Julian’s workshop at the ‘Community Now’ symposium in Berlin, titled ‘Community Then? Mapping Future Scenarios in the Community’, challenged participants to explore alternative futures of the Mehringplatz neighbourhood through a collaborative design game. The Thing From The Future was designed in 2014 by Situation Lab, initially for use in a speculative design jam with Extrapolation Factory. The gameplay generates four different variables – arc, mood, terrain, and object – in each prompt, for an estimated 3.7 million possible prompts and an almost infinite number of possible futures. (An online ‘shuffler’ version was just launched here.
For the purpose of this workshop, which dealt specifically with community futures, the deck was modified with the addition of new cards. These included ‘Community Centre’, ‘Park’, ‘Café’, ‘Museum’, and the larger neighbourhood that includes Mehringplatz, ‘Kreuzberg’. Gameplay was also modified, with groups of players given set prompts instead of randomly generated ones. So players competitively designed objects from various futures, which in turn told stories about the futures they came from, using the customized card prompts. The result was a series of location-based future scenarios mapped onto specific neighbourhood features: the local park, community centre, etc.
During the workshop, each group of 3-5 players sat at a different table. Tables were equipped with coloured pens and customized game sheets. Each player was given ten minutes to design a ‘thing’ based on the prompt, after which the group voted to decide who ‘won’ the round with their design. Then they moved on to the next prompt: there were three groups in all, and each group completed four prompts, so at the end of four rounds each group had four different winning ‘things’ (out of 12 to 20 in all).
Once all the rounds were played, Julian ‘commissioned’ each group to make a short performance around one ‘thing’, for a total of three performances. Twenty minutes later, the groups performed their skits for an audience, with each performance ending in a tableau vivant. With hours of brainstorming and creative discussion involved, the workshop was a fun and productive way for participants to get to know Mehringplatz and to generate possible community futures and ideas for present change.