The role of data

After we did our first project iteration, we realized that we had stepped away from the fundamental reason why we connected carnival games to the housing market: they are both rigged with the appearance of being fair. What we had started to do was to create rigged games that were obviously unfair (see the last post about CLVU). Not only is that no fun, but it does not invite understanding of the rigged nature of the housing market.

So in our second project iteration, we decided to go back to the original idea of regular carnival games and really apply our thinking around how to connect the unfairness of the game to the unfairness of the housing market and capitalism in general. To do this, we decided to connect the games to real statistics and data. As a team we knew that data would play a role in supporting our narrative – the questions was always how. We didn’t want the data to drive our narrative – the facts and data about foreclosures and housing have always been on our side. The dominant narratives that exist in society however make it hard to accept and digest numbers that don’t fit the frames we already believe. For example, you really believe it is the fault of the people who can’t afford their mortgages that they lose their homes, a simply citing a data point that says otherwise – citing predatory lending, the racial disparities, etc., for example, won’t normally change your mind.

We believe, however, that pairing statistics with the experience of the game – will allow for a “psychic break” if you will. When people are confronted with the sad fact that they can’t win the game along with the reality of the statistic, we hope that a deeper understanding of the way the system works can be reached. For example, we thought to assign different holes in the cornhole game with a dollar amount and make the goal to accumulate a certain total dollar value. This will be difficult, as most carnival games tend to be [but, hopefully also really fun!]. At the end, we will reveal that the total amount they should have accumulated is equal to the total amount of rent for a 2-bedroom in Boston. Boom. Shock. & Awe. [+Fun in a way]. The power of the statistic will come from the narrative under which it is presented – i.e., the undeniably difficult, rigged, and unfair, carnival games.

We will update with pictures of our second iteration as soon as possible. Looking forward to feedback from everyone!

3 thoughts on “The role of data

  1. Thanks for this update! It definitely gives more gravity to your games! I will provide more detailed feedback soon. :)

  2. Hi Team!

    Your concept is coming along nicely. As you explained in this post, the most important element is the learning that comes from playing the game. Is your plan to give informational flash cards after someone plays a rigged game? How are you going to transmit the facts and less heard narrative (as opposed to the dominant one) to your game players? Again, the “they say” “we say” dichotomy is strong and to the point, so be sure to emphasize them in the games, with solid stories, examples, and/or data. For example, after playing one of the game, the play could be given a card. On one side of the card could be the story of a single person, and that person’s experience would be reflective of the game player’s experience. On the other side of the card could be data or facts or more aggregated trends to put the phenomenon into a larger context.

    You had mentioned having a game with a positive outcome to incentivize good behavior. It would be interesting to compare how a rigged game that one always loses versus a an incentivized game where one could win affects the player’s learning. I wonder which would be more effective in teaching the player about the realities of the housing market and crisis. Or maybe it’s not about effectiveness, but the type of message. This is something to explore in your focus groups.

    One of the things that works nicely about the carnival game idea is that it fits well with City Life’s current media strategy, which includes the sword and shield, large paper mache characters, and lots of other tangible items (flyers for organizers, etc.). This may be something you want to explain in your presentation to show how it fits with the organization’s media personality.

    I know I suggested thinking about a digital game, but I also don’t want to detract your energies away from the carnival games if that is your main focus. Maybe there are other portions of the project/carnival you could “think digitally” about and not necessarily build out a whole new digital game. The comment about digital thinking was more to make your project accessible to people who weren’t in front of a carnival game in real time.

    Who will be the participants in your focus groups? How will you ensure a diverse audience that includes people who believe the dominant narrative? What are your methods for evaluating the carnival games once the focus groups plays and interacts with them?

    Let me know if you have any questions!