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


Call for papers

We invite papers which explore our themes, or which offer considerations of the application of such concepts to the researcher’s discipline. Panels may also be proposed. We are particularly interested in non-traditional presentation formats and will welcome workshops.

Potential themes and areas

  • Thinkering – thinking through theories of play, fun, fantasy, creativity, ‘the play of ideas’.
  • Playful Pedagogies – incorporating play into teaching practices, teaching creativity.
  • Identity – performativity, persona, imagined communities, imagined geographies.
  • Politics as Entertainment – the ‘comedic turn’ in politics, social satire.
  • Dark Sides of Play – ‘war games’ and dangerous games.
  • Mind and Body – sport, health, games, and play.
  • Post-anthropocentric Play – animals, AI, and play.
  • Play-grounds – spaces of play, online spaces, games, theme-parks.
  • Genres of Play – fantasy, magical realism, fiction.
  • Creative Industries – capitalizing on creativity, entertainment and pleasure.
  • Playing with Numbers – strategy, math, and predicting ‘chance’.

We encourage discussion within and between disciplinary areas such as: Media and Cultural Studies; Fan Studies; Celebrity Studies; Ethnographic Studies; Education; English and/or Literature Studies; Performance Studies; Games Studies; Digital Games; New Media; Mathematics; International Studies; Political Studies; Biology; Behavioral Sciences; Psychology; Design and Architecture; Philosophy and Critical Theory.


Submission of Abstracts

Please prepare your abstracts following these guidelines:

  • 250-500 words maximum
  • Please include four to six keywords.
  • Times New Roman 12 point, single space.
  • Submit abstracts by the deadline by email to

If you are outside of China and plan to submit an abstract and/or attend the conference, please use the above email address to express your interest as soon as possible to the organisers, who will brief you on the necessary VISA application process.


Key dates

Abstract submission deadline: May 31st 2018

Extended submission deadline: June 15th 2018

Notifications: July 15th 2018

Early bird registration opens: July 15th 2018

Regular registration opens: August 15th 2018

Conference: September 29th-30th 2018



Staff early bird - 1000 RMB

Student early bird - 600 RMB

Staff regular - 1200 RMB

Student regular - 800 RMB

Attendee (non-presenter) - 800 RMB

Student attendee (non-presenter) - 400 RMB


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.