Last week, alongside the Transit of Venus forum, an online game Pounamu ran for two days. Asking players to envision what science would be like in 2020, we could play a series of cards which were visible for comment by other players. These cards included positive imagination and dark imagination cards as good or bad things that might affect our future. Adaptation cards allowed other players to put a slightly different spin on a previous idea while momentum cards added ideas that might move a previous idea forward. Cards could also be played disagreeing with a previous card and question cards could ask for more clarification about a previous idea.
Each card was limited to 140 characters, requiring people to (ideally) make very concise, thoughtful statements. I must say I found this VERY challenging but useful in the long run. Comments were usually very focused.
Contributors seemed to be from a wide range of backgrounds with ideas spanning from the scientifically naive to incredibly imaginative and thought provoking. But all had value. Those that didn’t quite stack up scientifically (what about carbon dioxide powered cars?, What about shoes that could fly), simply were a chance to educate (carbon dioxide isn’t an energy rich molecule) or nudge towards science (“so what would be the advantage of flying shoes?” or “how would the shoes work?”).
At any one time during the game, different ideas were being floated, but once I got the hang of card dashboard it was quite easy to jump between trains of thought, make contributions and watch different ideas wax and wane, then reappear several hours later when a new player added an idea. Disagreements occurred but the 140 character limit as well as the civility of participants, typically saw players learn more about different perspectives.
The game also gave me an opportunity to “testrun” ideas I have had about science and education over the past few years (“What would it be like if universities had a common first year and shared lectures using technology?” or “what if artificial intelligences augmented teaching in the classroom?” I received some truly inspired responses which pushed ideas about teaching beyond where I had started, for example, comments about education being integrative, involving the wider community etc, also a reinforcement of storytelling as a tool for teaching.
Thanks to snow in Canterbury, I was able to participate extensively in the Pounamu game, but perhaps running it over a weekend if it were done again, might allow greater participation. I know some fellow scibloggers would have liked to have participated more than they were able to.
As an interactive, democratic, thought provoking and innovative way of sharing ideas about the future of science, I cannot think of any better tool than Pounamu, and would love to see it used again, perhaps on a yearly basis.
It has also inspired me to collate some of the ideas around education into another post which can be found here.