Image of Democracy Gamekit

Futures of Democracy

Project Details

Project Year: 2018-2019

Project Type: Collaboratory


Kiki Benzon, School of Cinematic Arts
Jeff Watson, School of Cinematic Arts

Innovation Scholars

Kathryn Dullerud, Economics; Math
Jordan Kessler, Theater; Psychology
Iris Kim, Business Administration; Human Rights
Cynthia Syren, Business Administration; Philosophy, Politics, and Law
Mahira Raihan, Media Arts and Practice

The Collaboratory

Terraforming Mars Collaboratory
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Given the centrality of democratic political participation to the maintenance of civil society, the protection and expansion of human rights, the redress of historical inequities, and the confrontation of global-scale crises such as climate change, it is the responsibility of those of us who are able to restore, renew, and "harden" democracy in the face of the socially atomizing technologies and borderless oligarchies that underwrite its present malaise. But what are the fixes we need? Drawing on expertise gained from designing participatory imagination projects, professors Kiki Benzon and Jeff Watson (School of Cinematic Arts) will guide collaboratory members through the polymathic process of conceiving, designing, and deploying a large-scale transmedia creativity and imagination experience to engage the USC community, selected visionaries from arts and industry, and the public at large in envisioning futures wherein democratic governance is resilient and expansive, and where authoritarian anti-democratic movements are returned to the dustbin of history where they belong.

The Outcomes 

Terraforming Mars Collaboratory
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Students in the Futures of Democracy collaboratory designed and crafted a game kit intended to facilitate community and individual engagement with present-day issues through acts of playful speculation. The Futures of Democracy kit contains a series of games that allow players to explore democracy-related issues such as campaign finance, corruption, and political compromise. Students iteratively prototyped and demoed game mechanics that mirror and convey the way in which the political process, lobbying, and special interest groups affect policy. In June 2019, the students and faculty coordinators in the collaboratory presented the professionally produced game kit at Play and Democracy: The 5 biennial Philosophy at Play conference at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague.