Natalie and Graham – #agoodquestion

A friend of mine, Natalie, writes of a conversation towards #agoodquestion she had with her friend Graham. You can read more about #agoodquestion here, and more conversations here.

Graham and I used to train at the same boot camp and the only sense I had of his political leanings came from seeing the occasional facebook post from which I had drawn the conclusion that he was a flippant conservative (the worst kind) so there would be no difficulty finding areas of difference. The first thing I learned was never to think you know anything about a person from what they put on facebook. It turns out that what really irks Graham is lazy assertion backed up with little evidence and flimsy argument – so he challenges it regardless of political hue. I admire that and was embarrassed to realize how quick I’d been to jump to conclusions. I too find myself frustrated by poor arguments on important issues because they weaken the position. So immediately we’d found some common ground. From that point on the conversation was fascinating, the most interesting conversation I’ve had in a very long time in fact.

There were differences but they were nuanced; often we favoured different means to reach the same ends. I’m not going to write up everything we talked about because the conversation, planned for one hour, lasted for three but the conversations that revolved around our #goodquestions were:

Natalie: Is it important that the state provides a safety net? What do we mean by that? And what’s the best way of doing it?

Graham believes, as I do, that the provision of a safety net is an essential role of government. He is concerned though that there are measures in place to ensure that that safety net doesn’t turn into a hammock. My feeling is that any system of scale won’t be perfect and is unlikely to be able to support everyone that needs it whilst also being impossible to abuse. I would far rather that a tiny proportion of people (and it is tiny) benefit unduly than a single person falls through the holes and doesn’t receive support when they need it. I don’t think Graham disagreed with that. I went on to suggest that perhaps a system based on the principle of a basic (citizens) income might be a better approach than the complex system currently in place. Graham got his calculator out and worked out that for it to be even remotely affordable the basic income would be so low that it would still need to be backed up with other benefits, which, I agree, would make it a pointless exercise. I’m not yet convinced that it couldn’t work but I am inspired to do more research and make some better arguments. We acknowledged that our personal experiences have had a significant impact on our political views in this area (one of us has seen genuine abuse of the welfare system at close quarters whilst the other has seen close friends in dire need failed by the system).

Graham: Given the choice between two scenarios which would you choose? Scenario One – the bottom ten percent get 5% richer and the top ten percent get 10% richer so inequality goes up, or Scenario Two – the bottom ten percent get 2% richer (so not as rich) but the top ten percent get no richer at all so inequality goes down?

First of all we both acknowledged that this was a thought experiment rather than a direct choice that was likely to present itself in the real world. I have read (but was, and remain, entirely unable to cite) research that indicates that inequality within societies, separate from the actual levels of poverty and wealth, has negative impacts on social cohesion and the health and well being of individual citizens. For this reason I would go with scenario two. However it really depends on the difference that the additional 3% can make to the poorest in society. If scenario one is the only way to lift the bottom ten percent out of poverty then it has to be scenario one. If the poorest person in the society of our thought experiment could be lifted out of poverty with the 2% increase though, I’d stick with scenario two.

We also talked about tuition fees. Graham was angry that Labour had made a manifesto pledge to reduce tuition fees to £6000pa. I raised an eyebrow. His reasoning was that because tuition fees are only paid by those above the income threshold it is only the relatively wealthy that will benefit from the reduction, in other words it’s a boon for the wealthy being presented as a step towards a system that is fairer for the poor. I furrowed my brow. My concern is that it is not the fee or even the debt itself that is a barrier that will exclude people from higher education but the idea of that debt. For someone from a lower income household the idea of taking on that level of debt can be totally off-putting. Graham took my point and agreed that there might be better ways to talk about it but he also pointed out that an awful lot of that off-putting language comes from the liberal media protesting about tuition fees. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this yet but certainly it’s something I want to look into and I am prepared to come to the counter-intuitive conclusion that tuition fees may in fact be the fairest way of ensuring that anyone can access higher education.

And then Graham said something that really surprised me – he’d vote for a policy to provide free adult education for all so that anyone that opted out of education as a child could come back to it as an adult, and to facilitate career changes later in life. Yes, I said. Yes. This got us thinking. We share a whole set of values but approach them from very different perspectives – so what policies could we agree on right down to the detail? What would a manifesto that we could both vote for look like? We ran out of time but will definitely be meeting up again to figure that out.

Peter – #agoodquestion

being a conversation I have towards #agoodquestion, about which you can read more here, and more conversations here.

