Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

alias FAREWELL to EVOKE
alias why Jane doesn't like me
alias EVOKATIONouttaEVOKE

Ongoing projects
Me and EVOKE
Limits of a JUSTAGAME
Freedom of speech
Changing paradigm

Introduction

This post is intended to point out why I stopped playing this game and to make a few considerations about the theoretical and practical limits which EVOKE revealed, by the time, when I was yet one of its "agents". If you're one of those whose only interest is having fun, then you can just skip this page and keep reading the last posts from other agents' blogs. No active agents to comment, here, in order to get attention and points back. Generally speaking, here there's no point philosophy at all (not just because I'm out of the game, neither because it is closing, as you'll read below).

Because I have much to say and, for many reasons, I chose not to be active publicly on this site, this post (which is an exception, already) will be quite a long one. Since I began writing it it was intended to be the very last one. To those interested in it, I organized the content in sections (which are linked above), so you can choose not to read the post all at once and navigate it easily if and when you'll want to come back here and finish reading it.

To those who dealt with me because of my side missions (such as the HOPEPHONES or the WIKI ones), feel free to read just the Ongoing projects section. You can skip the rest if you're not interested in general or theoretical insights about the game itself.
Since the first time I said I would leave the game, many friends and early gamers wrote to me asking why did I make that choice, this post is also a kind of generalized response to all of them and it actually reports pieces of messages I've written to some of them individually.


Ongoing projects


Four are the projects which I started here: HOPEPHONES, the I4P EVOKE, the WIKI and the EVOKE statistics. All of them were generated by the enthusiasm which drove me through the first weeks on EVOKE, right before I could realize how things actually worked in here. Instead of explaining them again, I'll just provide links for those who don't know them at all. What I wanted is to let you all know that I'll keep on working on those, as I hate leaving things unfinished. I'll just do it outside of EVOKE, at a more human-scaled rate.

If any of you wants to keep on collaborating with me, please refer to the beyondEVOKE website I have set up here:

evoke.mapofemergence.com
The website is the very first step of my EVOKATIONouttaEVOKE, which is further explained in the Changing paradigm section. It's still a work in progress, and it will evolve according to your participation and feedback. By now, please feel free to sign up in order to be notified as soon as new updates will be ready.


The HOPEPHONES project's history can be read through the following posts:
ACT1: Josh Nesbit
ACT1: Josh Nesbit's reply
ACT1: one step further
ACT1: HOPEPHONES map ready!
This is probably the initiative which caught the greatest attention, then I really want to push it further. I got in touch with several organizations in Italy and abroad which are interested in collaborating, and I'm working to let them network and cooperate, among themselves and with individuals (both volunteers and donors). The page to register, in order to be part of the project is here:

evoke.mapofemergence.com/index.php?p=hopephones

Please be sure to sign up also on the main page, since at the moment the two databases (one is for the wh*** beyondEVOKE project and the other one for HOPEPHONES) are separated.


The I4P EVOKE idea is explained in the following post:
ACTX: EVOKE Internet for Peace
Though it didn't get a great feedback, yet I think it is something too worthing to give up. Since it won't be related to this site anymore, it will probably change from "I4P EVOKE" to something else, but the name itself is not that important; I just hope you'll consider supporting the initiative. A page is almost ready to let you give your voice about it, and will be submitted here:

evoke.mapofemergence.com/index.php?p=i4p


The WIKI was not proposed and created by me, at first. What I proposed was to host it on a private domain, so that it could be ad-free and customizable. People agreed and so I did it. Part of the history lies, unfortunately, on private messages, but you can have an idea on how the idea was born by reading the following:
EVOKE WIKI: guidelines and basic instructions

The WIKI will remain available to everybody here:

evoke.mapofemergence.com/wiki

Feel free to backup your blogs there or keep on participating in any other form.


The EVOKE statistics is a great idea by Elastika, one of the brilliant agents lost by EVOKE because of its policy. Inspired by the possible observations which wider statistics could have let, I began working systematically on the idea and collecting data; I'm still doing that and getting interesting results.

Here you can find Elastika's post:

EVOKE statistics

I published the first results of my further investigations here:

EVOKE: more statistics

Again, just sign up at beyondEVOKE and stay tuned if you want to know more.


Me and EVOKE


I knew about EVOKE thanks to Ken Eklund. I first met him in Turin, three years ago, where he had a talk about World Without Oil, a brilliant idea which just astonished me. I never heard of ARG before, and I particularly appreciated the idea of crossing it with Serious Games. I was so fascinated by the potential of such an idea, that I chose to include it in my "the show must go green" presentation, a paper about sustainable entertainment (again at View Conference, in Turin, one year later).

I'm very grateful to Ken, sincerely, as he gave me the big opportunity of joining an exciting experience, of trying it in first person, and of building (finally) a personal, solid, consistent opinion about pros and cons of this kind of games.


In the first weeks, I joined EVOKE and participated to it with great enthusiasm. I was determined to give all my best, being confident I would have built its rules together with every other agent and the developers. In fact, since the very beginning we've been encouraged (mostly through Alchemy's comments, but not only) to find our creative ways to play and contribute.

That sparkling mix of experimentation, collaboration, sharing of knowledge and big sense of positivity was pushing me a lot and I was constantly wondering about the amazing result, which such a project could have produced. I think there's a post of mine which, more than every other, is a good proof of that excitement:

NEXTSTEP: a chain of emerging meanings

I won't bother you with all my theories about complexity and emergence, but the game developers' first approach just seemed to be perfectly in line with those ideas of mine. And I was so happy for that.

But after the Pan case took place (see the Freedom of speech section, for further detail)
I felt quite confused and profoundly deluded by the way administrators managed the issue.
I was sick of the wh*** thing. That wasn't a game anymore, neither a serious thing. For a while, I was even tempted to address my efforts in discouraging people from feeding what, to me, appeared as a malfunctioning, sick machine (which didn't want to be healed or rediscussed). But I didn't. When you're postitive, it's good to be active; when you're not, better to step back and just avoid bothering. Also, there are things that most people don't like, and prefer not to hear. What I noticed (and made me very sad) when the Pan case took place, was that most of the people were just waiting for the moment when all would be forgotten, to have a clear conscience and to serenely be back playing again, with no worries. Encouragement of that behaviour by mentors, to me was the demonstration that they were only looking for mass response; they were not interested in few rebel minds, though brilliant and actually more innovative.

That's how I definitely realized I didn't fit here. I learnt, by the time, to serve my energies; that's why I always ask myself if I'm addressing them in the right direction. I really didn't have enough time and good disposition to do the Quijote here on EVOKE, so I joined E4E and Delta Team
; no thousands of people there, but worthing, interested ones.
I didn't want (though tempted) to fight with EVOKE, as others did. Instead, I chose to take it as a personal opportunity of monitoring people's interests, finding informations, testing potential.
That is what I meant when I've been saying that I wasn't an agent anymore, but an outsider. I lost my interest in missions, as they clearly were all the same; the structure of the game was rigged and repetitive. It couldn't have produced any innovation. But where a lot of people gather, novelty always sprout. You just need to recognize it. And that has been my only aim, from then on, until now.So I did and, until the very end of the game, I wrote only personal or small group messages, as I couldn't suffer the idea of being censored. I've not been voting, also, since I felt it wouldn't have been consistent with my choice of being out of the game (again, this post is the only exception). But I've been around, reading many of your posts and comments, doing real networking. Also, I joined E4E and Delta Team.

Where a lot of people gather, novelty always sprout. You just need to recognize it. And that has been my only aim, until now.


Limits of a JUSTAGAME


An old African proverb says: "if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together". I believe that a lot of wisdom is contained in this sentence; I love that exquisitely popular, simple yet rich wisdom.
The proverb conveys the deep meaning of the Ubuntu philosophy, which focuses on people's allegiances and relations with each other. But beyond that, I think it implicitly conveys secondary meanings, which are yet very important; first: it is very hard to ask people going both alone and together; second: you can't go fast and far at the same time. I guess EVOKE's developers, might learn something from this, since apparently they expected too much from their game (according to what they were saying and asking, at least).

