Most of us probably aren’t making an effort to hang out in public spaces lately, much less seeing them as playful – quite the opposite! But with a hopeful eye to the future, this week we’re joined by artist Reanne Estrada, Creative Director of Public Matters, a Los Angeles-based creative studio for civic engagement, and Benjamin Stokes, Assistant Professor at American University and Director of The Playful City Lab, to discuss the potential for – and benefits of – play in our public spaces. Reanne and Benjamin share thoughts on how we can use what we’ve experienced during this pandemic to reclaim and define new priorities for our shared public spaces. They consider ways we can expand equity in terms of access to public space and to opportunities for play in everyday life. They each identify ways communities can build the collective sense of power needed to make changes. We think about the affordances of play as a tactic for driving civic engagement, and acknowledge the ways play is already baked into our communities and the ways it has the potential to drive equity, even as it is not always available equitably.
See FULL TRANSCRIPT of this episode at the bottom of this page!
Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:
Writer, Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal winner Isabel Wilkerson
Push for statehood
Black Lives Matter Plaza (and tensions between DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and President Trump)
Push to Diversify Public Monuments
A Right to the City DC exhibition highlighting the successes of civic activism
Some of the history of DC’s segregated baseball leagues
Some of Benjamin’s earlier research on online volunteering
Public Matters projects in LA:
University Park Slow Jams – traffic safety & mobility justice
Market Makeovers – fruits & veggies parade costumes, east LA veggie zombies
The Chicharrón Chronicles – Historic Filipinotown walking tours focusing on food, language and labor, with Gustavo Arellano
Community-based games for civic engagement:
Commons – NYC – winner, Real-World Game for Change Challenge 2011
Macon Money – Macon, GA
The Participation Game – Helsinki, Finland
Photo: V-J Day in Times Square
Model Cities program in the US – role play for city officials – builds empathy for cause and effect systems
Eric Gordon – Meaningful Inefficiencies
Henry was referring to the tiles featuring kids’ artwork at Davis Square MBTA station
Reading up on historical town pageants
For more thoughts on rituals, check out our episode with USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni
Share your thoughts via Twitter with Henry, Colin and the How Do You Like It So Far? account! You can also email us at [email protected].
“In Time” by Dylan Emmett and “Spaceship” by Lesion X.
In Time (Instrumental) by Dylan Emmet https://soundcloud.com/dylanemmet
Spaceship by Lesion X https://soundcloud.com/lesionxbeats
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0
Free Download / Stream: https://bit.ly/in-time-instrumental
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Benjamin Stokes: If I’m going to critique universities – I work at once I get to do this – universities are terrible at graduating students with any sort of even basic literacy and how to talk about playfulness as a tactic. And I think it has been a long-standing established tactic in civic organizing even just in running meetings, anyone heard of an icebreaker? But how come I have never had an assignment in my entire undergraduate and graduate experience, “Critique icebreakers as something that are structurally important that can be designed for more or less equity, for more or less inclusion…” Instead we’re getting so much preaching about we have to be inclusive. I hear that all the time, and there’s no actual level of getting it down to tactics.
Henry Jenkins: Hi this is How Do You Like It So Far, a podcast about popular culture in a changing world. I’m Henry Jenkins.
Colin Maclay: And I’m Colin Maclay, and we are thrilled to have Benjamin Stokes and Reanne Estrada joining us today. Ben is an Assistant Professor at American University where he works on games among other things of civic media and so on. And Reanne is the co-founder and creative director of Public Matters, also an independent artist and a part of the Mail Order Brides MOB artists’ collective. So we have really interesting issues teed up around play and art, public spaces, community and I’m just thrilled to be with you all today. So I guess in the crazy world that we live in right now it seems like the most important thing to do is to check in as humans and to begin with how y’all are doing and where you are. So Reanne how’s your life in this time of pandemic?
Reanne Estrada: Nothing like starting with the small questions to begin with, thanks, Colin. So I guess it is a day by day, sometimes minute by minute, but if I’m going to share where I’m at today I started in kind of a different way because I, earlier today was attending a conference virtually, that they started with anti-racist yoga which was very grounding. And then I had my morning coffee to Isabel Wilkerson giving a keynote at the conference. So I think more than most days, I would say that right now I’m feeling abundance, and full.
Henry Jenkins: And you’re here in Los Angeles, correct?
Reanne Estrada: I am, I’m here in Los Angeles, yes.
Henry Jenkins: Okay.
Colin Maclay: Ben, you’re feeling abundant and full I hope?
Benjamin Stokes: I’m feeling abundant and full probably because my family has been growing. We had a pandemic baby born two months ago. So that was a personal experience of dealing with the hospitals but also speaking of, I’m sure we’ll get into community and relations to screens. My family’s on the West Coast, none of them has got to meet the baby yet, and so there’s this induced separation. At the same time that I’m thinking about things like vaccines, well, the flu is less of a concern. So the health of someone who’s on a very different place in their life cycle has been a refreshing way to step back and also the houses is more full.
Benjamin Stokes: I also say just locally in Washington DC which is, I think, a fascinating place to be always. But actually, I moved here partly because I was interested in the tension between local and national. And I think DC is so much in the national and global imagination that I think it’s local stories aren’t told in the same way. And the push for DC statehood right now is looking, in some ways better than ever. I don’t know if that gets national news. I’d be curious to all of you have been hearing about that.
Benjamin Stokes: I assume you’ve been hearing about things like our Black Lives Matter Plaza which the mayor embraced, so that’s at the local level. And tension with Trump and of course, the Trump and mayor tensions we’ve been really feeling. So I’m really fascinated with this tension between national and local, and DC has been a really fun and also upsetting place to be for some of this it goes back and forth. But there are a lot of ways which I’m really proud of what DC is doing.
Colin Maclay: Totally, and Reanne, so LA is kind of national and local too in a very different kind of way. How has it felt to be here for you during the pandemic and like for you and your communities and what are the things you’ve been observing?
Reanne Estrada: So like a lot of folks who are able to do so we’ve, Public Matters, has moved as operations to remote work. And that’s been very challenging because the work that we do is around we’re a creative studio for civic engagement and a lot of that work is built on relationships, like creating building nourishing relationships and the most effective way that we’ve been able to do that in the past has been through in-person interaction and exchange. There is no substitute for sharing the same kind of physical space with people because you read different cues.
