"Role playing is the practice of group physical and spatial pretend where individuals deliberately assume a character role in a constructed scene with, or without, props. The key differentiating aspects of role playing are: 1) Being 'in the moment' - an individual and group state that enables vivid and focused exploration of the situations and 2) Physicalization - using the entire body to explore generation of ideas that takes "brainstorming" to "bodystorming."" Simsarian, K. T. (2003)
"Some actors, the sample users or the designers themselves perform a hypotetical service experience. The implied condition is thinking that the service really exists and then building a potential journey through some of its functionalities."Vavoula, G. N. & Sharples, M. (2007), 'Future technology workshop: A collaborative method for the design of new learning technologies and activities', International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 2 (4) , 393-419 .
"Role playing means physically acting out what happens where users interact with products or services.
Why: Taking the role of the user and acting out their interactions with a design can prompt more intuitive responses and help you to refine your design. Role playing is particularly useful for prototyping interactions between people, for example in a service context.
How: Define a character or characters who will use or deliver the end product or service you are designing. Isolate key moments where these users interact with your product or service, and then act them out - with or without props.Use your intuitive responses prompted by the enactment of the scenario to refine your design."
Links to extended descriptions:
Svanaes, D. & Seland, G. (2004), Putting the users center stage: role playing and low-fi prototyping enable end users to design mobile systems, in 'Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems' , pp. 486. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.115.5793&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Simsarian, K. T. (2003), Take it to the next stage: the roles of role playing in the design process, in 'CHI '03 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems' , ACM, New York, NY, USA , pp. 1012--1013 . http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.87.9335&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Kuutti, K.; Iacucci, G. & Iacucci, C. (2002), Acting to know: improving creativity in the design of mobile services by using performances, in 'Proceedings of the 4th conference on Creativity & cognition' , ACM, New York, NY, USA , pp. 95--102 .
Iacucci, G.; Kuutti, K. & Ranta, M. (2000), On the move with a magic thing: role playing in concept design of mobile services and devices, in 'Proceedings of the 3rd conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques' , ACM, New York, NY, USA , pp. 193--202 .