I'm not a game designer, but I'm fixed with social dynamics, networks and complex systems of any sort. Then, tinking of EVOKE I have my personal opinion of what didn't work with the game, according to the objectives the promoters declared.
When structuring a community which encourages collaboration, but is based on competition, which invites to think big and to change the world, but expects you to do it in 10 weeks, developers could have chosen among two ways: planning very strict priorities to give the game a direction, or giving absolute freedom to the players. Though none of the two would have ensured the expected objectives, they would have pushed EVOKE's results probably much further then the point it actually reached. Also, in both cases the game could have been more responsive and adaptive to the gamers' trends, by slightly modifying the missions according to the players' most brilliant idea and proposals.
But nothing like that happened. Instead, EVOKE mentors and administrators chose the canonical way; they preferred to give the EVOKERS (and themselves) the same old rules to follow, the same old points to reward and, in the end, the same old knowledge to learn.

This way, I really don't think that most of the people enriched themselves with some kind of revolutionary knowledge: those who already knew global issues saw, mostly, the same old facts being repeated; those without a prior knowledge got to know something more, but didn't get enough input and guidance to produce worldchanging breakthroughs. I think that most of the EVOKATIONS, in their similarities, are a kind of proof for that. I'm not saying they're bad ideas, but most of them aren't that innovative or that realistically rooted in the physical, political, and economical world. I hope none of you will be offended by my observations; I really admire your dedication (by giving up, I chose the easy way). Yet, we're talking about changing the world and with all due respect, well, I think we're still very far from it.

If the game was designed to involve people who were unaware of social problems, to let them learn gradually, then the very first missions were well conceived. But, after that, the game should have evolved, missions should have become slightly harder every week, even focusing on the same themes for more than one week, to let people digest the topics, conceive ideas which were more and more complex.
Instead, there was nothing like that. The gamers were not progressively brought to their final evokation. There was no graduality in their curve of learning; it was not even a curve, but just a series of spots. The same identical scheme was repeated for ten weeks. This, in my opinion, dispersed energies and made people spending a lot of time after many different topics, without letting them concentrate on a single one, but in depth.
Mentors also did another big mistake, to my eyes. They didn't really encouraged the most valuable ideas. I see they wanted to be democratic, and to award every player for their good will and attempts. But by encouraging in the same way every single behaviour they loss the opportuinity of playing the role of the "wise guide" which many younger and less experienced player needed. While non-canonical behaviours were punished, brilliant proposal were not properly rewarded. And by "properly rewarded" I'm not talking about awarding a bunch of points and saying: "good you, keep on like that". I think some more deep and constructive feedback could have been done. That's how, in my opinion, you get people's attention and you encourage them to do what you expect, without punishing.

I think, anyway, that developers were sure they would succeed in their actual aims: people's participation and a few good ideas from the most brilliant and active gamers (whose knowledge and skills were not developed within the games, but came from their personal experience, way before it). That will be enough for them, to claim that they gathered thousands of people and came out with big ideas (without saying how many big ideas, and without specifying that those two results aren't actually related one each other). Also, that's enough to make a good-sounding, superficial mass promotion. It might sound quite pessimistic as a scenario, but I'm pretty sure it will end up like that (well, more or less, at least).

Freedom of speech


This could actually have been part of the "Limits of a JUSTAGAME section", but I think it is a critical topic, which deserves a section apart.
To have an idea about what has been going on about banning, subtle forms of censorship and reactions by some active players, you might first want to read the following posts with comments:
UEvoke? WHATS GOING ON?? again. . . by MAK
Agents are losing their SPARKS! by Elastika
.. almost NO SPARKS left ... by Elastika
Censorship versus Freedom in Urgent Evoke by nomadHAR
Sarah O'connor was suspended by A.V.Koshy
Futility of Censorship: Information on the Internet by Ian Glidewell
A house cannot be repaired when the owner is destroying it. Learn 8 by Michele Baron

and, well, many others I won't wuote.