Reanne Estrada: And so, for us and the communities in which we’ve worked, there’s been that pivot. And one of our kind of ongoing challenges is how to achieve social cohesion in a time of disruption? How do you continue to make those relationships feel real and authentic despite being bounded by a digital space that is not 3D? And so, I think for us that’s so, been the long-standing challenge.
Reanne Estrada: And so we’ve been doing a lot of different things. And we started a project recently in the university park area around USC that’s addressing traffic safety and mobility justice, that area itself is full of streets in the high injury network and so they’re dangerous and have become even more so during the pandemic. And so our project, which is called University Park Slow Jams, is addressing traffic safety with folks at USC with member schools and residents from USC Kid Watch. And with our partners at Los Angeles Walks which is a pedestrian safety organization.
Reanne Estrada: And we’ve had to move our engagement online and have had to contend with doing work in a bilingual space which is easier to do in person but we’ve somehow figured out a way to create what I thought was actually still a very authentic space for people to interact with each other across their different backgrounds, cultures and languages. So we’re currently in the middle of that and that project, it gives me hope that even if we were to stay in this for a little bit longer we’d somehow figure out a way to adapt and make it work.
Colin Maclay: Yeah, I mean in my own experience it just it requires so much more intentionality about what your… there’s so many ways that we rely on are kind of known and established rituals, we rely on human contact that when we eat or drink or sit together we’re able to take in all these different cues, and it’s a very natural thing to connect and then transport it into these little windows or whatever, it just is more complicated and it requires effort and forethought and addition of new rituals and practices.
Benjamin Stokes: I’ll jump in and just say that some of my earliest research was on online volunteering work, did some work with the United Nations around their online volunteering system. A lot of interviews with organizations around the world doing online volunteers who had worked for another. And one of the fascinating things that came out of that was that organizations thought the volunteers understood the organization but the volunteers didn’t know basic things like how many people worked there. I think there’s 10 and there’s like 1,000 people at the organization. I feel like dwarfed by orders of magnitude.
Benjamin Stokes: I agree with what Colin’s saying that we have to make things more explicit. We have to build up a lot of the hidden stuff about the places we’re working but I think also the campaigns that we’re in, some of that, you hear in the water, “Did you hear about this big thing they’re going to do? Slow Jams is great because…” and that’s when people sometimes fill in those details, “it’s really changing USC relationship with the community,” or whatever it is. Those things are hard to process in lots of text, and I think that when we lose the interstitial conversations, it is that context I think is most quickly lost.
Colin Maclay: And I mean that’s a great point. I mean one of the things we’ve been talking about around the universities is how universities can figure out okay we can put classes online, as the basic building block but classes are only one piece of the university experience. There’s the clear thing we can put online, the talk but you can’t put the small talk and the relationships and all those other things as easily.
Reanne Estrada: Yeah, I think there is also as we attempt to be more intentional it requires a greater level of transparency and being on display. And that also means having vulnerabilities on display that’s kind of another piece that’s kind of out of this, that throughout this pandemic time, people, I found, have been more open about acknowledging their own vulnerabilities and in many ways kind of providing more of a window into themselves as whole people as opposed to just the particular specific roles, whether that’s like the job role, or the parental, family, or whatever it is it feels like those boundaries have the possibility of being more open. But I too mourn, I think, part of this the casualty of spontaneity in this time and I think in in-person you’re able to do that you can like riff off each other in a way. And I think now we have to kind of figure out a way to do that in this space.
Henry Jenkins: There’s certain irony in the fact that we’re here to talk about public play, public art, public space in an era of social distancing. And so I wanted to push us a little beyond this moment of online stuff to think about what happens after. And I don’t want to say returns to normal because that’s not going to happen or when this is all over which always makes me think of that VJ photograph with a couple kissing in Times Square.
Henry Jenkins: And for a variety of reasons that’s probably not what’s going to happen when COVID is all over, but what do you imagine is the future of cities coming out of the current moment of enormous isolation people are seeing? How do we gather together, rebuild, celebrate, whatever we’re going to do when this period of isolation ends in some hopefully positive way?
Benjamin Stokes: It’s a great question, and I think part of it is also recognizing some of the ways that we’ve actually been closer during the pandemic, and that makes it less of an abrupt change. I think that I’ve gotten to know some of my neighbors much better the regular walks, I’ve seen this a lot with kids as well just a lot more neighbors spending time on their porches asking each other questions. And that works for a certain kind of urban space and urban planning. And I think that my neighborhood is really good in that regard.
Benjamin Stokes: I think that it’s a reminder that when we’ve built places where people don’t have that space that’s somewhere in between, close to each other on the sidewalk or right next to each other at the farmer’s market but not in my entirely private space. When we don’t have those in-between spaces, it’s really hard to do some of the brokering during the pandemic. And I think that also says it hopefully is a lesson for when we return to public space of the importance of those in-betweens. And the gray spaces, for me have emerged as a more important than ever.
Reanne Estrada: And I guess from my perspective I can be a little bit, probably two minds of this, right. So if we were to take this crisis and really think about it as the opportunity to reimagine what we could be on the other side, I’ll go big I’ll go big and super positive. So let’s go-
Colin Maclay: She’s feeling abundant – yes!
Reanne Estrada: So if we’re going to go abundant and we’re going to go big and positive, this opportunity provides us with a chance to really, really reimagine what we would like to see based on the lessons that we may have learned as we’re self-isolating, or being safer at home, figuring out what is that like what are our priorities, what are our values? This is a time where we can really think and imagine what transformation could look like for us on the other side and speaking to the notion of public space, I’m totally right there with you, Ben, I think it’s an opportunity for people to really take back that public space and expand our ownership of that public space.
Reanne Estrada: And for me, that’s something that’s an area that’s extremely exciting. How is it that we grow with the notion of public shared space. People don’t necessarily realize how much of those that outdoor space you have is not actually private but actually belongs to all of us. And I think that’s really exciting to kind of reimagine how our public right of ways like our streets can have multiple uses, can have multiple points of accessibility to a lot of different people. That said and now I’m going to go down my pessimistic rabbit hole, I’m shrinking here.
Colin Maclay: I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Reanne Estrada: Well, I warned you I was going to go all big and abundant and now I’m to bring you back down to reality which is where we actually kind of need to be, which is that in order – we cannot ignore the gap that exists between where we are and also that big bold imaginative future that could be incredible and wonderful. And that means paying attention to how we build capacities among all of us to be able to make that change happen. And if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, we’re in a hole. We’re in a hole in terms of our collective sense of power to be able to effect that change, to be able to make that transformation a reality. And so, while we are keeping our eye kind of on the big picture, we also have to be tending to how it is you’re growing our capacities in a micro way so that we move towards that North Star.
