An Ethnographic Inventory

Games ‘Open Form neu Denken’

An exploration around urban games undertaken by the Stadtlabor for multimodal anthropology in 2019 for the exhibition „Open Form neu Denken“ (co-organized with Z/KU at the Werkstatt Haus der Statistik)

In collaboration with ZK/U, we have produced three games: (1) House of Gossip problematizes the threat of displacement of tenants from their homes; (2) in Sue Them All a collective advocates for fair housing policy; and (3) the Kiez Mind Archive creates a performative space of knowledge production. In the process, we discovered that developing games also impacts how we could do research: from describing to intervening, from representing to performing (and breaching) reality, thus experimenting with what politics and critique might mean whenever we prototype and play.

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Games as urban research

In the Stadtlabor for multimodal anthropology, we are developing conceptual, speculative and material tools, such as games, to respond to the current crises of modern urbanism. In spite, or even because of their ludic dimension, games are capable to alter the ways in which we discuss issues, share knowledge, raise awareness, make urban problems public, imagine futures, and learn to care.

The games we have developed are not final products but open prototypes. They are result and method of our research, and work as devices to intervene in urban development processes. As such, they are open to be transformed and re-versioned, so that their specific languages, logics, gameplay, and effects could be adapted to specific situations and concerns of various urban actors.

Our exploration around games started in the context of a one-year ethnographic MA student project The Only Game in Town? analysing the contemporary crisis of housing and real estate markets in Berlin. Inspired by the history of the game Monopoly–registered in 1904 by Elizabeth Magie as The Landlord’s Game and conceived as an educational and political tool to reveal the dangers of land monopolies–, we then set to prototype games as a means to share our research results.

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Testing games at Open Form Exhibition,  2019 [CC]
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Hackaton with Invisible Playground, 2019 [CC]
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Neighborhood festival KMA, 2019 [CC]

Games: Open Documentation

House of Gossip

House of Gossip problematises the threat of displacement of tenants from their homes. The opaque information during a house selling process leads to rumours among the tenants. Through improvised encounters and the exchange of rumours the players are trying to ally with each other and to fight for their interests.

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Sue Them All

In Sue Them All, a collective advocates fair housing policy. The aim is to bring inadmissible leases. Individual and collective interests are coming together. Whether you pursue a competitive or cooperative strategy, change your tactics during the game or compromise is up to you.
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Kiez Mind Archive 

In Kiez Mind Archive you move through the district with an open task. It creates an associative game with the everyday and the unknown. Through your photographic interpretations you create an alternative visual archive of the neighbourhood.

Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology

The Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology is a research platform, where anthropologists interested in contemporary urban issues explore multimedia formats of knowledge production and intervention in collaboration with other urban actors and is run by the Chair of Urban Anthropology at Humboldt University of Berlin. The members who participated in the development of these games are: Diana Mammana, Tan Weigand, Lilian Krischer, Lena Heiss, Leonie Schipke, Indrawan Prabaharyaka, Marie Aline Klinger, Tomás Sánchez Criado and Ignacio Farías.


Texts adapted and expanded from the official invitation & the documentation of the exhibition