Peter is one of my oldest school friends, from a working class family and now running a stoneworking firm in the town where we grew up, wanting a party that represents working class interests and not sure what that is, but “with a little piece of red in my heart”.

His good question: is there an inherent difference in political values between the North and the South? My answer a little abstract, his more grounded, but both saying: yes, there is.

Mine, if I had asked it more concisely: are the stories that flood the media about people cheating a system representative of that system?

I’ve known Peter for 40 years. He was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Ripon, aged 5 and a bit. I remember my 9th birthday, just him and me and another friend Paul, playing out in the fields behind my house. When we went to secondary school we three were in different forms so distanced a little. When we started going to the pub, Peter would often have a pint with me and my granddad whenever he was in town, talking sport.

When we left school, I went to Edinburgh via Australia but Peter stayed in Ripon. He got a job as a stonemason, repairing the roof of Ripon Cathedral – I’d marvelled that this might be never-ending, fixing the edges of a building that has stood for a thousand years so that it might stand a thousand more.

He’s still in Ripon, working for the same firm who do stonework for every English Heritage site in the north of England – castles and abbeys as well as cathedrals, what an immense job – but now as a manager. We’d reconnected via Facebook. He delighted me by coming to see Jimmy Stewart… when I played the Hub in Leeds (thank you Slung Low) in 2012, the first time I’d seen him in 15 years. I wrote to him to ask if he’d be up for #agoodquestion, and we arranged a time to sit down together over the phone with a cup of tea in each of our respective offices. We both spend more of our time now facilitating and producing the work of our companies than being out making. Peter misses the basic satisfaction of being able to say to himself ‘I built that wall’.

It’s essentially a building site he runs, while doing some damn fine building work. And a lot of his crew are vocally UKIP. They’ve got a Polish lad working with them, and he’s respected, but that doesn’t seem to affect the Farage supporters. The only newspaper Peter sees regularly is the Daily Mail, “the Daily Fascist”, because that floats around the site. Peter also gets his news via TV headlines and watching Newsnight, although he feels there’s a bit of a BBC London-centric agenda. He talks about a benefit culture and Benefit Street, people queuing up for handouts, and that Labour has been ‘too namby-pamby’ on controlling immigration. He sees Farage as proposing control, agency over our borders. “There’s half a million people over here who have gone missing”. I make the possibly smart-dumb point that in a population of 60 million people, half a million is less than 1%; speaking as an ex-psychologist, you accept that margin of uncertainty or error in a significant/effective result in an experiment. And it’s people leaving the country too – I talk about our old schoolfriend Lisa, who went round the world and never left New Zealand. But a bigger point, which becomes part of my good question later: no system will work perfectly, there will always be ways to play it, for some people to cheat – does that necessarily mean the system, whether welfare or immigration, is broken?

Peter had asked me by email: who do you think of our current political parties represents the working class? Labour, I suppose, I say but I’m sure that’s historical association as much as anything, I wouldn’t pretend to know the answer to this now. What about you, I ask? None of the above. We grew up with Thatcher, toppling the unions. and selling off the council houses which turned a lot of the working class around him from red to blue. But Peter says there’s always a bit of him that is a socialist at heart, and says it boils down to this: when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to work harder and you’ll share for the common good – but if you’ve got things, you’ll fight to hang onto them.

In the nineties, Peter worked in Doncaster for a while. He talks about how the mines there had been smashed by Thatcher to break the unions. A lot of the ex-miners were struggling, they couldn’t get over the impact of the strike – if you’d ever crossed the picket lines, you were written off for life as a scab – and the loss of a job for life, what it means psychologically not to get paid every week, to slip down your own sense of a pecking order. But there hadn’t been a plan to replace these heavy industries with new industry, just pure Tory ideology to break one union, break them all. There were 100 car and motorbike manufacturers in the Midlands once, and now it’s all been wiped out. While you could buy a Japanese car in the seventies and it would be a rust-bucket, but they patiently improved their industries to dominance. There has never been an effective Buy British mentality, the way the French protect their home industries. And now, how can any home industry compete with China?