Colin Maclay: Well so I feel like between the realities of COVID and how it disproportionately affects Black, Latino, Indigenous poor folks, the essential work, all these kind of racialized capitalism mixed with extremes and privilege, and so on that have been apparent through the pandemic. Also, through kind of the death of George Floyd and the protests against systemic racism and our isolation and kind of missing some of the things that you have both raised that we care about in our communities and then the kind of pandemic, no offense been in Washington of the Cheeto in Chief that, it does feel it tees us up for, as Henry said, not a return to normal because most of us don’t want to go back, even if we could, to whatever things were before, and an opportunity to reimagine and to build a different future.
Colin Maclay: And we’ve started to see some places where this happens, as you observe streets that don’t allow cars on them or are less welcoming to cars and things that have been reclaimed. So much of our urban space is dedicated to vehicles as opposed to humans. So you’re starting to see perhaps some things. And I guess, the question I will have is what can we keep of what we learned and what do we build upon?
Colin Maclay: And I’m curious from both of the work that you do in bringing art to civic engagement and bringing games and play to communities and to public spaces. Are there lessons that you have learned in your own practice or ideas that you have that might help us to have that more visionary, positive outcome that we want to imagine that is not just an incremental improvement, but something more the world we want to live in. I know it’s a big one, but.
Benjamin Stokes: One thing I think that we’ve got to keep in our memories and storytelling is the outpouring of activism that’s happened as an incredible positive. And I think that that ties back to a simple lesson from civic engagement, which is if people feel like their actions don’t make any difference, they won’t do anything – a fancy term for this, collective self-efficacy; if we believe that we can get things done together then we will engage, but what evidence do we have?
Benjamin Stokes: And I think that one of the things we’ve actually lost a little bit, especially during the pandemic is a little of that sense of history that we can draw on as strength. There’s been a lot of, we’re in the moment right now, and I’m kind of doom scrolling about what’s going to happen next. How many times can I check my news site at the moment?
Benjamin Stokes: And I think there’s a way in which I’m hoping that we can both continue to draw on the success of some of the protests in bringing a lot of people into public space and demanding accountability often at the local level. A lot of the protest movements have been saying, “this is what my city needs to do.” And that’s a weird thing because, at the same time, we’re so focused on Trump and the national need for change, but the accountability is often about local policing. At least one of the key issues has been about local policing.
Benjamin Stokes: And I think the more we can tell that civic history at the local level, “here’s when people in my neighborhood came together, they fought and they won.” And DC has been doing some great work. I guess, it was fortuitously timed that there was a new exhibition called A Right to the City came out and it was around some of the history of civic organizing in DC neighborhoods and things like fighting the freeways, eminent domain battles which a number of cities have fought, but there’s a really great successes in DC, tenants rights organizing.
Benjamin Stokes: And these are stories that a lot of young activists actually aren’t super familiar with, let alone your average person who doesn’t consider themselves politically engaged. So I think that in some ways, this is a moment where I think the value of history and how we engage with history is up for grabs. And hasn’t been resolved enough during the pandemic. I think we could be doing more to be connecting it back, not just to say that the struggle has been going on for a long time, and we really need change now, but to say the struggle is been going on, and we’ve been winning some interesting battles that we should be talking about. So I think that’s one opportunity that I see on both sides of the pandemic.
Reanne Estrada: Yeah. I think when you’re talking about history, it is curious because as we are in a pandemic bubble, it’s kind of easy to separate this reality from past realities. But it is fit to be in the time before and the before times. But you’re right in pointing out that there is continuity, and the struggle has been going on, and a broader light has been shined on the fact that so many communities are sick and tired of being sick and tired and we have to remember that. And even as Colin, you mentioned kind of re-imagining public space and opening up streets to cars and multiple uses and things like that, we can’t separate those conversations from the reality that some of our neighbors, our Black neighbors, our brown neighbors don’t have the same entry point as far as public safety; full stop at the start. And we need to acknowledge that.
Reanne Estrada: I think where play can become helpful is that it becomes a precursor for participation. Play can be a way to invite people in to a conversation to exchange with each other, despite difference, for instance, play has the power to break down barriers and also to flatten existing hierarchies and to elevate different kinds of expertise in conversation with more conventionally held ideas of expertise. So that we’re drawing from the full range of wisdom and lived experiences of our communities, as well as our public servants and our academics and our elected officials.
Reanne Estrada: And this is something that Public Matters has been trying for a number of years to try to figure out how to manifest, is how do you address what is essentially a trust gap or the lack of trust, but it is a huge chasm between communities of color where Public Matters works and institutions, the trust gap exists on both sides.
Reanne Estrada: So it’s not just that the people that community members and residents distrust their governments or their public agencies to serve their needs, but also there’s a distrust or maybe even a lack of recognition of the expertise of local community members, because there are people with fancy degrees and job titles who know better, and I think in Public Matters’ work what we try to do is to create an old, a bigger inviting space that welcomes the range of expertise that says that content area expertise of subject area experts are welcome as are the lived experience and the wisdom of the people who are using our public right of ways, our public space.
Benjamin Stokes: Can I just say, thank you for saying that playfulness matters, because I think that groups like yours, organizations on the front lines know it and live it. But if I’m going to critique universities, I work at one so I get to do this, universities are terrible at graduating students with any sort of even a basic literacy in how to talk about playfulness as a tactic. And I think it has been a long-standing established tactic in civic organizing even just in running meetings, anyone heard of an icebreaker? How come I’ve never had an assignment in my entire undergraduate and grad experience, “Critique icebreakers as something that are structurally important that can be designed for more or less equity for more or less inclusion…” Instead, we’re getting so much preaching about, like, we have to be inclusive. I hear that all the time and there’s no actual level of getting it down to tactics.
Benjamin Stokes: So I don’t think doubling down just on messaging without getting into the tactics is going to serve us in the longterm. And some of the things that organizations like yours, Public Matters does it does amazing work in this space. I think play actually is now something we can start to draw on because finally, thanks to the pioneering work of people like Henry, finally, universities are starting to recognize that the critique and analysis of play, or something like game studies, might be an area of expertise.
Benjamin Stokes: I actually think it is one of the most profound areas of study that can be applied to civic engagement and civic design. I think if everyone had kind of a liberal art of taking at least one class of thinking about playful systems, we’d be so much better off at designing civic engagement that does things like cross boundaries of class and race and gender, because play is disruptive. It does have the side of I’m going to try and figure something out. I’m going to question a little the rules, and yet we see how does it pair with games? Well, if games don’t feel fair, people quit very quickly.
