In May 2022, a group of game designers, artists, historians, sociologists and architects gathered to prototype tomorrow’s digital worlds using Wonda.
I have always been a strong believer in the power of hackathons for people to learn new ways to do things and change our perspectives on what our (digital) world can become.
It’s also an incredibly effective way to introduce people to any new technology, including Wonda.
But without further ado, let’s dive into the “Agora Jam” with Makan Fofana, the organizer of the event.
Could you introduce yourself and the project team?
Makan: Hi, I am a writer and artist. My research focuses on speculative design and imaginaries. Founder of the “Banlieue du Turfu” (Banlieue meaning hood or suburbs, and du Turfu meaning of the future), I design co-creation workshops and participative fictional experiences.
For this Project, I collaborated with Hugo Pilate, a Franco-American designer, who has worked in the United States, India, and France, in various sectors including maker culture, sex education, and access to solar energy!
Could you introduce the general Approach for the Jam?
Makan: The Agora Jam is a world building workshop to design possible futures of the “Agoravers” — a neologism Hugo and I invented as an alternative to the word “Metaverse” - and encourage the creation of digital spaces that foster successful cohabitation among its dwellers and visitors with a vibrant economic and ecological development.
Each team was given a different world to imagine, each world was represented by a collage in which are hidden references to conversations had during the preceding Agoraverse workshops.
The Jam was held on two dates:
The first meeting, on April 2, was dedicated to introduce participants to world building and getting familiar with the Wonda platform.
The second meeting on May 7th, focused on the production of the worlds and the final presentation.
DAY 1: The Wonda team introducing the platform to the participants.
DAY 2: The Pix.Sand team brainstorm their strategy on the second day of the Agora Jam with support from the Wonda team.
Between these two dates, a catch-up session was organized with each team to keep the project active and facilitate development of the creations. For each session we had planned snacks: hearty slices of chocolate or lemon cake and after each meeting we took the time to go to the bar and have a drink together.
How did you recruit the participants?
Makan: We just did a short social media campaign using Linkedin and selected 25 participants (out of 50 candidates) to form 5 teams with the following skills:
🛠️ 3D Modeling: In charge of the visual layout of the Agoraverse, also responsible for the 3D modeling of the space.
📜 Scenarization: In charge of crafting a narrative around the uses and practices that will take place in the Agoraverse.
🐙 Investigation: In charge of the research that will feed the creation of the space.
🔮 Artistic Direction: In charge of the overall experience and aesthetics of the Agoraverse world.
📻 Sound production: In charge of the auditory atmosphere.
It was important to recruit not only technical profiles, but also creative, inventive, playful ones, who wouldn’t be afraid to use storytelling to break through any technical limitations of the digital medium.
Our Miro sketchbook was used to facilitate the immersion of the teams with the beginnings of stories, inspirations, video games, and other references that had emerged from the previous workshops.
Our Discord chatroom, to coordinate the teams and make visible to each group their respective progress.
The Jam was held in the workshop space of the Gaîté Lyrique, right where its old video game library used to be.
Could you introduce the Worlds made during the Jam?
Makan: Sure, it was incredible to see the teams take ownership of these worlds, even developing a sense of belonging to them, while trying to figure out what form they should take and what stories they should tell. As the Agora Jam progressed, we saw each team go from circumspection to fabulation, starting from the narrative brief we gave them to then hatch a new world.
For each world created you will find, the creative brief each team was provided with, a GIF of the creation, a summary of the narrative and what the considerations that surfaced during the creative process. You can explore the worlds created directly on the Wonda platform.
The World 0 served as our lobby, the crossroads of the Agoraverse’s many worlds. The scene was elaborated from a 3D scan of my neighborhood retrieved from Google Map in which Hugo and I placed a cyborg tree in charge of weaving magical sneakers for the inhabitants of the neighborhood (a character we imagined two years ago during our first collaboration in Fortnite Creative).
In the sky you can see one of the first visual interpretations of the Agoraverse, created by the artist Yuvraj Jha. Five vortexes dispersed around the lobby give you access to other worlds created by the participants thus forming a small archipelago.
WORLD 1 <:> THE PIX.SAND FOUNDRY
The Pix.sand Foundry is a world born in the abandonned servers of the Anthropocene, visit it here. Made by Riwad Salim (Multi-faceted digital designer), Inès Bel Mokhtar (Student in textile and material design at the school of decorative arts), Stéphane Cretel (Marketing and innovation strategy consultant).
The original creative brief was the following: Pix.sand is a physical and digital material. Over the centuries, various forms of craft have emerged around its fusion, fission, and other transformations.
With this brief, the team imagined a novel or film that takes root in 2456 AD in a world born from the ruins of the server rooms of the Anthropocene. A new super-energy with memory exists, born from the transmutation of ancient materials and energies, the Pix.sand is now constituted as the syn-crystallization of the know-how and memories of past worlds.
The inhabitants of the Agoraverse, holders of this heritage who have learned and developed a particular form of alchemy, make the most of the metaphysical properties of the Pix.sand while seeking to protect themselves from ill-intentioned companies looking for a pure and clean source of energy to rebuild the old world.
WORLD 2 <:> THE BAYT-AL-HIKMA
The Bayt-al-hikma is a watery space without sharp corners. Visit it here. Michael Baumgarten (Multimedia artist) Anifa Chanfiou (Screenwriter and Director) Yanis Ratbi (Facilitator of collective intelligence), Dji-Ming Luk (Designer invisible architecture)
The House of Wisdom (Bayt al Hikma) is a center of reality-fiction (making reality through fiction) in which knowledge, research, and translation transcend preconceptions. It is a polymorphous university where contemporary and ancient works are translated into Turfurist slang.
