Playing with method: Game design as ethnographic research

The Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology (HU Berlin) hosts Playing with method: Game design as ethnographic research, a series of live-streamed events on 14.1, 28.1 & 11.2.2021

+info: https://hu.berlin/playingwithmethod

Rationale of the workshop

What if in the face of very serious topics we developed conceptual, speculative and material tools, such as games, to find ways of intervening as ethnographers, social scientists or as activists in current design dynamics? 

The series of talks Playing with method wishes to open up a line of inquiry counting on practical examples (be they card, board, performative or video-games) theoretical repertoires, and speculative visions or positional arguments to address the promises and challenges of the ways in which games might be mobilized for different forms and genres of social intervention. 

In spite, or even because of their ludic dimension, we want to explore to what extent games might be capable of altering how we discuss issues, share knowledge, raise awareness, make problems public, imagine futures, and learn to care. Thus, we would like to collectively discuss critically on the contemporary cultural role of games, with the aspiration to ponder how games could redevelop our repertoires of ethnographic representation and intervention; or what vocabularies and considerations might allow us to unfold their full potential as relevant ethnographic or peri-ethnographic genres. 

What is more, we are particularly interested in how games open up a Spielraum (a degree of play) for transgressing the boundaries of academic disciplines and reinventing what research might mean.

Why this workshop now?

In the last years, members of the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology have been approaching the potentialities and challenges of games as particular platforms or devices for anthropological research / intervention for the real estate crisis in Berlin. In our work not only we have been inspired by the activist/ pedagogic impetus of the Landlord’s Game (anti-monopolistic predecessor of Monopoly), but also by different works around games by social designers, artists and other anthropologists wishing to expand the reach of forms of urban intervention.

The games we have developed are not final products but open prototypes. They are result and method of our research, and work as devices to intervene in urban development processes. As such, they are open to be transformed and re-versioned, so that their specific languages, logics, gameplay, and effects could be adapted to specific situations and concerns of various urban actors.

In collaboration with ZK/U, we have produced a series of games, most centrally featuring House of Gossip, which re-enacts the threat of displacement of tenants from their homes, plunging us into the rumors circulating in a stairway and their truth effects. 

Drawing from our own work, for this series of talks we would like to gather around inspiring examples so as to discuss and discover together how developing games might also impact how we could do social-cultural research: from describing to intervening, from representing to performing (and breaching) reality, thus experimenting with what politics and critique might mean whenever we prototype and play.

Programme

14.1.2021 5-7pm – Urban matters (FB event)

Claudia Hummel (UdK & Spielclub Oranienstraße 25 / nGbK project group)

Tomás Criado & Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

Chaired by Julia Schröder (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

28.1.2021 6-8pm – Educational matters (FB event)

Judith Ackermann (Fachhochschule Potsdam)

Joe Dumit (UC Davis)

Chaired by Tomás Criado (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

11.2.2021 5-7pm – Organizational matters (FB event)

Judith Igelsböck (Institut für Organisation, JKU Linz) & Friedrich Kirschner (HFS ‚Ernst Busch‘, Berlin)

Alberto Vanolo (Università degli Studi di Torino)

Chaired by Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

[Updated February 2021]