Benjamin Stokes: So fairness is an essential part of games paired with play which has this transgressive, I’m going to try and get around the rules like, “Whoa, we’re trying to pair those together?” This is so much better than I think often what we do in our civic education, which is preach to people “The Supreme Court matters.” I think everyone knows the Supreme Court matters and I don’t get to be on the Supreme Court and you don’t get to be on the Supreme Court and really, really caring about the next Supreme Court justice, it only gets us so far. I feel like there’s so much more we could be doing to design civic engagement that that comes from that playfulness. So thank you and I also will admit I have a book out on playfulness, so full stakes.
Colin Maclay: Well, it was the perfect segue. And I was, I’m glad you just jumped in because I was about to say, and Ben just came out with a book called Locally Played that you got to read, but I think that is great you just bridged those two conversations, both about the inclusion part and about the entree into civic participation and engagement, the welcoming. I want to dig in-
Henry Jenkins: So Ben give you some examples of some of the things you talk about in the book that cities have done to address this space between the two you’re referring to.
Benjamin Stokes: All right, cities as governments, I’ve only done a tiny bit. So I think that in our imagination often we think about city agencies, but often really interesting things that’s been happening has been happening at the edges in ways that are really promising. And this is of course true with innovation; innovation happens at the edge and it’s that relationship between edge and core that I think is really interesting. So an example there was a game called Commons in New York that was a kind of different version of the 311 app. I’m sure many people have tried to use the app where you report potholes, graffiti, it’s basically civic complaints. This is the vision of our civic future. You can complain about stuff and maybe somebody will get things done.
Colin Maclay: Or not.
Benjamin Stokes: Or not, yeah, exactly. I’ve reported one in DC and it’s been 200 days since there’s been a… it’s unclear whether they just are actually using a different service or what’s happened. So there are potential negatives of engaging with systems that have no connection, but this was in some ways a game project first and foremost, it was a game that a few years ago won a game award that was partly by Games for Change, partly by Come Out & Play Festival. And in this game, in Commons, you move around with a team of people on a Saturday and you’re given a quest, like find some public art that’s really great or find something like a handicap inaccessibility that you think deserves some attention.
Benjamin Stokes: And the interesting twist, how it becomes a different from a civic complaint app, is the moment you go to submit the thing you’ve found, you’re told you can’t submit this until you vote on something else that others have put in before. And so there’s an A, B voting mechanism. And the ones that you start finding people vote for are ones that have human stories with them.
Benjamin Stokes: If you put people in your pictures, they get a lot more attention. If you dramatize the situation like, okay, there’s a curb cut that should be here. But if you put a person tripping over the curb cut, and you report your picture that way, it gets a totally different kind of attention. And it led to a really interesting feedback loop in the civic system where playfulness led to a kind of humanizing of the data at the same time it was doing sense-making. So it wasn’t just, we’re going to send in thousands of pictures to city government, and we’re going to hope they hire people to sort through all these pictures and prioritize complaints. And it’s just, it’s another layer of bureaucracy.
Benjamin Stokes: This is almost the opposite of that. And I think that the most interesting thing was that the conversations when I played this game, which I was lucky enough to do, was a game that led to so many conversations with people about, “Oh, I live in the city, I’ve never walked down the street because I always go this way. I never take that street.” You can be in a place and go again and again, and play, we can just nudge you to, “Well, try this way because the game has a different criteria.” You look at it from a slightly different place.
Benjamin Stokes: So there are inefficiencies from that come with play. Eric Gordon has talked about this as I think a fantastic notion of sometimes we need to be a little bit less efficient. It’s similar to slow streets, or slow food. There are a bunch of movements where we want to be deliberate about process. And I think play can change the efficiency calculus, this game, Commons, was a great way of doing that with data. So this is an example that feels like tech, it still feels like something that’s a game and yet, it changes a lot of how the whole process of engagement works.
Benjamin Stokes: Let me just mention very quickly two other things, first, the games that are not digital have been around for hundreds or thousands of years. So the dominant notion of games and cities are not necessarily digital and weirdly it might be things like sports arenas. So, wait, cities actually are investing in local play with local teams at huge levels and also with huge money and huge inequality, like which neighborhoods get screwed over and their residents asked to leave while we build a new stadium, it reinforces.
Benjamin Stokes: So there actually been some great histories of play in sports. DC had segregated sports leagues and the professional level for longer than actually a lot of cities. And you can trace some of the history of segregation through our baseball leagues tied to DC. So look for your local history of sports for some of our existing social bonds – games are not solutions. They, in some ways, can just mirror what’s happening unless we’re deliberate, and we change the rules or change the design. I’ll mention just two others very quickly. One is a game called Macon Money in the city of Macon, Georgia that was a game with an alternative currency system.
Benjamin Stokes: And so in this game it was an infusion of cash. And in this sense it was a genuine liquidity into the economy. So an economist can look at this and it’s just like, “Oh, is it like a tax break, or?” It’s a real world game with real world effects. But the difference between a standard coupon system for example, is that they may hold the Macon Money, these paper bonds that you had to collect. The two has the paper bond to get discounts for going into local stores, getting hot dogs or ice cream or shoes or things. They mailed the two halves to residents in different zip codes if they wanted to have more social interaction.
Benjamin Stokes: And so there was an incentive to start to get to know people in different places. And this is something that city government has been trying to think about ways to do, and they do things have concerts. Well, that’s great, but this kind can build on top of that layer of civic programming with a little bit of a structure for participation, primarily non-digital; most of the games played with these paper bonds, except there was lots of really interesting conversation on Facebook. “I have this and this and this can I match? Does my symbol match with yours? Let’s meet in this place.” And then when they did meet, they took pictures together pretty, nearly randomly matched folks, and those pictures were posted online.
Benjamin Stokes: So it’s a way of having a kind of public spectacle, a media spectacle that was a little bit more participatory where people got to choose whether they wanted to participate, and yet there was some randomness; play has this kind of randomness. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen as soon as you fully know the outcome, it’s not really playful. So that was another interesting game. There’s just tons of examples out there that happen at the local level that if you start digging in your city, I think you may well find many that folks like Reanne can recommend.