It is 1995, somewhere in a self-contained suburb of the south of what used to be called France: the neighborhood is governed by a new code, that of the Multirêve (polydream). In the center of this city, a strange institution was born, the Bayt-al-hikma. It’s a watery space without sharp corners where the slang is transformed into a luminous and colored atmosphere. The slang spoken there is oceanic and mediterranean. Each year, ten people chosen at random must embark on an initiatory journey to the Bayt-al-hikma. Only one of them will come back with the title of Great Intergalactic Sage.
WORLD 3 <:> THE DIGITAL FIRDAWS
The Digital Firdaws is the garden of the worlds of the future and of tomorrow, visit it here. Sandra Coulibaly: Head of Strategic Analysis at the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie Maéva Bigot: Social Psychologist
The Digital Firdaws is a cosmic-o-digital garden in which you will discover capsules left by its visitors in the past and in the future. You can also leave your own capsules for future generations. In the Firdaws we seek to discover how to awaken unsuspected symbioses between mineral, digital and organic.
Garden of the worlds of the future and of tomorrow, of the I and the We, cradle of our dreams and of our imprints, the Firdaws is a slow spiritual and carnal walk to relearn and interpret the diversity of our origins and of our tomorrows. This universe does not propose a scenario but rather a new experience of the living which is embodied in this tree’s poem as transcribed by poet Ardan El Roy.
(..) Come to lose yourself. Come to find yourself. (…)
WORLD 4 <:> THE INTERNET OF CHICHAS
The Chicha has the power of memory and to keep the traces of the heritage of the turfurists. Visit it here. Aura Hernandez: Social Psychologist Pierre Rose: Designer (motion, 2D, 3D) and developer (web, java)
The Internet of Chichas is a democratic space run by masters of ceremony in an intimate and decentralized committee to imagine and debate together the next policies of the Agoraverse. Whether you practice chicha or not, it is above all a culture of reunion.
In a world that is both dystopian and marvelous, a conflict breaks out between the territories of the East and the West. The Internet of Chichas is a powerful institution that regulates the life of the community. The Chicha has the power of memory and to keep the traces of the heritage of the turfurists. Through a prolonged inhalation smokers are taken over by the sounds and the dreams of their peers and then, the exhalation form holograms of lived experiences and their influence on the debate.
WORLD 5 <:> THE CIRCULAR E-SPORTS ARENA
The arena is composed of a set of towers, in it, each athlete will be teleported from floor to floor where they will face a series of physical or lyrical challenges. Visit it here. Florence Bamba: scriptwriter and self-taught director Mamady Diarra: digital artist, live coder, and musician Matthias Honorat: Digital art Director Diane Despois: Territorial development catalyst AstroBoi: ARTivist, director, editor and video maker by profession
A place for Turfurist sports practices, the Circular E-sport Arena is a space in constant reinvention, where the fields and rules evolve with the inspiration of the players and their fans. But above all, it is also a hyper-local fair-trade ecosystem where the profits collected during the athletic confrontations are used not only to pay the athletes but also their fans and their neighborhoods.
The arena is composed of a set of towers and constellations with an architecture that reaches beyond the clouds, more than 10 kilometers away, in a city that is called the Binks Village. In this arena, each athlete will be teleported from floor to floor where they will face a series of physical or lyrical tests (darts, songwriting, martial arts) orchestrated in a random way.
🪐 What did you like most about this workshop?
Makan: The nature of the jam challenges the participants to (re)define what the metaverse is or could be for them rather than running away from it, demonizing it or excluding themselves from a possible future that might seem too far away from their daily concerns.
Makan and the participants discover each team’s world in the auditorium of the Gaîté Lyrique.
It seems to us that the participants were receptive to this fluidity between physical and digital, centers and peripheries:
“The Agoraverse represents a philosophical form of optimism and the right to dream, the right to transform ideas … The Agoraverse represents for me a virtual space composed of “real” elements in which we can escape for a moment.”
“The Agoraverse is a Think Do Tank able to give a new function to digital tools and materialize a new ambition for society in general and in the banlieues in particular.”
“I see the Agoraverse as a collective compost of collective imaginaries, an unconscious that surfaces and suddenly takes shape. The Banlieue du Turfu is for me an invitation to put philosophy and poetry back at the heart of how we dwell together with the Earth as human beings.”
“Perhaps the Agoraverse carries the intention of creating a digital space as a medium for a psychic space of personal and collective creation where interactions are aimed at fostering the emergence of alternative worlds in our minds, hearts, and environment while the Metaverse is a factual description of another space of interaction than the physical world.”
🪐 What’s next for you?
Makan: I strongly believe in the importance to craft new representations of the banlieues (and metaverse) in the digital world that are not only emulations of reality but opportunities to transform them, modify them, materialize them, prototype new projects, and dream desirable futures.
To capture the higher-level takeaways, we’ve put together a set of 10 principles concerning the relationship between the banlieues and metaverse that you can find here.
10 Principles for a desirable “Agoraverse”
All the exchanges and encounters that emerged during the Agora Jam and the Agoraverse conference cycle have been transcribed in the form of an archive made accessible to the participants and hopefully soon to a wider public by making it into a documentary.
For the moment, the Agoraverse as a workshop format and creative space has no official continuation, however, I would like the program to continue to live on in order to raise awareness in a collaborative way to local institutions, companies, to the question of the metaverse and make it a tool for reflection. And hopefully go beyond prototyping to finally create one, one day.
Don’t hesitate to knock on the door of the Ministry of Magic, if you can find it!
NYU Silver School of Social Work is offering students a narrated virtual field trip through the Lower East Side to assess potential challenges for local residents and best prepare for their upcoming internships in the neighbourhood.