Another question he’d asked in advance was whether the parties should be forced to be transparent about the alliances and coalitions they would be happy to make in the likelihood of a hung parliament. I don’t know that advance transparency is possible without turning into an even wilder game of political Diplomacy. In the wake of a hung parliament, the SNP will be key, we agree. We talk about Scotland and how much closer it is to the North of England than the North to London. Peter’s old friend John had reckoned the Scots were closer to the Scandinavians, geographically and socially. Migration affects the north and south differently, Peter reckons, more are likely to settle around London because that’s where the work is seen to be. We need people here to work, he’d open the borders more to achieve that as long as we can maintain control.

Now we think about our good questions.

What’s your take on Mr Farage? asks Peter. I’m not sure that’s the best question he can ask me but I go for it anyway. I think Farage is a clown in the performative sense. He plays the role of outsider to the establishment while being a consummate insider. He projects himself as the voice of common sense but – just like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party – talking poisonous nonsense designed to play on the fears of people who feel precarious, disengaged and disregarded by ‘the system’.

My question, thinking aloud and overwrought in the asking. You’d talked about stories of people cheating a system that you’ve picked up from the Daily Fail, but do you reckon that this is ever more than a tiny minority? These stories of a few cheating individuals are more compelling as stories than the greater majority of people playing by the rules to get the support they need. Humans don’t read systems very well. Is our judgement therefore being distorted? I haven’t left him much space to do more than agree that could be true,

Peter asks another. You’ve been 20-odd years down South now, do you think there’s a difference in political values with the North? And do you think you’ll ever come back? That’s a good question. As well as all the obvious establishment biases the South has, I wonder if there’s something in the scale of the metropolis of London that atomises any sense of locality and community for those like me who haven’t grown up there, but have come for work. I’m not sure if what I sometimes miss is being in a smaller city or being in the North, and if that has impact on my experience of politics. For Peter, it’s all about industry and the working class: I’ll always have a piece of red in my heart, my family were from Sunderland and you went underground or you went to the water. I’m thinking too abstract, I reckon. Don’t think too hard, says Peter, you’ve always been a thinker, even when you were a kid. Go with the flow. I laugh. Always been a thinker, I’ll take that.

Time to go. It’s been a lovely conversation, above all, with an old friend. Next time, it will be up north with beer.

Helen and Tony – #agoodquestion

A friend of mine, Helen, writes of a conversation towards #agoodquestion she had with her friend Tony. Check for more on #agoodquestion.

Tony describes himself as a libertarian – fiscal conservative.

I am … gosh, what am I? broadly left-wing but with occasional wild opinions that confuse the hell out of those surveys designed to tell you what party you support.

We went to the pub to have a general chat and look for good questions.

We plunged in with talking about small / big government. A quick sidetrack over what such relative terms meant, helped me clarify that I thought I was in favour of small government for issues best dealt with locally, but big government for those best dealt with globally – environmental change, being a good example. Funnily enough we were both broadly in agreement that products should better reflect an overall cost of use – ie plastic bags should be taxed to represent, not only the cost of their manufacture and raw materials, but of their long-term effect on the global environment. We differed only in how this was best done. Tony felt that the WTO and other agreements should be able to organise this, I doubted they could.

Next we got onto ways of governments shedding responsibility…. predictably we plunged into health. I was advocating a National Health Service, Tony was suggesting that Singapore’s method of making you ‘pay in’ to a scheme which you then drew down on (and if you didn’t it was added to your pension) should be considered. I felt this would help people like me, but be bad for people with health issues connected to poverty. We danced around this for a while – arguing about what governments should or shouldn’t interfere in.

Where it got really interesting was with housing and travel. We broadly agreed on the problems around housing in London. But where I felt we should build more social housing to craete mixed communities throughout the capital, Tony’s solution was this: get rid of all rail subsidies and sell off all social housing within the capital. People would be forced to move out of London, develop industries outside, invest in data infrastructure (supported by government much more cheaply than supporting rail), house prices in the capital would fall and then stabilise, salaries for key workers would rise etc etc. Why wouldn’t that work as a natural correction?

I was flabbergasted, but actually impressed by being forced to think of a completely different logic. “That’s a good question!”

So both of us agreed that a political party adopting this was as likely as Rick Mayall’s Alan B’Stard winning an election. But if you believe in genuine free market economics as a natural correction to low wages subsidised by state money (via benefits), then I could actually see his point. The human cost would be huge, but its chance of actually cooling the housing market (and potentially even having an environmental impact) was a lot better than fiddling around with the status of 100k non-doms.Crazy – but with a really interesting idea at its heart.

