During the DMI summer school ’19, OILab collaborated with Kim de Groot from Rotterdam-based artist and design collective Mona Lisa’s and students from the MA New Media (UvA) to develop a game inspired by the political compass meme, as part of a broader research project into radical political subcultures online.
The game took place in the University Theatre in Amsterdam. Four large coloured squares were placed in front of the podium, forming a spatialized representation of the political compass with the axes Left-Right and Authoritarian-Libertarian. On the podium itself, four tables with large sheets and markers were placed.
The game begins when the game master has three random audience members draw three cards from three different stacks: the prefix (e.g. anti-), the mindset (e.g. modernist) and -ism (e.g. feminist). This produces a new fictional political tribe: in the example, an anti-modernist feminist.
Volunteering audience members are then invited to the podium, where they are given two minutes to write down or draw the urtext, chieftain, hashtags, and fursona of the thus randomly generated tribe, which they reveal to the public. Finally, the game master asks the audience to deliberate on where to place the tribe on the compass board, and proceeds to place the cards there, at which point another round commences.
Some of the tribes that were formed during the game are: anti-radical minimalist, nöo-Deleuzo-Guattarian maoist, neo-moralist communist and quasi-phobic modernist. Additionally, we skipped over the process of imagining what the tribe would look like, to just quickly drawing from the three decks of cards and immediately seeking to place them on the compass board.
The pedagogical premise of designing a game like this is that collaborative, creative and imaginative engagement with a topic is a form of learning, and potentially even a mode of knowledge production that can add to – or cast a different light on – more traditional academic approaches that we also pursued as a group.
What the game invites participants to engage with is the question: Given the proliferation of weird political subcultural identities at the fringes of the web, what possible tribal identities could we imagine to be formed there, beyond those that actually exist? As such, the game can be considered a form of collective “fictioning” – where those fictions can be revealing about the present state of our political imagination, or lack thereof.
We might undertake another try-out of the game, possibly at Transmediale, Berlin. So if you are around, you are welcome to join and play the game with us.