Content on civic activism and gamification. See also Courage.
Games, Events and Demonstrations
The post that follows is not about a single protest, a particular issue or grinding any axes. Instead, as a result of playing and designing Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and RPGs, we're going to take a look at possible approaches to turning demonstrations into events. By that we mean exploring ideas borrowed from games and ARGs, which can, hopefully, help peaceful demonstrators to win support and change attitudes.
Starting with the most obvious and widely used option; one well-established way to put across a message while avoiding confrontation is to create a festival or family atmosphere. Marches and rallies which cater for kids, involve shared activities and parade colourful banners immediately reduce tension, while presenting issues in a positive light.
This approach can become (very) predictable and, at times, may be at odds with raising certain issues. Nevertheless, there's a lot to be said for playing-up the merits of an argument whenever possible.
Basic ways to liven-up direct action include:
- batches of protesters wearing similarly coloured or styled clothing and accessories.
- graffiti or sig petition walls made from card or demonstrators wearing white t-shirts.
- chalking-out games like chess or draughts and using demonstrators as counters.
- sharing sets of differently coloured glowing sticks to spell out a message at night.
- applying temporary water-based tattoos or large vegetable stamps.
- traditional challenges or ordeals/ sponsored activities.
- recording a protest as it happens through sketches or sketch and photo-collage.
It's sometimes hard to find a completely new take on most of these activities, but they can be tailored to fit many causes and often help to form the atmosphere of, perhaps, a charity event or open day - without turning a serious occasion into a funfair or carnival.
Few protest groups are going to want jugglers or clowns stealing the limelight at a rally about poverty or extreme injustice. However, there is already an outstanding example of political performance art on display across the streets of Bristol, which suggests there's a lot to be gained from treating protests as events.
For many years most street art was condemned as vandalism throughout the UK. That was until Banksy, and others with both artistic and political agendas, began displaying performance street art. Their work caught the headlines and before long became widely and officially recognised as worthwhile art. So much so, that any local authority recognising a 'Banksy' on a wall is more likely to protect it than remove it.
The political effects of these artists' 'protest' has been seen recently in the See No Evil event held across Bristol recently. Local officials didn't object to the event, they went to great lengths to help to organise it.
We can't all have Banksy's artistic talents, but we can all become political performance artists through using certain types of collective performances to provide strong focal points during demonstrations. Examples of possible approaches might include:
- asking everyone to decorate a postcard on the topic of the issue and then displaying them.
- giving out several colours of card and displaying the results as a rainbow or such like.
- inviting everyone to bring along a message on a card.
- setting-out a giant chalk spider diagram or infographic about the issue/ s.
- displaying messages which need simple decoding.
- showing an over-sized, high correction QR code at a resolution that reads straight-off TV screens.
- placing a code inside or on either side of a campaign's logo.
- using seasonal weather to form visual logos and messages, including leaves in autumn and water on dry walls.
- preparing and sharing food related to or decorated to support an issue.
- setting-up flash art, dance or parkour performances, i.e. demonstrations of non-competitive urban sports.
Many issues and protests call for sustained campaigns. Technology as straightforward as a basic RSS feed clearly offers straightforward approaches to building and sustaining a protest or demonstration; with images and footage from the types of activities outlined above supplying media for online campaigning. Such technologies allow protest groups to deliver direct, real-time support to protesters 'on the ground' during demonstrations.
Making connections between campaigners attending a protest and active, multimedia feed content is helpful, but it's all the better if other types of community-based activity can be slotted into the same loop. For example, sponsored events, outreach work, lobbying and viral marketing activities might all be blended into the online presence supporting a particular demonstration. Options could include:
- screening examples of the full range of a good cause's activities at a protest
- arranging performances with the potential to go viral online
- holding online competitions with prizes that can be worn at demonstrations
- holding short online discussion forums on relevant issues, e.g. 100 posts or 24 hours
- arranging blog carnivals related to particular issues
- organising performances with online and offline components
- co-ordinating online and on the ground events to focus on particular highlights, e.g. a dramatic conclusion to a demonstration
It's also possible to use gameplay and performance to form and shape demonstrations through configuring suitable protests as gameplay. Sound complicated - there's not a lot of difference between a Beetle Drive and a game of Zombie Dice.