My question to him went back to discussions about the health service: how do we deal with the fact that the most severe health issues are correlated to poverty or age – ie to those who can’t afford to pay for care when delivered privately? Meaning that privatising the heath system delivers little in savings if we expect to still pay for the poorest in society.

We talked about a potentially staggered, means-tested series of health care costs but agreed it might cost more to administer than it saved.

We didn’t sort anything out, but I enjoyed talking so openly and amicably with Tony. By the second pint things got a bit silly as we discussed benevolent dictatorships and the economics of islands…

Barry – #agoodquestion

being a conversation I have towards #agoodquestion, about which you can read more here.

Barry describes himself as a socialist, who would never vote Conservative because they are “the party of privilege”. He’s retired, about to turn 70, and lives in Wigan. He’s my uncle.

His good question: what do you think about the European Union? Which draws a complex response for me: liking the sociopolitical dimensions, and the scope for setting positive legislation like the human rights act; less certain about the common economic conditions especially as the austerity regime is imposed on Syriza-led Greece.

My good question: if the current electoral system were dissolved tomorrow, what would you replace it with? His response: keep it pretty much as it is, but abolish the party whip so MPs are free to vote with their conscience, and make them more accountable by publishing their attendance and voting record.

I don’t see Barry as often as I’d like. I didn’t imagine we’d be vastly different in our politics, but he was in my mind as he turns 70 soon, and thinking that asking him might give us opportunity to have a longer and richer conversation than we’d normally do over the phone. He agreed and we arranged to speak when we both had a drink to hand, so it was a little bit like we were down the pub.

I asked him about his politics, and what experiences had shaped these.

He worked in a ‘dying industry’, for 25 years with Leyland and Dunlop. He took redundancy, but carried on working til 60 for his pension. He lives in Wigan, which he jokes is called Greater Manchester but is really Lancashire. This sparks us talking about the Scottish referendum; he didn’t want Scottish independence because then we’d be left with an English Tory government forever.

He’s cynical about politicians. He says he might not vote but then his friends would tell him off. Six of them used to work at Leyland together, all retired now and meet up for a drink every Friday.

He’s a socialist. He would never ever vote Conservative, it’s always been a party of privilege. He’s almost always voted Labour. The only exception that he voted Lib-Dem in 2010 because he didn’t like that Labour had introduced an all-female shortlist – I note that as a difference between us – but he likes the current MP so he will vote for her. UKIP are Nasty Tories. He would consider voting Green but they are not standing in his constituency.

He explains that he’s Labour because of his upbringing in a mining and engineering town. He’s been in unions on and off, but seen the unions at their worst at Dunlop in Liverpool: too powerful, too inflexible, too much vested interest. I talk about an approach to negotiation I try to take – following Coney’s principle of loveliness – where you consider everyone’s interests and try to maximise those together, rather than tussling for turf; especially important when the ongoing relationships are important. Barry agrees: you end up with a complete lack of trust otherwise, and that scuppered the unions. Although as heavy manufacturing has evaporated, the traditional union membership isn’t naturally there any more, and that natural Labour vote has accordingly dwindled.

Barry liked Neil Kinnock, because he’d had the guts to take on the hard left. Which other Labour leaders have you liked? The good ones passed too soon, he says, Gaitskell and John Smith. Blair and Wilson were too much about their own ego. And Parliament is now so bland, they are all so young! You need to be in your sixties to be PM, you need to have lived a little.

Barry’s not convinced by Miliband. I reckon that both Miliband and Cameron are very managerial, and to scared of fucking up to say what they actually mean. Barry agrees, and says that when he worked in factories, there was a running joke that the managers assure you they know what they are doing, but they know less than you most of the time.

I talk about my own politics and where they come from. I’m left-wing, I don’t know if I’d call myself a socialist but I am certainly instinctively anti-conservative. I demolished a Tory from the floor in my school’s mock election debate and as a result almost joined Labour. I was the youngest member of Scientists Against Nuclear Arms and got blooded on the anti-Poll Tax demos in Scotland. Perhaps I’m the first in my family to define themselves politically more through single issues and identity politics than through class politics. I’m also a geek for understanding how people organise themselves – it’s my line of work, in a way – and so drawn to look at the likes of Syriza and Podemos and wonder if something like that could happen here.

We share our frustrations of the electoral system. I wonder if a first-past-the-post system inevitably gravitates towards two parties facing off on either side of a sliver of the centre, both desperately trying not to fuck up. Perhaps this election, as poised as it is, might fragment things more. That could be a good thing. But Barry reckons that all the smaller parties will be very wary of going into coalition with the recent death of the Lib Dems in mind.