Reanne Estrada: Yeah, there’s just so much in what you just said that I am so excited about, not the least of which Macon Money has the wordplay attached to it, like “makin’ money…?” So I appreciate that kind of from a conceptual level into implementation. And I think one of the things that you brought up earlier was this notion of efficiency, and that is one of my pet peeves. And I think in many ways, efficiency can be the great villain in the effort to reach equity because we can justify so much by saying, “No, we have to be efficient, otherwise, we’re wasting resources.”
Reanne Estrada: And in many ways, that feels very short-sighted because, yes, you might be more efficient in the short term. If you don’t like to take the Slow Jams as an example, our streets are designed for cars to be able to get to where they need to go as fast as possible. They’re not really designed from a qualitative perspective, in terms of your, and safety for pedestrians, or cyclists or people who scoot, they’re not looking at that as a priority in the same way. It’s like, “Okay, how can we move things? How can we move things faster?”
Reanne Estrada: And efficiency becomes kind of the excuse for not exploring what might be possible, because that’s the other thing that games do. Games can be exploratory and it’s generative, it opens you up to things that you didn’t imagine was possible. And so, if we take a step back and we think about what values we’re attaching to efficiency versus something that feels generative, I think we need to think about how we attach value to that thing that we didn’t realize before, that discovery, that connection between neighbors who might not have met if they didn’t match up their money icons in a particular way.
Reanne Estrada: And I think another part of games that I think is really important to highlight is this notion of risk. When we’re thinking about what we want for big systemic transformative change and we have to contend with our institutions, you could probably rightly say that a lot of institutions are risk-averse, they’re like insurance actuarial tables, they’re looking to minimize risk. And I understand that because institutions, by their very nature, are supposed to be long-standing, they’re supposed to be enduring, I get that. But they also potentially run the risk of ossifying and not being responsive to changing conditions, and that’s where something like play and greater openness that risk could bring to the conversation, that’s where there’s opportunity.
Reanne Estrada: And when we’re thinking about play, Ben, you brought up the humanizing component of it. And that is right on because a lot of times, if we’re thinking on an institutional level, we’re looking at like 30,000 feet up, maybe we lose sight of the fact that these systems are actually supposed to serve people, that curb that’s messed up is supposed to serve the person in the wheelchair or the parent with this stroller. And it’s so important to continually reinforce and uplift the human dimensions of all of this infrastructure that we have, and play can do that in a really powerful way if we let it, if we open ourselves up to it, but I guess that’s the challenge, right?
Benjamin Stokes: It is, it’s a risk to play. One reason we associate games with youth is not just that all young people naturally play, you can’t imagine a five-year-old that doesn’t play that you’re not worried about. But play is also considered part of that growth and experiment time where risks are something you’re supposed to be doing, and I think that there are so many people, as we get older, who don’t take those kinds of risks and are not playful.
Benjamin Stokes: I think it’s also an interesting equity question about who is allowed to be playful. CEOs are actually really encouraged to be playful, “Go and think about if you acquire this company, what if you buy this, what if you fire all the people in this division?” But that’s not a thing that middle management is really encouraged to think about. So I think that this idea about where is our agency and imagination encouraged to be playful, and I think that this idea that maybe more of us should be doing that kind of playful design talk, play through something that seems like an unlikely scenario and where can we head.
Benjamin Stokes: I think this is also a challenge with civics because so often we have really serious needs. There are really big problems. There are big consequences to something like the Supreme Court. So should we be playful about that? But if all we are is pursuing a goal and we cut out some of that playfulness, there are actually a lot of costs, I think, including for sustainability, just in terms of burnout. So many of us right now are burnt out, feeling in this pandemic, I can’t do it. And I think partly, it actually feels less playful because we’ve cut out a lot of the water cooler, and mixing and social interaction.
Benjamin Stokes: I think that the loss of playfulness hasn’t been talked about enough in the move, we’d just say Zoom burnout. But I think that we actually have fewer injections of serendipity in play. So I think a great antidote to some of the Zoom burnout that people are feeling, is find a way to play for five minutes in between things, find a way to decompress in ways that are not just about news cycles. This is just another example of how I think playing games as part of our civic tool set would help so many of our organizations and causes.
Colin Maclay: So can I ask a question? I mean, I love this conversation and it totally resonates with the chief resonator there. And it also, to me, it feels like a lot of the things that we’re talking about are connected also to art. And I guess I wonder how you see the relationship between art and play because every time I engage in some kind of artistic activity, which is never a fine art purpose, it’s basically me playing, making. And ideally, I love to make stuff with others too. And so, there’s a lot of play that, for me, personally, connects to my art, but I’m curious how you all see it and how that works in terms of practices and serving these kind of identified needs that we’re talking about.
Reanne Estrada: I mean, as for myself, I identify as an artist and play is integral to the creative process. Because you’re in a space where you’re exploring, you’re kind of making into being something that did not exist before, and at its core, that is extremely empowering. Just the idea that something that you did exists because you did it. And that can apply on an individual level and it can also apply when you’re looking collaboratively and working within a community context, like the things that people can do together.
Reanne Estrada: And for myself, as an artist… Public Matters, our work is varied. We’re technically a social enterprise, we’re not nonprofit as an organization, but all of our work is public benefit and we’ve done work to address healthy food access, traffic safety, tobacco control, we’ve done education work. Our work has touched on community storytelling and gentrification, a range of different things. And the way that we like to position Public Matters is so that we can figure out a way to embed the arts and creativity in disciplines and fields outside the arts.
Reanne Estrada: I think artists are grossly underutilized as resources for social change. And I think there are groups Public Matters works with where they might not necessarily think of us primarily as artists, they might think of us as educators, or facilitators, or we do program design, but all of the work we do is rooted in the spirit of creativity and in the spirit of play.
Reanne Estrada: So if we’re talking about healthy food access, you better believe, they’re going to be costumes for giant fruits and vegetables in there. We’ve done that, I don’t know how we did it at the time, but we managed to convince teenagers to wear these outfits in public, in a parade, to increase public awareness of the issue of healthy food access. We’ve done projects with market-makeovers where we’re addressing healthy food access in areas that are food deserts, we co-created a public messaging campaign with local community members and local high school students that included East Los Angeles vegetarian zombies for fruits and vegetables. We brought Boyle Heights scuba divers, just kind of really opening it up and giving people room to flex and inhabit different roles as spokespeople or role models.
Benjamin Stokes: Can I talk about a tragedy for a second, which is-?
Colin Maclay: Oh, no, you’re just going to bring us down.
