Category Archives: critical play

Hacking Monopoly

Ishan Markandeya came over to Sydney and we co-designed a special Futurescouts session for the course I teach for a group of MBAe Business Students at UTS. We flipped Monopoly and asked our students to hack the game further, to prototype resilient business for a time of transition, to experience the commons, to create economic fictions.

Group size: 3 – 6 pax
Playtime: 1-4h

What:
We hacked Monopoly to offer a collaborative game that educates about commons-based business modelling.

How:
The game is played like monopoly, but we changed the properties to ones that are systemically related to the intersection of economics and politics. The community chest contains cards on resiliency and chance cards pose challenges to growth and profit maximisation. There are five currencies, for example, reputation, time, and natural resources. The game is designed to be hacked further by its players, so that new rules  emerge by way of storytelling. The game win is when all properties belong to the commons and the players begin regenerating spaceship earth.

The goal of Polypoly is not to bankrupt your fellow players, but rather to engage in a non-zero sum game to create “steady-state” economic systems. To win Polypoly is to create the highest quality of life for all life through abundance.

That’s not to say you’ll reach it, though – it all depends on players choices.

The conversations and stories that emerge are how we create a healthy dialog about values, economic ideals, and a place for participants to engage in vibrant discussion about 21st century economics, governance and value.

Compete and cooperate to buy properties of an economy. Commoner, Capitalist, Communist, Socialist? There’s ways to play them all. You might be surprised at your own decisions.

Balance multiple currencies for various social and economic advantages. Cash, Time, Reputation, Influence, and Natural Resources all have buying power! How will you manage your resources?

For more information on the game visit polypody.us.
This prototype is an ongoing collaboration with FutureScouts.

Level Up – Resilience and Empathy Card Game

In Bavaria, in not so ancient times, 30 researchers from different faculties at 18 universities got together to develop their field of study through a lens of “resilience”. They worked for a year and came together in groups of 2 or 3 to then design games based on their research. That means, when playing this game, players will learn about resilience and will have to tap their empathy, not to win or gain points but to increase the spirit and joy around the table. 

2016-09-23-09-58-19Group size: 5 – 8 pax
Playtime: 10 mins – 1h

What:
We designed this storytelling card game to aid groups in companies or cooperatives to tap their empathy with each other and solve resiliency problems of their collective behaviours or projects.

How:
The game starts with a shared problem or design question. Then, prompted by either danger or solution cards (based on resilience factors found by the academics), each player takes a turn to tell a part of an emergent story relating to the key word they drew. The prompt will be put on the table, so that all cards lie open in the end. Bit by bit, players draw cards and decide whether they can be matched (“solve a danger”). In rounds, players takes a new card per turn and continues the story, using the keyword they drew and their imagination. The story is built successively around the table, always relating to the project or problem at hand. This way, the group has a conversation that might solve some of the open questions of their problem in a playful way.
To juice up the game, there is a buzzer that can be hit when someone guesses what character trait (empathy) another player projects.
The round ends when all cards are matched on the table. The next round is based on a new problem or design question that relates to the larger topic. The game ends when players decide they have played long enough. 🙂

Here is a play manual pdf: Manual_Level Up_Resilience Empathy Card Game_Full Set

Permaculture for Business

In early 2015, I sent an email to the Michael Crouch Innovation Center at UNSW (back then just opening) and suggested an artist residency to do ethnographic research in a Permaculture community. My goal was to try and apply permaculture principles to the way we work and live in cities; to find new ideas how to transform or build businesses. I never heard back, so I kept working on existing projects.

2016-05-26 09.10.01Later in the year, I worked on an Earthship, together with a wonderful community of permaculturists and natural builders. I thought how useful would it be to bring entrepreneurship and business students out to the country, to work together in this way, hands on, thereby learning what entrepreneurship really is, before learning business modelling and financial planning.

When I returned to Sydney, I spoke to the head of the newly established Judith Neilson chair at UNSW (based in Architecture and Build Environment). The reaction was “intrigued” but we didn’t get anywhere.

One step closer. At least someone heard me.

I also spoke to people at the Hatchery and the business school at UTS. Interest but no budget and risky. If you know someone, who’d be excited to invest in such an experimental learning program, please get in touch.

Superhero Card Game

Play this game with a group as an icebreaker or as an energizer to make people talk casually and intimately to learn something about themselves and their peers.

GSuperpower card pic by student_croproup size: minimum 10 pax
Playtime: 5 Min intro, played across breaks, 10 min framing, ideally leads into a self-inquiry game (ask us)

What:
The game objective is to give insight into our life journey and empower confidence in our personal capacity and creativity. Learn to be vulnerable and experience others’ openness.

How:
Hand out  one card pp during a break and ask people to swap until they have their favourite. Back in the group ask who is ultimately happy with their card. Usually, a few are, but most are not. It’s an analogy to life. You cultivate talents and skills, but more often than not lose them to market demands. By retrieving our superpowers we can adjust our path as we go, contributing our best to the world.

Played at: University of Technology Sydney, SW/TCH Festival Sydney, re:publica Berlin, This is Not Art Newcastle, Parsons New School of Design NYC, OUI Share Paris

Pan. Puck. Beet. Love.

PanPuckBeetLove2This small hand drawn mystical creature is based on the Greek nymph God, Pan and the Midsummer Night’s Dream elf, Puck. It’s the center piece for an interactive bricolage. It’s a work about lust and mischief; and about the suffering it involves. The temptation is represented by a beet, a melancholic vegetable in Tom Robbins’ magical realism.

The wall hanging is next to a deformable figure, a material that visitors can shape and fold into itself, changing its very nature without changing its original mass. The figure is an experiential, yet abstract topology put in context with the viewers’ archetypal imaginaries elicited by the drawing. The associations that occur at the intersection of erotic mythology and mathematical constraint render love as a topological assemblage; a Möbius strip that gifts us the illusion of progress while keeping us firmly grounded in its endless loops.

Here is a more nuanced interpretation:

The red beet – heart shaped – is temptation. Pan pruriently sniffs the beet while Puck nears it with playful curiosity. Yet the beet’s dryness reminds of melancholy. Its brittle leaves recur in the lover’s hair, a wild growth symbolising the seeker’s pandemonium: impulsive insatiable desire, time and again mistaken for love. Flies surround the frazzled head – they are the totem of rapid change. The androgynous figure has a goatee and small breasts, a comment on confusions that come with gender bending lifestyles. Leaning out of shallow waters, the emaciated body seems both anchored and confined. The lake is bleeding. Unnoticed withers the lover’s foundation. Without it, the erotic traveller is exposed to both liberation and uprootedness.

topologyI drew the image without any meaning in mind. I just drew. Gradually I recognised the symbolism of my drawing. How Jungian. My revelations were deeply connected to my PhD research. I had used a mathematical theory to describe bricolage lifestyles: topology (see image).

The basic principle behind the topology is that a space can change its form without changing its mass. That means, the figure is at once changing and remaining the same. Thinking about society (or lovers) in terms of topology evokes interesting analogies. Imagine a spatial figure consisting of nodes and lines. There is no hierarchy, and no central control. All nodes have equal influence. And any movement of one node changes all other nodes. That means, everything happens in between. The focus lies on the path – think of these as relationships. Their ever-changing nature defies stabilization of the form. The figure is movement. Transferring the model to people means that we’re in movement. Inevitable is the surrender of the individual to the collective. Inevitable is embracing the unknown that rests in such emergence.

2015-11-25 15.40.05Pan/Puck’s torment is topological. Its heterogenous space offers liberation, because agency is granted. But its constant movement uproots the actor. With shifting external foundations, the actor needs a solid foundation within. It is hidden, like the Second Foundation in Asimov’s sci-fi novel. This hidden foundation is key to evolution.

In my bricolage, the plasticine is a topology. I wanted to connect the vast mythology of the drawing with the mathematical constraint, because together they render love and life as a topological assemblage; like a Möbius strip that gifts us the illusion of progress while keeping us firmly grounded in its endless loops.

This little installation can be observed and experienced at Art After Dark on November 13 (Melbourne) and November 20 (Sydney).

Calabi-Yau and pendulum

No idea if this makes any sense. It’s an experiment in feeling deep knowledge.

I just came across the Calabi-Yau principle while I read up on Cosmogeny. “Cosmogony (or cosmogeny) is any model concerning the coming-into-existence (i.e. origin) of either the cosmos (i.e. universe), or the so-called reality of sentient beings.[1]” The Wiki article refers to Calabi-Yau manifolds and string theory. Click.

