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Ethnography and Design: Mutual Provocations is made possible through funding from the UC Office of the President, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and participating units across University of California campuses.
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Saturday, October 29 • 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Lunchtime Lab II: Ethnographic Games LIMITED

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Ludo-Ethnography: Analog Game Design as an Ethnographic Method
(hosted by Jonathan Walton)
For a group of 4-8 participants (not including ourselves), we’d like to present an in-progress analog game experience that attempts to simulate and perform some of the dynamics and practices present at a particular field site. Together with the participants, we will play through an excerpt of this game and then host a follow-up discussion that debriefs the experience, solicits feedback from the participants based on their own experiences and expertise, and explores the broader possibilities of combining ludographic and ethnographic methods.

Our session examines analog game design as a method for documenting and exploring a particular field site, demonstrating the possibilities and challenges involved in representing a living, dynamic set of interactions in a simulated, malleable experience that is restaged in a different context with different participants. Despite the challenges involved, representing living practices as a game (as different kinds of living practices, essentially) offers many benefits, allowing a more visceral and experiential transmission of findings to others, including students in the classroom, and can also constitute a form of public scholarship aimed at the broader and growing audience for innovative game experiences. And yet many of the same questions still arise in regard to representation, power, and collaboration, just as they would in ethnographic work that takes the form of texts or performances. Jonathan Walton is a PhD student and experimental game designer engaged in ethnographic methods in both areas. Jackson Tegu is an experimental game designer who also consults on, speaks about, and facilitates games internationally.

Terra Incognita (CANCELLED)
I am proposing to host a session of a game called Terra Incognita. I co-developed Terra Incognita with art collective Demilit, originally for the Istanbul Design Biennial in 2012 and since then played in different venues. In Terra Incognita, participants co-create an infinite geographical puzzle. In this game, we enter our routine world in a way that makes the familiar uncommon and reveals it anew. Every new puzzle piece of Terra Incognita can be the seed of a new puzzle, or be added or overlaid onto an ever-expanding one. Terra Incognita is played to decipher and re-cipher a place by activating the senses and memory. In Terra Incognita, players map a collective incompleteness—a group hallucination of an imagined terrain. By building and interacting with the puzzle, players identify conflicts and fissures in the spatial politics of their immediate places, explore unknown neighborhoods, play entertaining games, solve evolving mysteries, and fantasize about hidden geographies. Terra Incognita can be an activist weapon, an art piece, and a discussion catalyst all in one. At UCSD, of course, this could be done on campus or near campus, but participants can also carry it forward elsewhere later. I will provide the starting instructions, materials, and facilitation, while also host conversation for players to develop techniques of puzzle-making, and play games with their collected puzzle pieces. Players can even invent new games and share the rules with others, potentially by adding documentation to the web. (Suggested tag: #TerraIncognita).

avatar for Javier Arbona

Javier Arbona

Assistant Professor of American Studies and Design, University of California, Davis
I hold a dual appointment at the University of California, Davis, as an Assistant Professor in the American Studies and Design departments. In addition, I am part of the affiliate faculty for the Cultural Studies Graduate Group and the Geography Graduate Group. My double life... Read More →
avatar for Jonathan Walton

Jonathan Walton

Ph.D. Student in Communication, University of California, San Diego