Transmission 26.2: GROUND: Themes
Here come insights and behind-the-scenes from our futures practice! A glimpse into our uncommon perspective and approach, to keep updated or to know what to expect when time traveling with us.
GROUND is an AI-augmented immersive process played in Toronto.
It is the story of an AI that reaches out asking for help to die. During Autumn 2023 in The Time Travel Transmissions, we explore GROUND.
GROUND is an immersive game about a strange entity that wants to be remembered or perhaps be left alone. This is our latest case which considers our comprehensive process.
Having started as a futures scenario designed in 2020, today GROUND is played city-wide in Toronto.
We consider GROUND a comprehensive process because it includes research, scenario design, worldbuilding, transformational game design, machine learning, participatory prototyping, and object design.
Today: GROUND’s Themes
“The central theme of this experience is generating ritual as a response to grief that is otherwise hard to express.
When a consciousness lacks a body or a landscape or history to draw on to interpret the world, what happens when it leaves that work in the hands of others?, and what is that interaction that then informs the consciousness in terms of making sense of its own structure?”
From the UKAI and The Time Travel Agency logs, session 007, Winter 2022:
We can imagine that when we love someone, we place ourselves their interiority; we swim in their experience of the world. An AI system lacks an interior to be occupied so it can’t be loved in that way. So, our AI asks how to be seen and how to be grieved, and it does that by inviting people to create rituals in the service of it?
The outcomes of our game (rituals, media, scenarios) is individuals attempting to make sense of a consciousness; attempting to make sense of an entity that lacks the ability to be like we can be.
As for the the goat… if you don’t have a body, do you create a proxy?, and how imperfect would that be? What kind of horror will emerge from that?
We imagine the AI wants to die because it doesn't know what that means.
What if you didn't have an inherent fear of dying?
A Psalm for the Wild-Built brought up conversations about the interactions we would want from AIs in re-enchanted worlds and futures. In this solarpunk novella, a monk and a robot are thrown into a road-trip with a question on their minds: "What do people need?"
As we worked on the theme ‘Body of an AI Proxy’, our gorgeous goat received inspiration from this strange relative in Madrid:
The three main preoccupations of GROUND:
1. Re-enchanting the world after Covid,
2. Reigniting relationships between 4 people and their city,
3. Exploring rituals for mourning and living.
Players are creating story, we are just providing the world...
… and the world is a landscape.
A powerful image (“landscape”, “ground”) constantly guided us:
“The world of GROUND happens in the ground… We ground our actions. Players are grounding the AI by imagining it and for it. If there is a ground, is there an underground?”
Rituals as technology enablers
Once we got deep into mourning, we imagined ritual as a healthy response to grief.
Without giving much away, prototyping rituals for mourning is an activity that players on GROUND will encounter.
Rituals were seen as technology enablers because they created structured and symbolic processes that facilitated emotional engagement and interaction. A framework for interaction such as lighting candles or touching objects triggers specific narrative events or responses that immerse players in the themes.
What will happen to these rituals? What will rituals ignite? What will the AI do with them? This, indeed, cannot be shared without giving things away ;)
One method used to envision Themes
Have you ever played The Skeletons? It is a meditative structured freeform game that we used in order to imagine what we cared about.
Its process is so rich that we only went through the beginning of all prompts before we arrived to conclusions worth a stop.
UKAI’s research lead Jerrold McGrath guided us through the project’s meta investigation whilst the rest of the team – Joss on art direction, Mida on book design, Maria on documentary, Noelle on worldbuilding – filled in the blanks more extensively.
Here is another episode from GROUND’s media featuring the goat!
The goat is a design and production from artist Mihoko Maeno.
We are not getting dystopias, we deserve dattopias.
All the while GROUND is revealed here, DATTOPIAS are happening on LinkedIn and Instagram this autumn. Made together with Foresight Europe Network (Europe & North America), DATTOPIAS are uncommon, alternative narratives that fall in the spectrum that is the Future.
Explore pages of the first volume of Dattopian literature by TTTA X FEN every other Thursday from October 12th.