Calabi-Yau“A Calabi–Yau manifold, also known as a Calabi–Yau space, is a special type of manifold that is described in certain branches of mathematics such as algebraic geometry. The Calabi–Yau manifold’s properties, such as Ricci flatness, also yield applications in theoretical physics. Particularly in superstring theory, the extra dimensions of spacetime are sometimes conjectured to take the form of a 6-dimensional Calabi–Yau manifold, which led to the idea of mirror symmetry.”

Don’t understand a thing, but feel that it’s a further development of topology, which can be thought as cultural topology. If the cosmos is a Calabi-Yau formation, then our ecosystems would be, too.

Its characteristics of holonomy and elliptical curves reminded me of what I had sent my PhD supervisors once. At the time, I was deeply immersed in a chapter about exploitation and violently (foolishly) rejected the notion of power. This is what I sent them:

“And I forgot to delete my blasphemic sentence on power midway through the chapter. I just get so tired of it and wished it was something else that lies at the base of everything…. what if it’s dynamics and not power? what if the gravity of your life’s weight is let go at birth and then you rove in multiple swings, in all kinds of directions at the same time, but those swings reach a peak and then they swing back towards their opposite passing by occasions of balance and depending on where all the swings are at any given occasion they form new conditions but because at birth we are let go at certain positions and conditions the swings always happen around the same pivotal point, one we cannot escape and one that keeps us in check. It’s then kinetic force that keeps on going but declines gradually until all pendulums stop. it’s not power then but attention/focus that changes the swing. haha, but then what are the boundaries? they lie in the capacity of energy we got at birth. power is then only released once and the residual energy keeps us going, and depending on how much we got at the beginning we’re limited in our reach (as in how far and how many pendulums swing)… but how does growth work then? I suppose every pendulum swings leaves a trace, like a synapsis once built. And this synapsis trace strengthens every time a pendulum swings along. practicing.

Oh… that was a rather long spontaneous thought.

Oh and what about magnetism, like every endpoint of a pendulum swing is magnetic, that’s the attraction! And it’s activated by attention…ahm maybe not always, but ok, I don’t have to make this work. … I’M FEELING MAD TODAY!

And somewhere there’s Foucault in there. Ok, it’s all about power.”

I have no idea where I’m going with this. Yet. But it’s going to reveal itself to me some day.

The Tech Pentagram Collaboration Game

Group size: 40 – 200 pax

Playtime: 1h

Purpose:
2015-09-14 12.18.27The workshop is designed to give participants a visceral experience of just how quickly small teams of people can come up with world-changing ideas. It’s a possibility engine for your organisation.

Description:
This workshop explores and excavates the landscape of where technological innovation meets established industries such as media, manufacturing, energy and health. It’s a living, thinking event that uses game mechanics and future scenario design to unleash the imagination of its participants while teaching how to integrate concepts in relation to the systems they span.

2015-09-14 12.17.48We begin by giving a broad overview of the technological intersections and their potential impacts on a specific sector. Then the true fun and creativity starts! Up to 200 people from mixed sectors prototype some potential agents for change. In groups of 2 we dive into a technology of your choice. In groups of 4 we prioritise relevance of different aspects you discussed. In groups of 8 we begin integrating different technologies in order to come up with radical new possibilities. Throughout the workshop – like by magic – you will create a geometric shape containing the peaks of your thinking. In this workshop, expect spontaneity, bouncing messengers, human knots, inspiration, and mind expanding ideas.

The Tech Pentagram

This workshop explores and excavates the landscape of where technological innovation meets established industries such as media, manufacturing, energy and health. It’s a living, thinking event that uses game mechanics and future scenario design to unleash the imagination of its participants while teaching how to integrate concepts in relation to the systems they span.

2015-09-14 12.17.48Group size: 40 – 200 pax
Playtime: 1h

What:
Combined with a futurist talk by Future Crunch, this workshop is designed to remix the use of different technologies. It gives participants a visceral experience of just how quickly small teams of people can come up with world-changing ideas.

How:
We begin by giving a broad overview of the technological intersections and their potential impacts on a specific sector. Then the true fun and creativity starts! Up to 200 people from mixed sectors prototype some potential agents for change. In groups of 2 we dive into a technology of your choice. In groups of 4 we prioritise relevance of different aspects you discussed. In groups of 8 we begin integrating different technologies in order to come up with radical new possibilities. Throughout the workshop – like by magic – you will create a geometric shape containing the peaks of your thinking. Expect spontaneity, bouncing messengers, human knots, inspiration, and mind expanding ideas.