Collaboratively Creating a Speculative Game about Learning

Some questions that we are exploring:
Is the student a pawn in the game of learning?
When do stakeholders have the student’s interest in mind?
When do other forces/motivations cause them to make decisions that do not support student learning?
When do learners feel empowered?
What is the ideal learning experience? The ideal student? The ideal setting? The ideal tools? The ideal support structure?
How does our vision of the future interact with these ideals?
What do our ideals reveal about the limits of our own experience and our biases?
How do we get people to think concretely and provocative?
How can we engage a group in the larger conversation about learning through game design (prototyping, playtesting, critiquing)?
How can we create a game that itself includes elements of game design, and thus embodies the conversation?

We are planning three workshops:
1. Data and Artifact Generation: Conversation and Collaborative Art-Making about the learning experiences of the past, present and future.
2. Rapid Game Prototyping: Employing concepts from theatre, creating compositions of game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics.
3. Playtesting the Game: playtesting the resulting game and debriefing the game and the experience.


Lo-Fi & Locative

(I don’t really have anything to say about the next project except that I want to create an embodied game/workshop where speculative design is an action in the game: creating while playing, playing while creating.)


Over the weekend my partners set up one of our “Publish!” installations at the Great Park in Irvine. We were invited by Manifest Destiny: Engaging a Changing Landscape, a group from UC Irvine. We set up typewriters for the public to type up their response to “Where will you be?” then they pinned their writing to a location in the Orange County map book.

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Expanding the Narrative

I have so many complicated feelings about these workshops and the questions posed. Mostly because I think Emerge is awesome…from the participatory approach to the multi-angled documentation.

Starting with the sentiment of awesomeness, next I get to feelings of frustration. Mostly they are long-held feelings. I feel this work is very similar in approach (though different in content and intent) to the work I’ve made a life doing, so it all gets stuck in my throat.

Jenny and Thomas talk about expanding the audience. It looks to me like Emerge is already taking great pains to do this. If you want to do more, It’s simple. This is not a philosophical issue. Go to where the people are (Good on Superflux for doing this). They are not going to find you. If you want participants from outside of your circle, show up at their door, their park, their school. Honor what they have to say. If you’re waiting for someone to invite you to do it (or pay you!), then you’ll be waiting your whole life. (I’m in the throws of organizing a book festival in a park in dtla, and just came off of a summer where we installed 90 cultural events in a train station–I put a lot of work into amplifying a range of voices and making it all accessible. If that’s what you want then you can put a lot of work into it too.)

1. I would say that design fiction supports public dialogue through some combination of narrative and play–two things that we are all practiced at.

There is the opportunity for participation in the creation of these fictions because of the subjective nature of “the future.” None of us can actually be an expert on something that does not yet exist. However, running a workshop or any collaborative process is an art in itself. And in my experience, it is certainly an iterative process. One wrong turn in facilitating a workshop and the whole thing can crumble. (So, if you want to expand your audience: go to them, and then learn how to communicate with them.)

2. Most important methodological feature: Whatever puts the human experience at the center of the design.

After writing the stories, I consider the big picture.

The Locative Case

In a ubicomp future, our virtual world is dispersed among the physical world.

Our online identities, social interactions and networks, creative output, self-documentation, organizers, reminders, business and financial interactions, and media consumption are all locative, married to place.

From the massive amounts of data and media, we can customize a series of maps to help us navigate the cyber-physical web. We could create a map that follows one person or a network of friends. We could create a map of a particular interest, business or artist. Maps could be packaged and sold as art, books or entertainment.

Or we might sit in one place and read that place. We might take in the stories and traces of stories left behind by the people who have passed through it and have called it home. We might try to understand the ways our lives intersect.

A screen or wearable, would allow us access to the virtual world as it is mapped on the physical world. I can only call that augmented reality.

This vision of a cyber-physical web read through a screen, has the same difficulties of every other augmented or virtual reality technology out there—it interferes with social interaction. However, in this scenario there is a genuine attempt to augment place through the layering of context specific media and data, rather than, as is sometimes seems to be the case, to use the physical world as an extended computer screen.

Warning: Fiction #3



5 confrontational messages have been logged at location 34.115995, -118.186396 between 01/03/2024 23:13.55 and 02/03/2024 17:20.08.

Tagger 1 has been identified as male, between the ages of 17-25, likely Hispanic.

Tagger 2 has been identified as male, between the ages of 17-25, likely Hispanic.

 Relationship history: Shared high school affiliation. High-level of activity. 12% of tags possibly confrontational in nature.

 Recommended Action:

  1. Deploy two patrol officers to cover a three-block radius of the location for 48 hours.
  2. Install warning messages within a one-block radius.
  3. Monitor further reports of confrontational messages.
  4. Release tone enhancing tags from the library into the vicinity:



Surcharge: $1,116.00

To be charged to Café Estrella at 34.115995, -118.186396

For additional security, confrontation monitoring, and tone enhancement services.

Scene: Fiction #2

Motherfuckers. The lines still round the fuckin block. I’m halfway through my second shift, and I’ll be damned if I’m staying a second past midnight. They come in here staring straight past you, talking to mid-air, like I’m not even standing here. “Hello! May I take your order?”

Some watch on their screen, some their glasses or that fuckin visor deal. There’s young and old, men, women. The only thing they’ve got in common is that I’ve never seen em step foot through those doors before, and I betcha they won’t again.

Yeah, I followed it too at first. I’m fifth generation. It’s our story. I mean the shit that was going down around here in the sixties. It changed things, man. But it’s just like any other show, fuckin soap opera. Opium for the masses.

Every week they show up to shit all over someone else’s shop, or park. One week the scene played out in this guy’s driveway. I hope he got paid well for that.

It’s the noise that really starts to get to me after awhile. Everyone talking to thin air all at once. It’s like they know it’s not actually Peter Sinclair. They know that their speaking to a computer and that really the scene can only play out how the scene’s gonna play out, but one after another, they act all dumb and starstruck.

And it’s not like it’s just tonight either. This is just the beginning. They’ll be trickling through here for years. The latecomers, binge watching the series all over the neighborhood. Those guys, the ones that miss the first wave—totally absorbed, in a trance watching one scene after another–they make the best marks.