Transcultural Data Pact

Our research LARPs explore and test the local and global consequences of advanced technologies for human and more-than-human interests.  

Transcultural Data Pact explores how personal and collective data practices and devices shape the attitudes and fortunes of societies.  

The Scenario
An historic trade negotiation is underway between two nations with shared ancestry and clashing beliefs. They each face an evolutionary bottleneck and need each others’ unique technologies to survive. Delegations from Ourland and New Bluestead must use their personal devices, wits and cunning to negotiate best terms for a technology and data-culture exchange.

2 Devices – The Pebble and The Blox

The Game
Players are each given a formal role in the negotiations and receive one of two devices – The Pebble or The BLOX – in the post.  The Pebble supports the continuous development of emotional intelligence in the multi-species democracy of Ourland. The BLOX fuels the optimised society and the automated government of New Bluestead under control of the Intelligent Dynast. Delegates gather at the Decentralised Nations Diplomatic Zone to participate in a series of closed and plenary sessions in which they showcase their technologies, and create trade agreements. How will the “zero data exploitative” nation of Ourland  resolve their ethical differences with New Bluestead, built on “absolute data transparency”? How will they trade?

“How can they say they are thriving – they have kumbayaed their way into near starvation” – Character, Mx Schell, Trade Architect, New Bluestead

“This is not a technological problem, it’s a social problem!” – Character, Figs the Bard, Ourland

“The hiding or hoarding or personal data is treated as a criminal perversion.” – Character, Envoy Ahd, New Bluestead 

“Our data is our spirit.” – Character, Dorth of the Wheel, Intermediary, Ourland

2 delegations meet – from Ourland and from New Bluestead

Characters are split across two nations and players receive a ‘Delegate Dossier’ providing information about governance, communal priorities and survival issues as well as guides to the cultures of both nations.  It also describes the use and role of the Pebble and BLOX devices. Players are each given a name and specific role in their delegation including leadership, representation of particular interest groups, expert technical advice, ritual or cultural stewardship, mediation, recording, reflecting, deal construction, communications etc.  Ourland is an island nation and a designated biosphere reserve with strict laws and regulations preventing what they call “data-coercion”. Their polyphonic multi-species citizens face serious food and energy shortages. New Bluestead is an archipelago of more than 1,000 floating cities rising from the international waters of Oceania. All personal data is gathered by city systems architectures and stored and processed centrally. This is used to incentivise productivity through real-time displays of performance rankings. Before the event players are invited to draw on this information to develop their characters – writing about their characters lives,  values, and mission.

The Pebble – allows Ourlanders to log their emotions in realtime

This LARP is suitable for groups of 18-22 players, ages 18+. It is best played with people from different backgrounds. Especially valuable to play are designers, developers, information technology professionals, and governance and technology policy-makers, ethical business, start-ups, corporate social responsibility,  social scientists, and ecosystems/ environmental scientists.

The BLOX harvests data about New Bluesteaders
reputation, wellbeing, productivity and rank

Game Pack Includes

  • 20 uniquely named roles
  • 2 personal data device prototypes- the Pebble (that connects via Bluetooth to a browser-based interface) and BLOX (which displays realtime information using Augmented Reality)
  • Delegate Dossier with names, responsibilities, background information about the trading nations.
  • Support from a team of facilitators who lead players of both nations, through the game.

What Players say about Transcultural Data Pact

“I could get a bunch of people to sit together in a committee and list the sort of problems you could expect when you are suddenly confronted with a completely incompatible civilisation and needed to communicate with them and we would never have come up with the notes that I made in the game.” – Professor Arik Kershenbaum, Dept Zoology, Girshon College, Cambridge

Transcultural Data Pact has become the subject of a research paper: Dr Chris Speed, Dr Kruakae Pothong, Ruth Catlow (2021) ‘Deliberating personal informatics through design: A LARP approach’

2020 Pdf Download – Visual scroll of first event

2020 “Under Negotiation – An Account of the Transcultural Data Pact between Ourland and New Bluestead by Mx Sout-Annan, Journalist Observer for the Decentralised Nations by Anna Souter for Texturmag

Transcultural Data Pact is created by Ruth Catlow (Furtherfield/DECAL) with Dr Kruakae Pothong, Billy Dixon, Dr Evan Morgan and Prof. Chris Speed from Edinburgh University, in collaboration with Kate Genevieve. It was originally commissioned as a Qualified Selves research event to explore the use of data objects to stretch people’s imagination about the collection and usage of their own data to investigate personal and collective data devices and practices that add real value.