makers Culture. These subculture communities are the playful minds that want to try and fail, explore and experiment, share and mentor each other. 3D printers are one of the great examples of the outcome of this culture, which will enhance how we perceive manufacturing and new product acquisitions.

The other reason why we are becoming more playful is because of the enhancement of technology and the openness of the generations to try together. Even in parts of the world with so many problems such as poverty and ignorance, the playful mind is the one that motivates them to become lifelong learners. As cultural theorist Johan Huizinga2 in his book Homo Ludens, says, “… play and culture are actually interwoven with one another…pure play is one of the main bases of civilization.”

As in every era we can understand the change of behaviour through its type of Play. Products such as Creative Sets and Kits are dominating the Toy Industry. In the last 10 years we saw the rise of creative coding sets such as, Minecraft, Lego Mindstorms, 3D print out toys, Scratch, Aurdrio, and Little Bits. If we were to deconstruct the underlying behaviour of these types of games, toys and activities we would easily see the emergence of Personal Creativity that is shared with a wider community.

If we are talking about Play and as a result of that Creative Thinking, then in the next 25 years of time, the creative minds of our future will be the children of the Y generation who had played with these games and toys. Their way of parenting will be more personalized then ever as well as their expectation of their upbringing. They will be looking for more of Creative Environments not just for Art and Design, but also for understanding of any domain and principal.

If it was Leonardo and his acquaintances interaction and connectedness that enabled innovative ideas to flourish, so will today’s Makers Culture & Creative Cultures allow Life Long Learners to flourish in search for Environments, Places, Activities and Mediums where they can Experiment, Explore, Communicate, Take Risks, Master and Share instantly – basically just PLAY to Innovate and Evolve.

Blog, 9 Sept 2015

Written by Yesim Kunter, Play Expert and Futurist.

There are many excellent guides to major trends that will affect us all over the next decades. For guidance, see . What we have tried to do in this blog sequence is to highlight a specific emerging change from the many, and to explore some of the potential impacts.  We welcome thoughts on other drivers of change or more impacts of the ones we have highlighted

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1: Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly; Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention p.23; HarperCollins Perennial Modern Classics edition; New York, NY; HarperCollins Publishers;1996

2: Huizinga, Johan; Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, p.11; London; Routledge & Kegan Paul Publishers;1980

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