Constructing delta realities; Joint Fact Finding challenges in Serious Game Design

B (Bonno) Pel, Michael Duijn, MX Janssen, Jurian Edelenbos

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This paper addresses the challenges of Joint Fact Finding (JFF) in spatial planning and design. JFF is an important component of a deliberative planning practice: The construction of (problematic) realities is fundamental for the formulation of challenges and solutions. Information is often contested in complex planning processes due to different interests, values and perspectives. Carefully designed interaction procedures are needed to negotiate the relevance and validity of information sources. Particularly promising procedures for this are Serious Games: Facilitating joint reality construction through immersive simulations, they are appealing ways to engage not only knowledge-oriented researchers, but also practice-oriented stakeholders and professionals. Their concreteness speaks to spatial planning and design as crafts. Still, the development of such games is not without its challenges and trade-offs. As procedures for reality construction, they cannot escape the power-laden nature of knowledge. We present a case study on developing a spatial design-oriented game, and analyze it in the tradition of the sociology of translations, aided by literature on serious game development. As indicated, Serious Games could function as JFF procedures in spatial planning and design. Moreover, their architecture can be considered a ‘boundary object’ providing actors an environment that accommodates information sharing, learning and joint reality construction. In this way the game facilitates the building of capacity to generate and integrate knowledge for spatial planning and design. In our project on integrative planning in delta areas, the game architecture accommodated researchers and practitioners in governance, spatial design and geo-information. Striving for interdisciplinary synergies, the game architecture was to be accordingly polyvalent. Its main innovative features would be its generative and integrative capacity, i.e. its capacity to both co-produce and integrate a diversity of information sources and to co-develop/generate spatial designs on this basis. How can joint fact finding in spatial planning and design be organized through a serious game in such a way that it develops integrative and generative capacity, and which challenges and trade-offs are faced in realizing this goal? In this paper we describe and discuss the practical shaping of these two capacities, and the attendant trade-offs. Tracking the ontogenesis of a game design, we describe a struggle over appropriate JFF procedures. As proposed procedures for interactive reality construction, the successive prototypes and game elements reflect meta-visions on the area under study – as a physical formation to shape, a system to represent and display, or an actor constellation to engage. This analysis allows us to distinguish alternative game architectures, with different appropriateness to JFF and other planning-related purposes. Beyond these procedural-methodological insights on JFF in game development, the observed variety of delta realities is also telling for the complexity of these areas: They are not only intersections of marine and fluvial dynamics, but also of multiple reality constructions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2013
Event8th International Conference in Interpretive Policy Analysis, 3-5 July, Vienna (AUT) - Vienna (AUT)
Duration: 3 Jul 20135 Jul 2013


Conference8th International Conference in Interpretive Policy Analysis, 3-5 July, Vienna (AUT)
CityVienna (AUT)


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