We can consider this approach in more detail with a look at the opportunities opened-up by a QR-code hunt activity, which could distribute a demonstration for hours before shaping a collective performance, and a calm dispersal, at the end of the day. Benefits might include:
- delivering issue-related information and links within the search activity.
- playing as teams and groups of teams to enable networking and shared engagement.
- completing community-focused productions.
- offering virtual objects such as icons, wallpapers and apps during the search activity, e.g. a personal participation diary.
- building a campaign while avoiding 'flash points'.
- blending demonstrations into virtual and local community network activities.
- using personal area networks, (e.g. Bluetooth/ messaging/ QR codes) to turn demonstrators into mobile content distributors.
- augmenting reality by pulling interactive production plans and presentations out into physical space.
The last of these may sound futuristic or expensive, but you don't need to spend a fortune on projecting animated 3D objects. Just send demonstrators on the ground a picture of a Hopscotch grid, suggest they find some chalk and ask them to decorate before trying it out.
The example may sound trivial, but sets of playground games chalked-out and played at key locations around a city might be one way to draw attention to a variety of childcare or school funding issues.
Turning civic activism into personal activity and performance is not going to resolve all complex issues during heated protests or mass demonstrations. However, options which might highlight positive activism, put disruptive activism on hold and, possibly, reduce confrontation, seem well worth exploring.
Something Out of Nothing
With few resources we sometimes need to invent our own solutions - often from next to nothing.
The most helpful ideas can result from having to think more creatively, because there are almost no funds or very limited resources:
- Check you’re not re-inventing the whole wheel.
- Plan and plan some more.
- Habits die hard, so it is often easier to look for solutions that improve on or build on existing solutions.
- Look for a range of uses and audiences for your innovations.
- Get the most out of what you have before you start to bring in new technologies and overheads.
- Get close to or inside the problem so you know how things work on the ground.
- Consider knock on effects where one innovation may lead to more innovations.
- The easier it is to use, the more it will get used.
- Inexpensive innovations can reach wider audiences.
- Aim for wide audiences and think beyond limits.
One well-established way to put across a message while avoiding confrontation is to create a festival or family atmosphere. Marches, meetings and rallies which cater for kids, involve shared activities and parade colourful banners immediately reduce tension. Options include:
- Batches of activists wearing similarly coloured or styled clothing or accessories
- Graffiti or sig petition walls made from card or demonstrators wearing white t-shirts.
- Chalking-out games like chess or draughts using demonstrators as counters.
- Sharing sets of differently coloured glow-sticks to spell out a message at night.
- Applying temporary water-based tattoos or large vegetable stamps.
- Traditional challenges or ordeals/ sponsored activities.
- Live recording a protest as it happens through sketches or sketch and photo-collage.
Art and Performance
We can all become political performance artists through using shared performances to provide strong focal points for issue-based activism. Examples of possible approaches might include:
- Asking everyone to complete a postcard on the topic at the issue and then displaying them.
- Giving out several colours of card and displaying the results as a rainbow or such like.
- Inviting everyone to bring along a message on a card.
- Setting-out a giant chalk spider diagram or infographic about the issue/ s.
- Displaying messages which need simple decoding.
- Showing an over-sized, high correction QR code at a resolution that reads straight-off TV screens.
- Placing a code inside or on either side of a campaign's logo.
- Using seasonal weather to form visual logos and messages, including leaves in autumn and water on dry walls.
- Preparing and sharing food related to or decorated to support an issue.
- Setting-up flash art, music, dance, poetry or parkour appearances.
- Screening examples of the full range of a good cause's activities at a meetup or demonstration.
- Arranging performances with the potential to go viral online.
- Holding online competitions with ‘prizes’/ tags that can be worn at demonstrations.
- Holding short online discussion forums with deadlines, e.g. 100 posts or 24 hours.
