The Agora Jam: Co-creating the Agoraverse

Step into the Agoraverse via Bois de l’Étang

🥞 The Agoraverse

Every first Saturday of the month from September 2021 to June 2022 the Banlieue du Turfu (a french design practice I created several years ago) was invited by the Gaîté Lyrique to facilitate a series of peer-learning workshops. During these ten months Hugo and I met with participants to dream together a new world: the Agoraverse using a range of activities including video gaming sessions, debates, co-creation workshops and a Game Jam to close the conference cycle in June. The common thread of these gatherings was the following question:

What will daily life look like in tomorrow’s digital worlds?

The Agoraverse is a neologism I invented with Hugo to encourage us to imagine an alternative metaverse in response to the craze caused by the announcements of Epic Games and Meta. The former had announced in April 2021, an investment of 2 billion dollars to create the first metaverse (an actual metaverse, not just as imagined through novels or video games). While the latter, the parent company of the social network Facebook had then announced on Thursday, October 28, 2021, that it was changing the name of its company to Meta.

Will we always have to leave the banlieues to accomplish our dreams?

Let’s start by introducing ourselves, Hugo Pilate is a Franco-American designer, he’s worked in the United States, India, and France, in various sectors including maker culture, sex education, and access to solar energy. Through these projects, Hugo has developed a collaborative design practice that often (but not always) involves the use of digital tools to collaborate in an immersive fashion. And I, Makan, am a writer and artist. My research focuses on speculative design and imaginaries. Founder of the Banlieue du Turfu, I design co-creation workshops and participative fictional experiences, and I regularly collaborate with different people like Hugo to make the project of the Banlieue du Turfu come to life.

GIF filmed in Wonda, in browser, used to invite the participants to the Agora Jam.

🎮 The Agora Jam

The outcomes of the first seven peer-learning workshops of the Agoraverse, served as the conceptual foundation for the Agora Jam, during which we prototyped a V0 of the Agoraverse. These reflections and the prototype created during the Agoraverse were then showcased during a public exhibition, presented on June 4th.

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 Turfu rising from the ashes of the future…

🕳️ Part 1: Stepping into the void…

— Methodology

“In 2222 of our time, the Agoraverse has become an essential place of the turfurocosmic scene. It is said that the first version of this mythical place was born on April 04, 2022, during an Agora Jam commissioned by the Ministry of Magic in order to create and launch, within the shortest possible time frame, the first civic-minded metaverse…Will you be able to answer the call of the Ministry of Magic?”

Such was the text which welcomed the participants. The Agora Jam was conceived in the image of the Agoraverse workshops: with the intention of blurring the line between physical and digital, poetry and investigation, fiction and reality, center and periphery.

The teams were created to foster collaboration between all types of creatives and storytellers, some more at ease with digital tools, others with storytelling.
  1. 🛠️ 3D Modeling: In charge of the visual layout of the Agoraverse, also responsible for the 3D modeling of the space.
  2. 📜Scenarization: In charge of crafting a narrative around the uses and practices that will take place in the Agoraverse.
  3. 🐙 Investigation: In charge of the research that will feed the creation of the space. An investigation through the archives of previous workshops will be necessary to inform new inspirations.
  4. 🔮 Artistic Direction: In charge of the overall experience and aesthetics of the Agoraverse world.
  5. 📻 Sound production: In charge of the auditory atmosphere.
DAY 1: The Wonda team introducing the platform to the participants.
DAY 2: The Pix.Sand team brainstorm their strategy on the first day of the Agora Jam with support from the Wonda team.
  1. Our Wonda world was used as the main sandbox to build the worlds.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

🧙🏿‍♂️ Part 2: The Agoraverse emerges…

— The creations

WORLD 0 <:> THE CYBORG TREE

Visitors of the Agoraverse meet by the Cyborg Tree, discover it here.

WORLD 1 <:> THE PIX.SAND FOUNDRY

The Pix.sand Foundry is a world born in the abandonned servers of the Anthropocene, visit it here.
  1. Thinking of bits and atoms as conscious and autonomous materials, thus offering a new relationship to the living, and to the creative act.
  2. The inhabitants develop a new science that is not yet named and that does not exist in our reality but is theorized and practiced by the inhabitants of the foundry.
  3. Thinking of each space and ecosystem for what it is and not what it lacks (water, greenery): just like the desert, the banlieues are complex ecosystems in their own right.

WORLD 2 <:> THE BAYT-AL-HIKMA

The Bayt-al-hikma is a watery space without sharp corners. Visit it here.
  1. The banlieues not as a space to escape from but as a journey of initiation.
  2. Visiting the Bayt-al-hikma rather than the Eiffel Tower as a symbol of success and of awakening.
  3. The love of languages and their transmutations as a timeless practice.
  4. A new job-title, that of a Great Intergalactic Sage, which consists in participating in the development of the banlieues in its broadest sense.

WORLD 3 <:> THE DIGITAL FIRDAWS

The Digital Firdaws is the garden of the worlds of the future and of tomorrow, visit it here.
  1. A new non-monotheistic spirituality with a non-linear relationship to time.
  2. A place to stow fragments of time, ancestral futures, and futuristic ancestralities.
  3. A more complex way of creating social bonds and identities that are not based solely on the identity of neighborhoods, countries, nations or origins.

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.
  1. Seeing the chicha as a space for meetings, debates and celebration of life in the Banlieue du Turfu.
  2. A technology of memory and empathy that is ephemeral but intense.
  3. The peaceful management of controversies and confrontations necessary for the development and political modernization of the City.

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.
  1. A new interpretation of the iconic “tower” element of the banlieues.
  2. A new relationship with sport in the neighborhood that is not only a competitive element but a safe space.
  3. The possibility to create new sports, some which may not necessarily be competitive.

🪐 Conclusion and Turfu of the project

We could have shared a lot more, the world of the Turfu just keeps getting richer and more complex with every minute that passes, but it is time to wrap things up. 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 seem too removed from their daily concerns, even if to arrive at the conclusion that it is still not for them.

Makan and the participants discover each team’s world in the auditorium of the Gaîté Lyrique.
10 Principles for a desirable Agoraverse.

👏 Acknowledgments

This Agoraverse is the continuation of a previous project on thinking digital spaces from marginalized voices made possible by Superrr Lab, in which the Banlieue du Turfu used Fortnite’s Creative mode to prototype the cities of tomorrow. You can find and article on this project here.

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Hugo Pilate

Hugo Pilate

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Design researcher trying to make sense of the world we’ve built for ourselves. hugopilate.com