To this I add, just to be clear, that I know for certain that some of my statuses and comments have been filtered. I wasn't advised, neither before, nor after, and to me that is enough not to feel free to speak.


In EVOKE, where you're tought (since the very beginning) secrets like "don't fight culture", what happened with Pan (and someway Koshy) and then Sarah is just nonsense. I would have expected administrators and mentors to propose the problem to us, making us discuss about it, letting us give our contribute and reshape the platform, in order to deal with such cases of dissent or possible future forms of it.
Definitely I couldn't have expected them to just say "Banned. This is it. Period. And all of you other agents, now shut up and keep on having fun". If there was a problem involving the wh*** network, then the network should have been called.

A conflict like this was not inevitable and administrators' position towards the entire community was just unacceptable. As some of the most active players raised up against their behaviour, the game developers just ignored them; after praising collaboration, good will, respect for the next one, they trampled on those values and asked us to forget it all.


And this is why I also called this post "why Jane doesn't like me". Of course I didn't mean to deal specificly with Jane McGonigal and me. Well, actually I commented several times on posts she commented too, and never get an answer; then, either it is a fortuitous coincidence, or she really doesn't like me. Anyway, what I meant is that EVOKE's developers (generally speaking) didn't think of people like me while conceiving the game. As soon as people with an active but also critical spirit appeared in the game, they just realized it would have been too energy-consuming, for them, to deal with dissent; so they just chose to ignore us or, better, to direct their efforts in making people ignore us (by filtering our status, posts and comments on the sidebar, for instance).
That's what hurted me the most. Suddenly, all the good values and intentions were not valid anymore or, better, they were but with reserves. What was born to be a wonderfully rich bottom-up experiment, turned out to be a dry, sad, well-known top-down machine.
I'm not saying with this, that great results can't be achieved in this conditions. I'm just saying that I don't feel comfortable with them. My creativity turns off immediately, together with my enthusiasm and my positivity. To put it with Elastika's words, I just loosed my SPARK.


Changing paradigm


As soon as I realized EVOKE couldn't mantain what it promised, I began thinking that, in order to get great changes, a radical change of paradigm was needed.

As I felt that too much wasn't working in here, I realized that this was intrisically shifting the sense of the wh*** thing: to my eyes, EVOKE is not "a good idea, with some imperfections in its structure"; it is just the wrong structure to build a "worldchaging" process upon.


A bigger step was to be taken, so I thought of developing a platform able to adapt to the users' needs. The platform will be my EVOKATIONouttaEVOKE and will have all what I missed in here: freedom of speech, solutions to include dissenting ideas without offending others, ways to propose and develop projects which are centered on ideas and groups (more than individiduals), no points, and so on. Of course it might be a "crash course" in lack of participation and epic fail, but I'm quite comfortable with those concepts; I can live even without succeding. I just always prefer not to give up before trying.
I also have ideas about how to develop it but I totally share what one Michael Texeira said: "without dialogue, those ideas become authoritative and thus the hierarchy is reborn".
Then I'd welcome you all, as soon as it'll be ready, and any other one from inside or outside EVOKE, E4E, DELTA TEAM, if you will want to join. I'd like, also, the wiki to be shared among the projects but this, also, is to be discussed with you and other participants. I'm actually almost there with the base core being implemented; I'll let you know soon.

I know that another platform might sound redundant, but I have more than one reason to do that:

  • I believe that redundancy is the base for evolution. Complex problems ask for multiple solutions to be tested. EVOKE was one, and I believe it already failed; E4E and Delta Team are other ones, and I think they have potential. But I still think that, being based on external platforms, as a working environment they are someway limited.
  • I would it to be open to everybody and clearly separate from EVOKE (other concept, other way of behaving, other infrastructure); given my temper and the way EVOKE's admins behaved, I really feel the need of making something which has NOTHING to do with that. Neither the name.
  • I planned to host it on a personal webspace, as for the wiki, and to build it from scratch (I'll begin using open-source platforms but the idea is to write custom code to have the wh*** thing working according to the needs, not the opposite). I think this is the only way to have it uncensored, to let it be adaptive and self-organizing, to last in time indipendently of external factors.