Benjamin Stokes: More public art by more people is not visible. And I think about this, with young people, what elementary school does not have kids making art? They’re all making art, but how much of that is seen by the public? But kids are in the school. And maybe we put it at the front of the school for those that walk into the school, which is just other parents. To me, actually, this is a real lack of imagination for some of our civic space and public is that we work so hard to pick a great artist to represent our space, and everyone else is like out or there’s one mural that’s in and we got to kind of, maybe that was good and participatory, we involved a few more people, but then we’re trying to keep that for a few years.
Benjamin Stokes: So I think there’s a really interesting challenge about how to give more people a connection between a creative art practice and public space that has that shared sense of space, that shared sense of visibility, and also that sense of “I had an audience for my work.” Right now, I think that the risk is that YouTube is so much better at that. I can get an audience on YouTube if I’m a kid, but I can’t with the stuff that I’m making in school. So this is a way in which I think the digital is doing such a better job than our management of the physical. It’s not that the physical can’t, but then we just haven’t imagined it.
Benjamin Stokes: And just to tie that back to the current moment, here in DC like a lot of cities, our mayor has put out a call, let’s rethink our monuments, let’s rethink our spaces, where can we put up things? Where should we put up signs? Where should we put up plaques? And there’s a real risk that we’ll miss an opportunity to have that be an ongoing democratic space to keep bringing things in, as opposed to a two-year effort to counter a sense of, “Oh, we have some civil war monuments we have to get down, and we’re going to put a couple other things up.”
Benjamin Stokes: I would love to see that be a little bit more of a democratic process, or even link the digital and the physical so it’s not just the Ubers and the Lyfts that are doing interesting things that connect the digital and physical. What if we did it in public space? So there’s a space that we’re going to project different things on this wall every night and we’re going to choose different things from our schools. What we put up kids’ art? On the walls?
Benjamin Stokes: I mean, a lot of this is not technically difficult if we just start imagining, or even just have a regular rotation for a mural, it doesn’t have to be digital, but the digital comparison is where I think that it makes our current civic practices of public space seem relatively poor especially across large areas of our cities.
Henry Jenkins: So Ben, you’re reminding me of one of my favorite public spaces in Cambridge Mass, which is the Porter Square Train Station, where they had elementary school kids create tiles that were permanently embedded in the train station. And I always loved this one of a skunk with this huge cloud of stink coming out of his butt. And I’ve been seeing that tile for 30 years, my bet it was there 20 years before me. So there’s a side of me that loves imagining that kid is now retirement age and has been seen their entire life with stinky butt skunk on the wall of the Porter Station.
Henry Jenkins: On the other hand, I love your idea of impermanence, of constant rotation, of constant change and both sides of that are kind of fun where your childhood catches up with you as an adult, but also where children continually can reassert themselves in public spaces.
Reanne Estrada: Yeah, and I think it is about that, it’s the both and, right? At the risk of really going overboard with abundance, I think we just need more. Ben, when you were talking about just the notion of impermanence and public art. Let me take a step back. So one of the big obstacles to greater participation in the arts, I think, and people feeling like they can engage in art-making is the idea of the genius idea, the fact that it’s completely, unless you’re really good at it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it and you don’t apply the same thinking to something like sports.
Reanne Estrada: Everybody understands that if you’re going to do physical activity, maybe kids do team sports or whatever, that actually contributes to their development in a meaningful way, and the same thing, they might not end up being the next LeBron James, but it doesn’t matter, it still has value. And I think we need to kind of shift the thinking towards the participation in the arts in the same way. Just the idea that like it has value because you are engaging in the process of making and you learn a lot about yourself and about other people in the world around you, you’ll connect and that has value. So you don’t have to be professional at it in that way.
Reanne Estrada: And to kind of respond to your idea of having more art available in public, how do you take things outside the digital and make it accessible kind of in 3D physical space? And in the before times, before the pandemic, one of the projects that Public Matters wrapped is a series of three audio walking tours of a neighborhood where we work, Historic Filipinotown. The project is called the Chicharrón Chronicles, and we got some funding from California Humanities to do it. And it is a story gathering, a storytelling project that connects Filipinx and Latinx folks within Historic Filipinotown using the metaphor of Chicharrón a fried pork as a point of connection.
Reanne Estrada: So what we ended up doing programmatically was we created a series of three events focused around food, language, and labor, and we brought different people together. Community organizers, labor organizers, local restaurant owners, we had the wonderful Gustavo Arellano talk about food and the connections between Filipinx and Latinx folks. We have historians and local residents, and we collected their stories and put them together to create a series of three tours that are available on your mobile phone or online.
Reanne Estrada: And in the before times, the idea was that you could go and you could visit this neighborhood of Historic Filipinotown, which is close to downtown near Silver Lake and Echo Park but has nowhere near the same level of visibility, and you could learn about the place and the people, the immigrants, the working-class folks who gave shape to that place. And also, like it brought up questions about gentrification and displacement, and the conversations got heated and really meaningful. So I think there are ways in which we can create public art works that might live on a digital plane, but are also accessible in conjunction with moving through a physical space, like a neighborhood.
Henry Jenkins: So we’ve been offering a fairly expansive notion of play here, but I wanted, before we wrap things up, to go back to games, since Ben, that’s been your focal point for so long. So is there an added value for games as games – as rule systems and procedures – or is that simply a trigger for creating a more playful attitude? How do we think about that question?
Benjamin Stokes: Yeah, I think that this is a little of the theory, I think that’s starting to emerge is that we need playfulness which is the attitude or spirit, but we might also need the sense of structure that games have. So games bring the structure, they often have the rules, they may have definite outcomes, there’s growing ways to think about games and how they are different from play alone. A good one though, is that they have some of the uncertain outcomes that come from play but they also have a particular challenge. So play, you can kind of just go anywhere, you’re in a sandbox, you can play anywhere, but as soon as you’re like your goal is to build the biggest sand pile possible, you’ve got a quest.
Benjamin Stokes: And then there’s the question of “Is mine is the biggest or their’s the biggest?” And that’s where you have objectives. And those, I think, give you such stronger tools for organizing the play and structuring the play in ways that could align with either an educational goal or a civic goal. We want to have people build a sense of confidence. So our goal with this play is that they say, “Oh yeah, we can.” So I think confidence is a great outcome to come from play. Another thought is as we’re tying into digital systems and some of those structures and feedback loops around things like data, “Is my bus on time? Are buses in my neighborhood, where there are more people of a certain ethnic group more often late than in that neighborhood?” How do we start comparing? I think the idea that we should be playing with data is something that is easier with a game because it simplifies it.