It’s been a good conversation, and to round it off I ask if he can think of a good question for me.

What do you think of the EEC, he asks? That old name for the EU shows the age difference between us. I’m not surefooted in my answer, recognising mostly that I don’t really know very much. Socially and culturally, I like it. The idea of more open borders across the continent. I don’t know enough about the powers that it has as a big state. Although as Barry says, we only hear the bad stories through our press and there is some incredibly positive legislation that has impact and authority because it’s Europe-wide, human rights, workers protection etc. But I’m concerned the stand-off between Syriza-led Greece and Germany, looking to impose the austerity regime. Barry argues that economic union across a continent is tricky, if you consider the differences in value in say house price even across a country. We both agree that if there were a referendum, we’d both need to understand more deeply than we currently do just what we’d be voting.

As a preamble to my good question I tell him of a manifesto I pitched at BAC 5 years ago as a new model of government. I’d abolish the Monarch and Prime Minister and replace them with a pair of rabbits (any pair will do). I’d abolish the House of Commons and replace it with 200 citizens on day service, a bit like jury service, voting on legislation. I’d abolish the House of Lords and replace it with two chambers each with power of veto, one of 80-year-olds and one of 8-year-olds. The 80-year-olds would veto on behalf of the future, the generation yet to come. The 8-year-olds would veto on the basis of it not being clear, fair, fun – or if it appeared to be upsetting the rabbits.

If the electoral system were dissolved tomorrow and it were up to you, Barry, to introduce a new system, what would you do? That’s a good question, he says after a long pause (and I’m blushing). His answer: he’d probably keep most of what we’ve got now. But he’d abolish the party whip in Parliament so that every vote was a free vote for MPs to act according to their conscience. Also to publish their individual attendance and voting records, so that they are fully accountable to their constituents. Perhaps political parties still stay as a kind of looser affiliation of independent MPs. That’s a good answer, I say.

I’m feeling confident so I pick up on a previously noted difference – what about the all-female shortlist, don’t you think that’s a good way to redress what is otherwise an imbalanced system? Barry gets that but is still adamant that he wants to be able to vote for the best candidates, regardless of background. We agree to disagree. And it’s time to call a close.

Elliot and Chris – #agoodquestion

being the first conversation I have towards #agoodquestion, about which you can read more here.

Elliot and Chris describe themselves as liberal conservatives, work in finance, aged 18 and 23 respectively, living in SW London.

Their good question: when it comes to building 200,000 homes a year, would you trust government, whose direction might change every 5 years, or would you trust a dedicated private enterprise?

My response, after acknowledging I’d never thought of it in these terms before, became my own good question: can we trust a private enterprise with social utility when their core value is profit and prime responsibility lies to their shareholders?

Chris’ response: government should be run like a compassionate business.

I was at Torycore at BAC last Friday. I’d missed the very beginning but was told by a friend that a group of young conservatives had handed out flyers for the local Tory MP to the crowd, following complaints by local Tory councillors – who have been very good to BAC – about ‘balance in the programming’. But as Lucy, the front for the band, said, ‘balance is like Father Christmas – everyone wants to believe it exists’.

Some of the young conservatives had stuck around for the gig. Their presence didn’t read to me like a protest (perhaps because I’d missed them at the beginning). They hung around at the back, danced a bit, made some unironic cheers to name-checks for Cameron, Osbourne and Thatcher, went back and forth to get drinks: basically acted as if they were at a gig they weren’t particularly into. I can confirm that some of the men were wearing appalling trousers.

Running through my head – shit, this is an opportunity, I have to approach one of them for #agoodquestion. I tried to work out the dynamics of the group, one guy – in shirt and tie, but cool like a Dazed and Confused version of Young Conservative – seemed to have higher status and confidence so I thought I’d try him.

Later in the bar, I try to psych myself up for an approach to D&C guy but then suddenly the group make to leave. I follow, but only have chance to grab the group’s straggler – would you have a couple of minutes for a chat? He’s a bit tipsy but stops. I explain what I’m doing. He nods, says ok.

He’s Elliot, 18 years old, works in finance, mostly around property, lives in south west London. He talks a lot about the lack of affordable housing in London, it’s a massive problem. How would you solve it? How would you build 200,000 homes a year, he asks? How would you finance them? I don’t know.

