August 30, 2010

Saw this image while reading about Punk Rock Mathematics:

Apparently this was part of a project called Superstruct, which is apparently now quite defunct, but at the time was some kind of experimental game, aiming to (as far as I can tell) brainstorm solutions to the world’s problems in some form of social networking/alternate reality schema.

Q: How do I play Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces. We show you the world as it might look in 2019. You show us what it’s like to live there. Bring what you know and who you know, and we’ll all figure out how to make 2019 a world we want to live in.

It’s really interesting to look at some of the entrails of this particular beast. They put up a wikia, with a page called Superstruct Powers, which begins:

Note: By necessity this page will start out with crackpot theories, wrong ideas, and untested hypotheses. The goal is to identify the difference between theories that should be tested, and case studies of actual superstructing that can be evaluated. It’s fine to theorize, but try to protovate your theories as much as possible. Remember your scientific method: 1) Observe, 2) Make a hypothesis, 3) Make a prediction, 4) Test, and back to 1) Observe.

I personally love this kind of future-dialect that assumes you know more than you can know. Also interesting are the Plot Updates, which reflect the above image:

Under pressure from its largest client, Google, the leaders of the energy haven of SeaStar, which offers a combination of abundant clean energy (from wave, wind, and solar power), year-round aquaculture, and high-bandwidth connections to the global Internet, voted today to end efforts to declare SeaStar an autonomous national entity, accepting instead a status of protectorate of the United Kingdom.

The wiki has another page called Screaming 3D Bootstrappers, apparently an in-game clan.

All of this makes for utterly wonderful flavor text — but it isn’t clear what the game mechanics, if any, are. Sure, we can brainstorm solutions. But to see which solutions are the easiest to implement, or the most effective, or the most cost-effective? There’s a video, but right now my bandwidth is not sufficient to watch it. Anyone want to clue me in?

Also, be aware that there’s a "sequel", called Evoke, which is a little easier to grok.

The goal of the social network game is to help empower young people all over the world, and especially young people in Africa, to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems….Players who successfully complete ten game challenges in ten weeks will be able to claim their honors: Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.

The missions (here’s one) tend to encourage exploration of problems and a focus on "innovation".

Your objective: Describe the biggest challenge to food security in your own local community or country — and an innovative solution that is already underway.
Document your local insight with a blog post, video, or photo.
Your objective: Take action to increase someone’s food security near you.
Document your effort with a blog post, video, or photo.

But it’s hard for me to feel like this would be 1. fun (since it feels like a junior-high-school homework assignment) or 2. impactful (since solutions and ingenuity do not seem to be in short supply in the world). Nevertheless, it’s better than underage drinking.

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