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From Lockbox to Sandbox

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From Lockbox to Sandbox: How Playful Design Can ReBuild Trust in Institutions that Produce and Keep Knowledge

Trust in knowledge institutions, from universities to museums, is down across the globe. As social media enables direct communication between individuals and groups, the mediating function of institutions as producers and keepers of knowledge, are seen as less dependable and relevant to many people’s lives. This weakening of safeguards that prevent the spread of misinformation, can lead to the unchecked manufacture of alternative populist narratives that sow doubt in the norms of Western liberal democracy. The result of which has been on shocking display in the recent storming of the United States Capital. 

Legacy institutions, including universities and museums, need to reimagine their boundaries in a world where institutional integrity is not simply inherited. Universities are no longer trusted because they are universities; museums are no longer trusted because they are museums; as the once protected discursive boundaries of these institutions grow increasingly porous, there is need to proactively build and sustain trust with the publics they serve. 

In this talk, Professor Eric Gordon from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Emerson College, Boston, MA introduces the concept of Meaningful Inefficiencies as an approach to transforming the closed communication structures of museums into open, discursive spaces. At its most basic level, a meaningful inefficiency is the deliberate design of slack in a structured system that enables the users of that system to explore and reflect in pursuit of the co-creation of meaning. Based on his recent book with Gabriel Mugar, Gordon applies theories of play and games to the practical matters of communication design of knowledge institutions, and argues that only through the incorporation of inefficiencies in otherwise highly controlled communication structures, can groups build and maintain trust in the institutions that produce and keep knowledge.

Registration: The event will be broadcasted online via Zoom, please register here to receive access to the livestream.

Biography Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon is a visiting professor in the Comparative Media Studies department at MIT. He is also a professor at Emerson College and the director of the Engagement Lab. His research focuses on the transformation of public life and governance in digital culture, and the incorporation of play and care in collaborative design processes. For the last ten years, Professor Gordon has explored how game systems and playful processes can augment traditional modes of civic participation. He has served as an expert advisor for local and national governments, as well as NGOs around the world, designing responsive processes that help organizations transform to meet their stated values. He has created over a dozen games for public sector use and advised organizations on how to build their own inclusive and meaningful processes. He is the author of two books about media and cities (The Urban Spectator (2010) and Net Locality (2011)) and is the editor of Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice (MIT Press, 2016) and the forthcoming Ludics: Play as Humanistic Inquiry (Palgrave, 2020). His most recent monograph, Meaningful Inefficiencies: Civic Design in an Age of Digital Expediency (Oxford University Press, 2020) examines practices in government, journalism and NGOs that reimagine urban innovation beyond efficiency.