University of Nottingham Ningbo China
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Playful Encounters: Interdisciplinary engagements with play, creativity, entertainment, and fun.

University of Nottingham Ningbo China, September 29th - 30th, 2018

Playful Encounters


Playful Encounters

‘Every child knows what it is to play, but the rest of us can merely speculate.’

(Sutton-Smith, 1997, back cover)

‘Play is free movement within a more rigid structure’

(Salen and Zimmerman, 2004, p.304)

“… law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play.”

(Huizinga, 1980, p.5)

 ‘Any earnest definition of play has to be haunted by the possibility that playful enjoinders will render it invalid.’

(Sutton-Smith, 1997, p.213)


In the now classic Homo Ludens, Huizinga situates ‘play’ as the foundation of culture – the point from which all human structures, ideas, and societies stem. Sutton-Smith’s The Ambiguity of Play posits an equally broad scope, with ‘play’ encompassing everything from the imaginary, the development of individual identity and passing on of traditions through rituals, power-plays in politics and war, fate and games of chance, and pure frivolity and humour. The entertainment and creative industries are billion-dollar businesses, but Huizinga and Sutton-Smith imply that almost any aspect of human culture could be conceptualized as forms of play – and yet in so doing introduces great seriousness into such ‘games’.

While there is a wide variety of research taking place within various disciplines which explore the specific themes of this conference, interdisciplinary dialogues about play / creativity / entertainment / fun are more limited. Therefore, this conference aims to open such dialogues between different approaches to ‘the playful’ in order to consider what valuable synergies might be possible between different areas of study.

What can such conceptual lenses bring to disciplines which have not traditionally engaged with them, and what might particular disciplinary understandings of ‘play’ bring to the discussions going on elsewhere? How might various theories and practices around ‘play’ advance various disciplines which have not usually engaged with them?



Our Keynote speakers represent innovative and leading voices from the disciplines of Education, Media and Fan studies, Humour studies and Philosophy, and Games design. 

Professor Doris Cheng Pui Wah 

Tung Wah College

Dr. Bertha Chin

Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak)

Emeritus Professor John Morreall

College of William & Mary

Dr. Hanna Wirman

Hong Kong Polytechnic University 

Doris Cheng Pui Wah
Dr Bertha Chin
Emeritus Professor
Dr Hanna Wirman


Conference programme

The conference programme is now available as a pdf. Hard copies will also be available on the day. 


Registration for UNNC staff and students

UNNC staff and students may register for the conference using one of the following three options:

Attendee (meals not included) - Free
Attendee (2 lunches only) - 200 RMB
Attendee (2 lunches and dinner) - 400 RMB

Please register using the link or QR code below:

Playful Encounter QR Code for Registration

Once you have registered, please pay your registration fee using WeChat pay.

Should you want a Fapaio, please follow the instructions below.

Registration closes at 12pm on Friday September 28.



WeChat Pay

Please select “会议培训” to pay the registration fee. The Reference NO. (培训代码) is PE (for Playful Encounters).

If you would like to request an invoice (Fapiao), WeChat Pay is highly recommended.

wechat pay


Accommodation and Travel

Travel to Ningbo

Ningbo is located in Zhejiang province, close to cities such as Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong. The most convenient mode of travel to Ningbo is by train or air. Flights run frequently between Ningbo and most major cities. Trains arrive at Ningbo Station from all major cities within China, the closest being Shanghai and Hangzhou. 

For more detailed information about travel to Ningbo and the conference venue please visit this link.


A special rate for conference delegates is offered at the Sofitel Ningbo, which is located approximately 20 minutes from the conference venue, the University of Nottingham Ningbo (UNNC). 

To benefit from this rate, please send your reservations to and cite the Block ID: 1977702.

Sofitel Wanda Ningbo Hotel   宁波万达索菲特大酒店

Address: 899 Middle Siming Road (Siming Zhong Lu)

Details of the hotel: click here

Tel: 0574-28899888

Travel to UNNC

During the conference, a shuttle will run between the hotel and UNNC daily.

For alternative means of travel, we recommend taxis or buses, which run frequently between the Sofitel and University campus. 

Bus routes 118 and 161 depart from Wanda Plaza, near the hotel, and stop near the University.

If taking a taxi, show taxi drivers the following address to reach the University campus:

宁波市鄞州区高教园区泰康东路199 号


Keynote biographies

Emeritus Professor John Morreall (MOR-EL), Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor at the College of William & Mary. His ten books cover many topics in humor and in religion. The most recent are Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor (2009), The Religion Toolkit: A Complete Guide to Religious Studies (2012), and Laughing All the Way (2016). John Morreall has done over 600 presentations on the benefits of humor in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Professor Doris Cheng Pui Wah is the Acting Dean of the School of Art and Humanity of Tung Wah College. She was the ex-Centre Director of Childhood Research and Innovation at the Education University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong Institute of Education). Her research and publications focuses on early childhood curriculum and pedagogy including teaching and learning through play, the impact of play on children and the role and professional development of early childhood teachers. She publishes widely on early childhood education especially on teaching and learning through play and is involved in a number of international projects promoting learning through play.

Dr. Bertha Chin lectures on social media at Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak). She has published extensively on fan labour, anti-fandom and fan-producer relationships; is a board member of the Fan Studies Network; and co-editor of Crowdfunding the Future: Media Industries, Ethics and Digital Society (2015, Peter Lang). She is currently working on a book with Mark Stewart on appropriate fandom, and extending her research into coffee culture.

Dr Hanna Wirman is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Design where she teaches game design. Her research focuses on marginal game audiences and on players' participation in game creation before and after release. Her game designs range from design for children with special needs to games for orangutans. Hanna served as the first president of Chinese DiGRA and currently on the DiGRA Executive Board.


Conference Venue

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) was the first Sino-foreign university. It is located in Ningbo, one of China’s major ports and economic centers in Zhejiang province. Ningbo is a rapidly growing city, ranked in the top ten of cities for business in China by Forbes, it is a thriving blend of enterprise, culture, education, tradition and entertainment.  It is well connected for national and international travel, for example, with Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong all less than three hours away (by train/plane).



Funded by The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (University of Nottingham Ningbo China).

The Institute for Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS) has funded Emeritus Professor John Morreall as an IAPS Distinguished Scholar.