Benjamin Stokes: We as humans are built to walk into a sandbox and not be overwhelmed by a billion points of sand. That’s okay, a billion points of sand, not a problem. I can walk around on top of them, I’m not at all intimidated, but I throw a billion data points at people and they have no idea how to do it. So I think this is one of the important differences in that we say we’re overwhelmed by information while our eyes are processing massive amounts of information and it’s not a huge problem. We can make sense of things because we’re built to do that. And I think that in some ways we need structures, we’re not likely to build new eyes to interact with data but this is putting on my crazy futurist hat.
Benjamin Stokes: We do need structures that help us see and interact with data in new ways and I think that games have a little of that. That’s another benefit of games to think about as well, as we’re moving into a digital age and want to play with digital systems, that the game side builds some structure for how to make sense of massive amounts of data.
Benjamin Stokes: That’s just little examples, maybe the biggest thing that I want to leave people to keep thinking about is, there are so many academics who have thought about games and play and have really interesting conversations like this, but we often have not borrowed from those insights and applied to other spaces including things like, “W”ell, is democracy supposed to be playful? Are the rules fair? And I think, don’t take it all from any one person. We want multiple people drawing on where what’s the balance of playing a game. Do we need a lot more play and a little game? Do we need a lot of games and a little play? And I think that I would just urge us all to be figuring out how to draw on both of those and pick the right kind of balance depending on the project you’re on.
Benjamin Stokes: Sometimes you’re on an activist mission, we’ve got to get a bunch of people out in the streets, and it’s not the moment for being super playful and opening up new spaces, it’s a mobilization moment, but there are other moments where we need to recharge to see things differently to meet the allies who will join us in the next battle. So I think that it is about that kind of deliberateness with the balance.
Reanne Estrada: I’m curious, have you come across, there’s a game that I found called The Participation Game that the City of Helsinki does. And basically, the city has set it up so that there is a board game that’s played between municipal workers, public servants and the communities they serve. And there’s a participatory budgeting process and in their interaction, they problem-solve together and it’s amazing.
Benjamin Stokes: I haven’t heard of that particular one, but this is, again, learning from history, Model Cities program in the United States actually had a bunch of games where there was a big thing that was encouraged. You’d get like the superintendent schools to role-play the fire chief and you get the police chief to pretend that they’re a census worker. It’s basically, role-play for city officials plus throw a few non-profits in the mix. And that’s just so off the table right now, when we’re talking about reform and how we’re going to do things, but the idea that we want to build empathy at the systems level, we want people to empathize, not just with each other.
Benjamin Stokes: I think we do a lot of talk about, “We need to empathize with that other group,” but empathizing with systems, I think is something that we don’t do enough of and we don’t know how to do, games help us, I think build some of that empathy with cause and effect systems. You do something in the game, you get a little feedback, you do something else, and role-play is a way of kind of humanizing it. So I think the Helsinki example is great and there have been a bunch of city planning efforts to do a little of that role play. It may be a time to have a new moment to say we want to bring playfulness a little back into thinking about reform just for idea generation and for cross agency collaboration.
Reanne Estrada: Yeah, and I think when you’re thinking about sparking imagination and what’s possible. It becomes role-playing. Yeah, I think you hit it straight on the head, swapping roles gives people the opportunity to be in someone else’s shoes, and that does build empathy. And which brings us back to kind of the human connection which is really at the heart of all of this, it is a human endeavor, this. And I think I’ll say that for myself, as we’re trying to imagine or envision and transform our reality in a post-pandemic recovery, I want to make sure that there is play in there because I don’t want to live in a world without play. Do you want to live in a world without play? I certainly don’t, so yeah.
Colin Maclay: Well, this has been totally awesome, and clearly, we have a couple more hours of conversation just to get rolling but really inspirational and kind of helping us to think about the future. And I’m totally convinced by you both, this is like, I mean, then there was a keyword bingo in my mind of social challenges that we’re facing right now and the opportunities afforded to us by play, games, art, by the kinds of activities that you are engaged in and describing. And so I just want to say thank you for sharing that with us that’s really wonderful.
Henry Jenkins: Yes, thank you so much.
Benjamin Stokes: Yeah, it was a pleasure, it’s such a fun chance to come on, I love the podcast so thank you for having us on.
Reanne Estrada: Yeah, this is really fun.
Colin Maclay: I was blown away by the conversation and I love the complementarity of Ben and Reanne.
Henry Jenkins: Yeah, the chemistry there was great.
Colin Maclay: Yeah, both doing the work and then Ben really reflecting on it and having looked more broadly and then Reanne engaging in both play and art, I felt like my brain lit up during the conversation in the subsequent week and even just listening to it again with just feeling so much opportunity and then again, every time we engage topics of play and games, I’m like, there’s so much there and it’s sort of constrained in this relatively narrow universe of people who are geeking out on games or play but it just feels like it has relevance to how we teach and learn civic engagement as we heard, all kinds of participation and just sort of an attitude about life that I feel like they picked up on, in a powerful way when they were talking about efficiency and kind of invoking Eric Gordon’s work on the importance of inefficiency.
Colin Maclay: And it felt to me, there was just a suite of really strong arguments that we just need to introduce more play, more game, in more things we do. And I don’t mean it in an unserious way, it can be serious play. We can take on real challenges, like the Ben’s invocation of the different public officials switching roles, that’s super playful. And I can only imagine it would generate a shit ton of really interesting ideas and some of them will be terrible but new perspective and insight. So I was really compelled by the notion of upping our gameplay so to speak.
Henry Jenkins: Yeah, I think one of the things that I’ve thought about a lot through the years is that adults need permission to play and children naturally assume play is what’s on the table. And so the question becomes, how do we give adults permission to play? And some of it is masking play as something else. Some of it is upping the game; emphasis on the serious purpose and serious nature of play. Some of it is creating an atmosphere where massive numbers of people are playing together. And so the barriers, you don’t feel like you stand out or are exposed as an adult playing. And Ben’s work, I think, does a lot to help us think through what it takes as a society to get people to play.
Henry Jenkins: And I think the questions he was asking there about icebreakers and how do we play to clear our heads between Zoom calls, all of those things are really important. Play, at everything from the micro-level to the macro-level has to be built back into our society. And it sounds like that’s one of the things we really have to focus on as we come out of the COVID lockdown, where we may naturally have a feeling of celebration and social connection having been in social isolation for so long, I feel like there’s going to be a burst of energy as people come out of hibernation and back into social engagement with each other. And that’s a unique opportunity as a culture for us to embrace the idea of adults playing.
