in media res — new media, new technologies

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in media res is a card game that allows players to discover and debate how media, technology and society interact with each other. Are certain technological developments inevitable, and should we accept them as such? Or are new discoveries enabled by the power-structures that fund their research?

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How do different world views, and more importantly, different human values influence how we experience technology?

the game

in media res is a card game for two to up to seven players. Each turn, every player is randomly given a role that represents a certain set of values towards media, society and technology. Based on this role the players argue about a situation that describes a certain development in media (technology). They match a consequence (effect on society) of the situation they’re presented with, based on the role they received at the start of the turn.

setup & game rules

The card deck consists of three types of cards, roles, situations and effects. Before the start of the game each of the card types need to be separated, shuffled and put face down on the table.

Every turn a situation is played, after which the players take turns matching an effect to a situation. Based on the role they play this turn, they have to build an argument in order to convince the other players why their effect is the most likely to happen, and why it matches with their role. After every player has described their argument, a discussion emerges, or players elect to play a new turn.

at the start of the game, one player is appointed as the host of the game (GH - Game Host), this person takes care of deck shuffles and the distribution of cards to all the players.

every turn, each player receives a role. This is done by randomly shuffling the cards, and each player picking a card from the hand of the game host.

after receiving their role, players get time to familiarise themselves with their role, while the host deals each player 5 effect cards.

roles

Each of the roles in the game is based on archetypes one encounters when you study the interactions between media, technology and society. The seven roles chosen were based on prior experience, and quite intuitively picked and described. Each role represents a set of values, about media, technology, or society, or combinations of these.

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the activist
values

you’re extreme aware of the moral consequences of how technologies are used in society, and you feel it is your personal calling to do something about this. it takes some time for the majority to get what you mean by ‘freedom’.

popular examples
  • richard m stallman (free software foundation)
  • edward snowden (former NSA employee)
the (human-computer) scientist
values

there must be better ways of doing the things we do, and thru research we will find out what these are. the adoption of your ideas is swift, and fortunes are made based on your work. you’re remembered for one tiny piece of your life’s work.

popular examples
  • douglas engelbart (mouse, mother of all demos)
  • tim berners-lee (the world wide web)
the mad scientist
values

you can see a better future through technology and you’ll get us there. your ideas are wild, but your results are real. people are amazed and scared of your work at the same time.

popular examples
  • hugh herr (mit medialab, biomechatronics)
  • kevin warwick (university of reading, cybernetics)
the media artist
values

you’re not an inventor, but you look at developments in technology and media and try to answer; ‘what does it al mean?’ in times of change, people look to you for guidance. there are more people that say that they understand you, than people that actually do.

popular examples

daan roosegaarde (studio roosegaarde)

stelarc

the media theorist
values

you’re not an inventor, but you look at developments in technology and media and try to answer; ‘what does it al mean?’ in times of change, people look to you for guidance. there are more people that say that they understand you, than people that actually do.

popular examples
  • marshal mcluhan (the medium is the message)
  • clay shirky (here comes everybody)
the startup kid
values

you feel the old ways of doing things are broken, but you have a vision of the future. consequences be damned, this future has to come into existince. you insist this is better for everybody.

popular examples

marc zuckerberg, (facebook)

alexander klöpping (blendle)

the user
values

well, this is neat, since the user is the representation of you, you get to play this round, based on your own values and beliefs.

popular examples

you?

situations

Situations describe a development that takes place within human society, a new technology is invented, or societies attitudes towards a certain development changes. Their statements are incomplete and need to be finished using an effect card. The game currently contains 27 situations. Some situations require player input or interaction when played.

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effects

Effects describe the consequences of a situation that is played. The game currently contains 72 effect cards. Most of these effects were culled from popular arguments around

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background

Whereas most works at the NMNT exhibit focus on the application of new technologies, or examine new media, I wanted to focus on the effects that new media and technologies have on society.

To create a contrast with the works that employ digital technology and interfaces, I opted for a project that takes place in our immediate surroundings, with conversation being the main interaction. One can argue that the conversation is being mediated by the card game, as its rules and setup drive the type of conversation that is taking place.