I hope that what I've in mind will bring some novelty, even if it won't be as big as EVOKE.
If you're interested in contributing with your opinions while I'm developing the platform itself, please let me know. I started a forum to discuss several topics, which are critical to have a new approach on group participation.

There a free, public discussion can also be taken about what happened here. By now, I just want to let you know that it exists and I wish to test it, but I won't link it publicly. I'll be inviting people only personally.
I thought it was better to avoid the mass communication strategy because of several reasons:

  • I don't want it to compete with E4E and Delta Team, and steal attention from those; in my mind, our projects are simply complementary. I also might understand the fear of "dispersing" energies, but I think that shouldn't limit our thinking and actions. If our aim is doing something big, than one or two or n platforms won't make the difference. They'll just begin to be used each in its best way and for its best purposes, as it always happens for social network. That is the magic of collective emerging intelligence. If we do a good job, more than one platform will just help strengthen one each other. And I do believe and trust that.
  • I do think that to build meaningful contents and solution, one-to-one or small groups relationships are to be encouraged, at first; normally, such kind of collaboration get to deeper observations and results
  • I would gradually adjust the way this forum works, according to what comes out of the discussion; but to do that I need some time, and if the "rythm" of the discussion is a bit quiter, it'll be definitely easier
  • I do trust individuals more than ma****. I hope that inviting people, instead of advertising around, will help catching few ones who are interested in a mid or long term participation, more than a mass going for a short term walk-on part; if you feel interested, please let me know via private message or writing to evoke[at]mapofemergence[dot]com


I proposed the main discussion about the inclusion of dissent (which is preliminary and fundamental to the creation of the platform I have in my mind) also on on E4E, here:

evokeforever.groupsite.com/discussion/topic/show/305702


I'm persuaded that what you all agents have done here is great, but I strongly believe the merit is yours as individuals, not EVOKE's. I'm sure that great discussions and changes can (potentially) take place wherever people are able to gather and exchange opinions. I do believe a better world is possible, but I really don't think that it can be changed only through EVOKE. I know I'm saying something obvious but it's just like that: there are plenty of things going on out of here; spots of social innovation already exist everywhere, and they didn't need EVOKE. Neither do I. I think I need (and prefer) you.


Thanks


To conlude, I would just thank all of you for taking the time of reading this.

I would thank all the gamers who chose to leave their thoughts and experiences on this network, those who showed appreciation for my work in here and beyond, and those who supported me when I felt demotivated and disappointed.

I also thank the game developers, despite all the mistakes, for their attempt and for the good they triggered anyway.

But above all I want to thank that small circle of really active, brilliant, shrewd people, who are clearly not just "agents" or "gamers". I openheartedly thank all those active thinkers and makers who have the real merit of producing meaning on this network, all those who participated not to attempt, but to succeed. All those who actually gave a sense to EVOKE and to the time we all spent on it.


Thank you and farewell EVOKE,

MoE

Views: 93

Comment by A.V.Koshy on May 19, 2010 at 6:39pm
way to go moe
im gonna take up your offer and work with you further into the future
i see we have lotso f common interests
Comment by Wintermute on May 19, 2010 at 6:48pm
Moe, Stefano: truth.

Through the prospective of the outsider you have gained insight onto the successes and failures of this "crash course". You have done a great service to the designers, whether they realize it or not, by publishing your findings, instead of keeping them to yourself.

You demanded perfection from a system that is flawed by it's very nature--i think that was your only mistake. But that mistake brought you here, and gave you the perspective you have now, if for nothing else, that is why I am pleased we played Evoke.

-love and respect
(wintermute)
Comment by Ternura Rojas on May 19, 2010 at 7:11pm
Stefano sei tornato! ci è mancato troppo. Count on me, please and see you somewhere else. T
Comment by Gordon Freeman on May 19, 2010 at 7:16pm
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