Colin Maclay: Totally, yes, and I think, I mean, 1000% agree, and I think that’s really exciting. I mean, this to me taps into your civic imagination work, where it’s not about the tyranny of the possible, it’s not about the where are we now and how do we take incremental steps forward, but really tweak the rules and reimagine and push boundaries and kind of imagine different futures. And it feels like that’s serious work in the sense of it is of fundamental importance to our survival as a society and a species, arguably, and also would be a lot of fun.
Colin Maclay: I want to pick up on one thing you said that Reanne and Ben both mentioned which is sort of this permission to play piece and the equity issues that are hugely concerning. And so that Ben’s observation that within an organization like the CEO, the boss might have license to play but nobody else does. And then kind of Reanne’s invocation that’s a much broader suite of concerns outside that organization. It’s like who gets to play, who gets to be inefficient?
Colin Maclay: And as we look at the way that sort of the pandemic has laid bare so many equity issues in US society, it’s clear that if we don’t, I mean, I can play video games but not everybody can. I can play in all kinds of ways. And I have an excuse to do that and the folks that we arguably need, most need the opportunity to play and engage civically or playfully are not having that opportunity. So I think we have some work to do to be able to get to leverage these tools as we look to rebuild the world, post-apocalypse.
Henry Jenkins: Yeah, the grim side of that is the dangers of playing while Black in public areas. So the number of kids who’ve been shot and killed by the police for playing with toy guns in public spaces or even toy swords in public spaces. Anything that looks like a weapon, puts Black kids at risk, playing in the wrong park, playing in the wrong neighborhood, playing and making too much noise. All of those things create risk and are there kinds of risks we should be calling out in the age of Black Lives Matter.
Colin Maclay: Absolutely. So we do have some work to do to be able to take this to where we would like to see it go.
Henry Jenkins: I also think that our grandparents probably knew more about this than we do today. And I think, not play as in games, but say town pageants played a really rich role in many towns across America until the last 20, 30 years where they’ve largely been abandoned, but the idea of reenacting the history of your town on an annual basis. Some of that work reminding us on our political history and citizen history, does some of the work of maintaining continuity within a community. And you hear stories of people who played a certain role passing knowledge and skill on to the next generation. So it created context for cross-generational transfer. We could think about parades which Reanne referred to in passing. But the parade is a form of play that brings the community out to celebrate together. And as an institutionalized form of play, we don’t need permission to participate in the parade.
Henry Jenkins: And then Carnival and our Mardi Gras in many parts of the world does this thing of lowering barriers, lowering dignity, creating masks and role-play, that is a collective celebration that we take ownership of the streets. And in the modern world creates kind of interesting dynamics where gender reversal takes place. So I was at a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, several years back with a room full of mostly female Harry Potter fans. And the women were shouting down to the street to the men to show them their tits and dropping beads to the men. And the men were so confused by this reversal of gender power, but it’s built into Carnival which is all about comic reversals through play.
Colin Maclay: That’s awesome. So let’s see, a couple of things in there. One is you invoked, for me, a couple of things in that conversation, one is sort of this idea, this notion of the protests and stuff that we’re engaging in now although we have a national scourge, so many of them are local and about local issues in a moment where we’ve been arguably over the last decade or more been way too national. So one of the things that Ben talks about is sort of reclaiming our power to push local issues, and then reclaiming or telling those histories, that we actually engaged in change-making.
Colin Maclay: And so I love the idea of telling the history of our town, not as we saw it 150 years ago, but as our history is emerging now so that you’re having not the traditional kind of mostly white male voices telling the history but the people are telling history. So it’s a way to take those old. And this also connects to me to the conversation we’ve been having around kind of recreating rituals and new rituals. So that way you take these vehicles that as you say, are established and kind of have a stamp of approval, they’re okay to play in or okay to engage with and we know them and giving them new life that is much more of the moment that you know of where we are now, and especially where we want to go. So I really liked that idea of taking those vehicles and repurposing them in ways that are more inclusive and celebratory and ultimately playful for a wider range of folks.
Henry Jenkins: No, that’s important. That goes back to what we were discussing in terms of permanency and temporary, in terms of children’s art, for example, in that conversation. Or what we talked about with Varun Soni a few weeks back about rituals and the need of rituals to continually renew themselves. These are civic rituals, not religious rituals but they have the same need to reinvent themselves. If they’re rituals that held a community together under segregation, they have to be re-imagined to reflect a more inclusive society but the history is there, the model is there that we can build on.
Colin Maclay: The last thing to the other element of that, that I think is really interesting that came up a bunch of times in this and every conversation is sort of the tension, relationship, duality of on and offline stuff. So whether it’s sort of the observation that kid’s art is invisible but on YouTube, they can build a following or it’s these rituals that you’ve been describing which are substantially in person in a moment when we’re substantially online and just as we kind of emerge, hopefully from the current reality to a more, a less binary, more integrated on and offline worlds, what play looks like in those spaces and what games look like that bridge the on and offline in ways that help them to complement one another, not to kind of drive us further apart and create even more schizophrenic universe.
Henry Jenkins: Yeah, and this and so many things, AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is ahead of the curve. So last night as we were recording this, she and Ilhan Omar went on Twitch and spent an evening playing video games in a streaming platform and talking to potential voters about the democratic side of the upcoming election and half a million people tuned in.
Colin Maclay: Wow.
Henry Jenkins: But the idea that our political leaders of the future will be playing video games with their constituencies in order to pull together a community online, to talk about political concerns. This is much bigger than the turnout that Trump has been getting at most of his rallies. And it’s directly into the bloodstream of younger voters who need to turn out and vote in this election.
Colin Maclay: Well, Henry, this has been awesome.
Henry Jenkins: Always. Always.
Colin Maclay: Our special thanks to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation who generously support this podcast. Well, we are normally hosted by the University of Southern California here in Los Angeles although we’re at home right now. USC and our homes in Los Angeles, sit on the traditional lands of the Tongva people.
Henry Jenkins: We are ably assisted by our wonderful producers, Sophie Madej and Josh Chan.
Colin Maclay: You can find us online at howdoyoulikeitsofar.org or on Instagram and Twitter at H–whatever-the-acronym-is underscore pod, H-D-Y-L-I-S-F underscore pod.
Henry Jenkins: That’s easy for you to say.