The rest of the group have left Elliot behind. But then D&C guy returns, comes up and asks if everything is ok. I explain to him what I’m doing. He nods, gets it straight away, agrees to talk. These guys are both young party activists and so are ready and confident to make political conversations but still, I’m surprised and heartened at the ease they seem to have in this conversational format, talking to a bearded lefty in an arts centre.

D&C guy is Chris, aged 23, works in finance. He starts talking about pensions, the difference between defined contributions and defined benefits, and how he believes that while personal private pension schemes are important for people to take responsibility for themselves, it’s also important there’s a safety net for those who need it. He describes how the current system means that as people approach retirement age then the gap between rich and poor grows, as the rich have paid off their mortgage and don’t need a pension while the poor may be moved out into cheaper housing. He’s forthright that this growing inequality is a big problem, we need to solve it.

I’m struck that they both articulate a pretty smart understanding of the system they are working inside, Chris especially, yet both are expressing a pretty strong social conscience, which confounds my expectations. I’m struck that they are managerial in the way that they talk about the world.

I remind them we’re after a good question we can ask each other. Chris picks up the 200,000 homes. Which would you trust more with this task – government, who might change direction every 5 years, or a private sector company that will be committed to the job? It’s a good question, I admit, at least I haven’t thought about government in that way before. It’s also throwing into relief the biggest difference in belief so far expressed between us: our attitude to the public sector. Their key metaphor for government is that of a private company.

I lob back my own question. Surely it depends on the values and vision that each organisation expresses – how can a private company square its fiduciary responsibility to shareholders against other conflicting values? That’s a good question, says Chris. He reckons that government should be run like a compassionate business.

Time for them to go. I wish I’d asked them about how they’d tackle vested interest in the system, and what they had really thought of Torycore. But I thank them for what has genuinely been a good conversation, and we swap twitter handles.

Around Britannia

A backstory for a game, never made, dreamt up five years ago by Alex Fleetwood, Paul Bennun, and myself, amongst others.

Government outsources the actions of the State to a number of private corporations: Group 4, Capita, etc. These are bought into a single company – Consortia – more efficiently running the State.

The British people are losing interest in party politics, as the main two parties fight over an ever-narrowing divide, switching between Government and Opposition. Only single-issue causes galvanise popular opinion. But how can these be integrated into mainstream politics?

The South Bank Club is a thinktank proposing radical ideas, with allies across the political system and state. Inspired by Jane McGonigal, it believes game design can change the world. They are like the Neocons of game design.

The SBC champions Citizen Britain, a game prototype designed by the Kan brothers. For players of Citizen Britain, it is as if the game is Britain. The game-model of the nation is changed to accommodate the play of the majority. Players with the highest C-scores have more influence in changing the game. The nation can then be changed by legislation to reflect the game. This is grass-roots popular democracy facilitated by game design.

Consortia is gifted a major stake in Citizen Britain. As is the BBC. It will produce Around Britannia, the TV window into the world of the game.

A cross-party alliance proposes a motion in the House. The first phase of Citizen Britain will be played so that the winning player-champion of a cause becomes Citizen Britain. Citizen Britain exists to deliver their cause to Parliament as if it were a non-binding (or binding?) referendum, legislation approved by the play of the people. It’d be like the populist version of the Queen’s speech.

The motion is passed.

The game begins.

A sheet of notes jn someone else’s handwriting


Why make people uncomfortable?
1) Entertainment (roller-coaster experience, thrill)
2) Enlightenment (passage to self-reflection, holocaust museum, fasting etc)
3) Sociality (experiencing uncomfortable situations together)

Designing for discomfort
Visceral (cause pain – physical discomfort)
Intimacy (isolate people – employ surveillance)
Cultural (design culturally resonant devices, confront challenging themes)
Control (surrender control to the machine, control to other people, require participants to take control)


I was on the same bill at the Grassroots Games Conference in Philadelphia as the brilliant game-designer Paolo Pedercini. Paolo makes radical games.

Unmanned is a game about the life of a drone pilot. I failed to see Grounded, a play on the same with my splendid friend Lucy Ellinson but imagine that these might be companion pieces. Unmanned conjures in aesthetic and pace a sense of disconnection. The split-screen play is fascinating, requiring you to navigate a conversation on one hand while playing an activity on the other – talk to your son while playing a first-person-shooter with him on the sofa, for instance.

Click the pic to play.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 00.15.24

I also love love love Every day the same dream.