Call: “Smart Cities at Play: Playful Approaches to Urban Space…” issue of International Journal of HCI

Call for papers for a special issue on:

Smart Cities at Play: Playful Approaches to Urban Space, and Problems of Participation
International journal of human-computer interaction (Taylor and Francis; 1.905 IF)

Submission deadline: May 10, 2020

Smart cities are commonly understood as being cities augmented by information technology to tackle a range of socio-economic and environmental issues. In recent years, technologies embedded with the global positioning system (GPS) have become a recurring feature of these smart spaces. Such technologies are used to enhance the efficiency of the urban environment. Locative data, for instance, is regularly employed to predict traffic flows, better understand human mobilities, monitor crowds during large gatherings, and theorise the spatial behaviours of tourists. At the same time, the application of locative data extends beyond the organisation of space. GPS enabled smartphones and the mobile web have been instrumental in developing location-based social networking sites (LBSNs) and hybrid reality games (HRGs). And both LBSNs and HRGs explicitly involve the technological mediation of playful practices and encounters. What is important, then, aside from the application and its potential usage, is the extent to which digital technologies have become an endemic feature of urban living. While this might be the case, for the most part, scholarly attention has tended to focus on the technologies used to construct these environments, Consequently, what is notably missing from surrounding discussions is a deeper engagement with the lived experience of ‘smart spaces’, and the extent to which this confluence of the physical and digital is currently configuring new explicit and/or implicit forms of play. Certainly, HRGs like Pokémon Go quite literally allow users to ludically interact with their physical surroundings, which challenges how we formalise and conceptualise our sense of place. In contrast, digital technologies also permit new approaches to space and place which might not be planned for but are still notably playful nonetheless. The social value of emerging hospitality services, for instance, not only challenges how short-term accommodation is understood but also provides new modes of accommodation that move beyond the sterility of hotels and towards something more playful. Recent reports, however, demonstrate that not everyone is able to partake in these services, with various stories emerging of individuals being refused access due to their identity and ability. There are many questions regarding what is ethical to designers and users of these technologies that are yet to be explored in this context.

It is, therefore, only by examining the lived experience of smart cities that we are able to reveal how these environments are actually inhabited and the inconsistencies that often remain hidden when discussions focus solely on technology. To this end, our special issue will explore how experiences of the city might be changing with the rise of new technological practices that are currently creating a range of playful possibilities, as well as moments of resistance that reveal the socio-cultural problems some citizen experience. Significantly, we will do this using an interdisciplinary approach that brings together a suite of scholars engaged in smart city research from areas including computer science, geography, sociology, and media studies. Accordingly, we invite researchers and practitioners from all related disciplines to contribute original and unpublished papers that reflect on the themes of explicit and implicit playfulness in the context of smart cities, as outlined above.


Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The changing perceptions of smart cities in the context of human experience emerging smart city technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR), 5g, wearable technologies and locative media, and their impact on the lived experience
  • Emerging locative applications and new forms of pervasive play
  • Ridesharing, novel mobilities, and emerging forms of ambulation
  • Laissez-faire versus planned play in the city
  • Techno-socio-cultural problems of participation that often remain hidden from discussions of smart cities
  • Methods for researching implicit and explicit forms of play in a smart city context
  • Related ethical implications for designers and players of smart city play experience

We also welcome proposals that readily engage with new methodological ways of approaching these issues.


If you are interested in contributing to this special issue please submit a one-page abstract (300-600 words), title, authors, affiliations, emails and other contact information by the due date. The abstract should be sent as an email attachment to the Special Issue Guest Editors using the email (CC,, by the 10th of May 2020. Guest Editors replies to authors will be sent by 31st of May 2020. Only manuscripts of approved abstracts will be considered. All submissions will be peer-reviewed and judged on correctness, originality, technical strength, significance, quality of presentation, and relevance to the special issue topics of interest. Submitted papers may not be under consideration for another conference or journal, nor may they be under review or submitted to another forum during the review process.

The submissions should be prepared according to the guidelines of IJHCI. These can be found at the following link:

All submissions should be done through the editorial manager of IJHCI:


Submission of abstract: 10th of May 2020
Decisions on abstracts: 31st of May 2020
Deadline for manuscript submission based on approved abstracts: 15th of October 2020
First Round Decision: 15th of December 2021
Major revisions if needed: February 15, 2021
Minor revisions if needed: March 15, 2021
Final decision: April 15, 2021


If you have any questions please contact Konstantinos Papangelis at


Konstantinos Papangelis, Rochester Institute of Technology (USA)
Jin Ha Lee, University of Washington (USA)
Michael Saker, City University London (UK)
Catherine Jones, University of Luxembourg (LUX)
Dale Leorke, Tampere University (Fin)


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