An Ethnographic Inventory

Workshop à la carte: Original (2017)

A cardboard set for an egalitarian reading group methodology

This cardboard method was developed for a reading group in Barcelona (called TEO – Taller de Experimentación Objetual / Object Experimentation Workshop) on infrastructures and STS, consisting of 6 sessions between March and June 2014.


The group was composed of 6-10 people (both designers and social scientists). Sessions had ideally 90 minutes (but often they reached 120’ since the methodology requires some ‘on the go’ adaptations to the number of people and the method).

The rationale behind the need for a new methodology to structure debates and discussion was that we wanted to talk about common issues despite coming from different backgrounds, without the social scientists and/or male members of the group dominating the scene with their verbose explanations. Besides, since we were going to work on infrastructures it seemed like a good idea to also reflect and experiment ‘infrastructuring’ its very method.

To avoid logocentrism and mansplaining in the discussion, each participant was also encouraged to bring an ‘object’ (or more generally anything or a representation of it) unknown to others that would be used to ground interpretations or opinions. Objects were either circulating whilst others talked or placed in the centre of the table around which the group discussed.

Each seminar had someone in charge of presenting a reading and that person had to perform an opening 10-minute presentation summarising or connecting the reading to a particular context of discussion.

After this, in a rigid clock-wise manner, each of the attendants had 3 slots of 5 minutes available to speak. That is, there were three rounds. First round was especially dedicated to commenting the reading. The next two were more free-style rounds.

Speaking at the seminar is compulsory (all voices are to be heard) but the time each one has available to speak is very strictly managed and no one can be interrupted whilst speaking.

The only way to change that dynamics is by using one of the 6 cards each person has. Hence, the cards were designed to transform the rigidity of the clock-wise automated methodology and to create grounds for a more conversation-like situation.


Some of the cards can only be used at the beginning of your turn and other cards after someone else has stopped talking

Each card can only be used once (with the exception of Shut up, you’re driving me crazy, which can be used whenever needed)

These are the functions of the cards:

I pass means you don’t want to talk in that round. However, the time you had allocated is not lost. You are automatically granted a double turn in one of the next rounds. This card can only be used either in the first or second round.

Long turn means that you want to speak for 10 full minutes in this turn. However, in doing so you lose one turn in the following rounds. This card can only be used either in the first or second round.

Comment allows someone to temporarily break the clock-wise turn-taking to make a short comment or remark before the next person speaks.

I object with my object is a special version of the ‘comment’ function, used when wanting to make a counter-argument to someone’s speech with the use of the object one has brought to discuss.

Shut up, you’re driving me crazy is a phrase that Quico –a very popular Mexican character from the comedy series El chavo del ocho– used to say. Use this card whenever you want to make someone adjust to the allocated time or to break a too long discussion.

Given that this methodology might require adjustments for particular topics or situations, the Jolly card opens up an indeterminate reflexive time to talk about the dynamics and how it might require to be tweaked. This time can be aborted by anyone at any time using the Shut up, you’re driving me crazy


You could download the card set here (PDF)


The cardboard design is licensed CC BY NC SA 2014 Carla Boserman. Method developed by TEO (Carla Boserman, Blanca Callén, Marcos Cereceda, Gonzalo Correa, Aída de Prada, Daniel López, Guillem Palà, Jara Rocha, Natalia Rodríguez di Tomaso & Tomás Sánchez Criado).

English adaptation CC BY NC SA 2017 by Tomás Sánchez Criado & Anna Gonchar.


To check the original game in Spanish, as well as the Catalan and German translations, check the website: https://workshopalacarte.wordpress.com/