Skip to main content

Re-interpreting Cities with Play Urban Semiotics and Gamification

  • Conference paper
  • First Online:
Interactivity, Game Creation, Design, Learning, and Innovation (ArtsIT 2018, DLI 2018)


This paper aims to propose a semiotic perspective on how play can be used to change the citizens’ perception of the city. The paper propose a meaning-centered understanding both of play activities (seen as resemantisations of the surrounding environment) and of urban spaces (seen as complex meaning-making machines) and attempts to show how the first ones can be used to re-interpret the second ones. Finally, a few examples such as parkour and flash mobs are analyses in order to test the efficacy of the approach.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 69.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 89.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


  1. Bateson, G.: A theory of play and fantasy. Psychiatric Research Reports (1955)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Berman, M.: All that is Solid Melts in the Air. The Experience of Modernity. Simon and Schuster, New York (1982)

    Google Scholar 

  3. De Certeau, M.: L’invention du quotidien, 1. Arts de faire. Union générale d’éditions, Paris (1980)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cervelli, P., Sedda, F.: Zone, frontiere, confini: la città come spazio culturale. In: Marrone, G., Pezzini, I. (eds.) Senso e metropoli. Per una semiotica posturbana, pp. 171–192. Meltemi, Roma (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Deterding, S., Kahled, R., Nacke, L.E., Dixon, D.: Gamification: toward a definition. In: CHI 2011, 7–12 May 2011, Vancouver (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Floch, J.M.: Sémiotique, marketing et communication: Sous les signes, les stratégies. PUF, Paris (1990)

    Google Scholar 

  7. Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., Sarsa, H.: Does gamification work? A literature review of empirical studies on gamification. In: 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, pp. 3025–3034 (2014)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Huotari, J., Hamari, K.: A definition for gamification: anchoring gamification in the service marketing literature. Electron. Markets 27(1), 21–31 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ivain, G.: Formoulaire pour un urbanisme nouveau. Internationale situattioniste 1, Bulletrin céntral, Paris (1958)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Leone, M.: Le Parkour sémiotique. Pratiche urbane di invenzione della naturalità. In: Bonadei, R. (ed.) NaturaleArtificiale: Il palinsesto urbano. Lubrina, Bergamo (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lotman, J.M.: L’architettura nel contesto della cultura. In: Burini, S. (ed.) Il girotondo delle muse: Saggi sulla semiotica delle arti e della rappresentazione. Moretti and Vitali Editori, Bergamo (1998)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Lotman, J.M.: The place of art among other modelling systems. Sign Syst. Stud. 39(2/4), 251–270 (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Lynch, K.: The Image of the City. MIT Press, Cambridge (1960)

    Google Scholar 

  14. Mastroianni, R.: Writing the City. I Saggi di Lexia. Aracne, Rome (2013)

    Google Scholar 

  15. McGonigal, J.: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World. Penguin Books, London (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Montola, M., Stenros, J., Waern, A.: Pervasive Games Theory and Design. Morgan Kaufmann Game Design Books. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco (2009)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  17. Salen, K.: The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. MIT Press, Cambridge (2007)

    Google Scholar 

  18. Sutton-Smith, B.: The Ambiguity of Play. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1997)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Thibault, M. (ed.): Gamification Urbana: Letture e Riscritture ludiche degli spazi cittadini. I Saggi di Lexia. Aracne, Rome (2016)

    Google Scholar 

  20. Thibault, M.: The meaning of play - a theory of playfulness, toys and games as cultural semiotic devices. Doctoral dissertation, University of Turin, Turin (2017)

    Google Scholar 

  21. Turco, F.: Flash mob: quando la performance diventa strumento di protesta. In: Lexia, vol. 13–14, pp. 305–319. Aracne, Rome (2012)

    Google Scholar 

  22. Volli, U.: Laboratorio di semiotica. Laterza, Bari-Roma (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  23. Volli, U.: Il testo della città—problemi metodologici e teorici. In: Leone, M. (ed.) Lexia, vol. 1–2, pp. 9–12. Aracne, Rome (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Werbach, K., Hunter, D.: For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Wharton Digital Press, Philadelphia (2012)

    Google Scholar 

  25. Wittgenstein, L.: Philosophical Investigations, E. Anscombe (trans.). Palgrave Macmillan, New York (1953)

    Google Scholar 

Download references


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 793835.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mattia Thibault .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 ICST Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering

About this paper

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this paper

Thibault, M. (2019). Re-interpreting Cities with Play Urban Semiotics and Gamification. In: Brooks, A., Brooks, E., Sylla, C. (eds) Interactivity, Game Creation, Design, Learning, and Innovation. ArtsIT DLI 2018 2018. Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, vol 265. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-06133-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-06134-0

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics