Playful concepts and serious games — The New New projects, one year on

A mock-up of game components for the first playable prototype of the Algorithms of Late Capitalism board game.

Last year, The New New brought together 24 artists, technologists, thought leaders, writers and designers from across Europe for a six-month fellowship on visions for an inclusive digital future.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung and Superrr Lab are continuing to work with four of the 12 projects to enhance their impact and assist with networking, fundraising and outreach. Today we are talking to Karla Zavala Barreda and Adriaan Odendaal from the Rotterdam-based design and research studio, internet teapot.

During their New New fellowship, internet teapot worked on a community co-designed critical board game which grew out of their ongoing project, Algorithms of Late Capitalism. In the game, players are members of a community of cyborgs living under the technocratic regime of the Sentient Machine Cult. Exploring themes of conformity, datafication, rebellion and algorithmic othering, the game prompts players to find collaborative ways of reinventing the regime’s systems.

The process of the game design.

SUPERRR: What is the current status of your New New project?

Adriaan: By the end of the fellowship, with the help of 38 collaborators, we had come up with the concept, content, mechanics and rules for a complete board game.

Karla: We printed and play-tested this prototype and are now in the process of refining and finishing the design. This year we aim to physically publish and promote it, as well as make it available online in a free print-to-play format.

internet teapot’s promotional image for their first workshop.

SUPERRR: What has changed for you since the start of the fellowship? What new paths have opened up in the meantime or directly through the fellowship? Have your assumptions changed at all?

Karla: Covid-19 presented a particular challenge for co-creating an analogue game as we could not do workshops on-location and in-person, but this apparent obstacle also meant we were able to connect with and invite people from all over the world to join its development. As a consequence, the project has been immeasurably enriched by a real diversity of experiences and perspectives and we’ve gotten to know people we might not otherwise have met.

Adriaan: The relationships built through the network of the New New organizations is also something we treasure, and we’ve been able to participate in several amazing events, including the AI Festival hosted by the Goethe-Institut.

Photo from the playtesting session.

SUPERRR: Who would you like to work with in the future? What successes would you still like to achieve?

Karla: During one of the project workshops we were fortunate to collaborate with Tshimologong Precinct in Johannesburg and more recently, we did a zine co-creation workshop with Alta Tecnología Andina (ATA) and Fundación Telefónica in Lima. Collaborating with individuals and organizations from our own countries and creating connections between them and the network we are building in Europe is something we want to do more in the future.

Adriaan: For us, the workshops themselves already made the project a far greater success than we could ever have imagined. Looking ahead, we would like to see the finished board game in the hands of as many players as possible as well as being available in public places such as libraries and civic centers. It would be amazing to see it eventually have a life and impact beyond our own involvement.

internet teapot’s message board where participants could leave notes to their future co-designers.

SUPERRR: Can you share with us three learnings from your project or the fellowship process?

Adriaan: Exploring complex topics related to the design, development and deployment of digital technologies in more engaged and reflective ways is possible by facilitating discussion and ideation spaces designed for playfulness and creative expression. Reframing these topics through popular mediums, such as games, opens up the discussions more, allows a wider public to participate and draws in people who might not have joined otherwise.

Karla: It’s also important to consider people who are often excluded from these discussions as experts — both in terms of their experiences using and living with technology, as well as in terms of the unique knowledge and skills they bring to any discussion. From this, we have also learned to consider our own roles in these kinds of discussions less as experts and more as facilitators.

SUPERRR: Thank you so much for this insight into your project and all the best for your next steps! ✨

The fourth project that is part of the Bertelsmann Stiftung and Superrr Lab support program is Chayn Italia, an intersectional feminist tech project for survivors of domestic abuse and frontline workers across Italy. Elena Silvestrini, Silvia Di Cesare and Claudia Fratangeli of Chayn are presently very busy with concluding the current phase of Radia, a training project aimed at operators of anti-violence centers in Italy which shares ways of combating digital gender violence and good practices for the conscious use of technology to empower people.

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