- Arranging blog carnivals related to particular issues.
- Organising performances with online and offline components.
- Co-ordinating online and offline events to focus on highlights, e.g. a dramatic conclusion to a march.
Games and Activism
Looking at events and activities in terms of gameplay is another easy route to fostering community-driven, non-intrusive activism. This includes emphasising participation while delivering issue-related information and links within game, quiz and search activities.
Options available to most activists include:
- Running events with teams and groups of teams to enable networking and shared engagement.
- Placing community and issue-focused events and content within the home and local community.
- Offering collections of virtual objects such as badges, wallpapers and apps during games or search activities to form personal accounts and galleries of participation.
- Building a campaign around consensus through activities that promote fun and consensus over confrontation.
- Blending demonstrations into virtual and local community network activities.
- Using personal area networks, (e.g. Bluetooth/ messaging apps/ QR codes), to turn activists into mobile content distributors.
- Trying out augmenting reality apps that can pull interactive presentations out into physical space.
Civic nationalism is credited with aiding democracy in the past on a number of occasions and is, essentially, about a participative politics and peaceful, civic activism.
Unlike ethnic nationalism, civic nationalism involves communities and populations becoming much more directly engaged in their own representation and aiming to look after their own affairs.
“Civic nationalism is a . . . a non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.”
“Civic nationalism is the form of nationalism where the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry (see popular sovereignty), to the degree that it represents the “general will”.” - Wikipedia
Civic internationalism is a natural development from a genuinely civic nationalism. It is simply based around mutual respect for cultural diversity - and offers an outward facing approach to civic nationalism.
This form of activism recognises that shared concerns and cultures extend over national boundaries and aims to finding common ground/ adopt shared approaches that deliver results – constructive change.
Online Activity #1
Making a Game - http://www.pinterest.com/pamdyson/make-your-own-board-game/
Connect to News Worldwide - http://www.alternet.org/education/despite-community-pleas-three-chicago-schools-slated-privatization
Upworthy - https://www.facebook.com/Upworthy
IFTTT - https://ifttt.com/
Make your own mind up information - http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate
Online Activity #2
- Likes are free, so let others know you value their contributions.
- Build a Facebook or comparable photo album and/ or desktop folder with ready to share infographics, posters, motivational posters, cartoons, which make it easy to mix up your replies.
- Emphasise key points. Folk only consider a maximum of 3 at a time, so pensions, childcare, child poverty, casino banking, private health and private policing maybe call for extra attention. And, yeah, I should only have listed 3 of those.
- Make stuff. For some that's sawing out giant wooden signs for others baking iced cakes and handing them round.
- Share positive, issue focused posts.
- Find images to accompany your posts. Numerous sites now offer good quality, free to use images - e.g. Unsplash or Pixabay.
- Socks, Onesies, scarves, badges, (temporary) tattoos or t-shirts
- Break things up with a few colourful images in preference to walls of text.
- Share a few Scottish poems around any book group pals and Facebook or have a poetry slam.
- Chalk boards are great for leaving messages around for visitors and for practicing chalk art. Chalk art and other types of flash art like water on a dry wall need to be on your own/ permitted surfaces. Otherwise, Hopscotch on the ground, flag on the side of the garage, wee cartoon popping out of a drain.
- Paper art can be left in plenty of places without littering. A pamphlet in a book you're passing round, an origami design left on a table, a decorative bookmark handed out with something else.
- Make your own fridge magnets and signs using inkjet magnetic paper.
A far from exhaustive list:
Arts and crafts sale
Card game tournament
Clay pigeon shoot
Concerts/recitals/ plays/ shows
Cricket or rounders match
Dinner dance/ ball
Disco/ club night
Domino/ book drop
Flower/ fruit sales
Hair beading/ plaiting/. . .
Hot-dog/ burger stand
Ice skating show
Judo competition or demonstration
Karaoke night/ competition
One of the added bonuses to such events lies in the videos and pics that can then be distributed.
Images and videos of good-natured activism/ participation are by some distance the most shareable content Indy produces. (Or so the numbers say at this end).