Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

‘Playful Design for Activism’ at E-Motive Day 2015

At the start of this year I was invit­ed to demo Stand­ing and to speak at E-Motive Day, a join­ing of inno­v­a­tive civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions inter­est­ed in (as they put it) North-South exchanges.

In my lec­ture I talked about how Stand­ing works and why it is inter­est­ing for civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions (or NGOs). I also talked about why I think NGOs should stop think­ing in terms of cam­paigns and start think­ing in terms of prod­ucts.

Below is an adap­ta­tion of what I said that day and some of the slides I used. I will skip the first part in which I gave the usu­al intro­duc­tion of Hub­bub and also plugged Bycatch, which was still in pre-release back then, and will dive right into my intro­duc­tion of Stand­ing.

Standing

Stand­ing is an app for play­ful activism. You can down­load the app on the Apple app store, and check the web­site on getstanding.com.

How to use Standing

How to use Standing

How to use Standing

Here is how it works. You start by enter­ing a cause you would like to stand for. Then you press and hold a but­ton. A counter starts run­ning. You need to keep hold­ing the but­ton, and not move, or the app will end the ses­sion. Once you are done stand­ing, you can share your stand­ing ses­sion with the world.

Stand­ing wo/man protests in Istanbul

Why did we make Stand­ing? We start­ed in the sum­mer of 2013. (Sounds like a long time ago!) We had been inter­est­ed for some time in the use of social media for activism. Peo­ple appro­pri­at­ing tech­nol­o­gy for their own ends. Then the Arab Spring hap­pened. And the stand­ing wo/man protests hap­pened in Istan­bul. It start­ed as a joke: can we make an app for stand­ing still? But then we decid­ed to take the joke seri­ous­ly, and actu­al­ly make it.

Some­where between sign­ing an online peti­tion and walk­ing in a demon­stra­tion

What is inter­est­ing about Stand­ing? It is a con­tri­bu­tion to the dis­cus­sion around click­tivism. It sits some­where between sign­ing an online peti­tion, and walk­ing in a demon­stra­tion. It requires more effort than the for­mer, but less than the lat­ter. It is also a digital/physical hybrid. So it plays with the cat­e­gories of activism we are inclined to think inside of.

Salvador Breed playing a set of music to stand to

It is also play­ful because it is not instru­men­tal. The act of stand­ing, if you try it, you will find it is plea­sur­able in and of itself. I am not say­ing it is nec­es­sar­i­ly fun but it cer­tain­ly is an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence, with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly requir­ing instru­men­tal out­comes. This is why when we launched the app at Media­mat­ic we decid­ed to do a stand-in last­ing half an hour and invit­ed a Sal­vador Breed to play a set of music to stand to.

'Africa? There's an app for that' at Wired.co.uk

We are also ‘play­ing with’ the fact that apps are used by com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments as tools for per­sua­sion and con­trol. We are appro­pri­at­ing the con­cept of the app, and also pok­ing fun at the fal­la­cy that all world prob­lems can be solved with apps.

Standing for peace

And Stand­ing is open-end­ed. It invites peo­ple to play­ful­ly express them­selves. We see this in the vari­ety of caus­es peo­ple stand for. They range from the per­son­al to the glob­al and the seri­ous…

Standing for kabeltruien (cable sweaters)

… to the friv­o­lous.

So Stand­ing is an app for play­ful activism. It offers a play­ful alter­na­tive to old and new cat­e­gories of civic action. It play­ful­ly offers a plea­sur­able expe­ri­ence. It play­ful­ly gives rise to per­for­mances. It play­ful­ly pokes fun at ‘there is an app for that’. And it lets peo­ple play­ful­ly express them­selves. We start­ed it our­selves because we want­ed to have an exam­ple of this kind of prod­uct, and as an exper­i­ment.

Digital Transformation, Playful Design, and Activism

Why should you care? Because we at Hub­bub think that NGOs will need to start shift­ing from think­ing in terms of cam­paigns, to think­ing in prod­ucts. Let me explain.

‘Dig­i­tal’ is trans­form­ing all aspects of soci­ety, and also organ­i­sa­tions. Organ­i­sa­tions will either become dig­i­tal, or be replaced with ones that are.

Pow­er with­in dig­i­tal organ­i­sa­tions will nat­u­ral­ly shift from mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions to ser­vices and prod­ucts.

Why is this? Because dig­i­tal enables direct inter­ac­tion with your audi­ence or users or the pub­lic. It is dig­i­tal prod­ucts and ser­vices that this inter­ac­tion is medi­at­ed by. Also, the dig­i­tal prod­ucts peo­ple use every­day con­di­tion their expec­ta­tion of inter­act­ing with your organ­i­sa­tion.

Thunderclap

So in the case of NGOs we think it makes a lot of sense to invent prod­ucts that enable peo­ple to work with you towards com­mon goals.

And we think at least some of these prod­ucts should be play­ful, like Stand­ing.

'Stapler in the Jelly', The Office

Because to play is to be human, engaged with the world. It is the way in which peo­ple explore the free move­ment with­in more rigid sys­tems. As with pranks in the office, it is a way to appro­pri­ate a con­text and in the process bring free­dom to it. To make it per­son­al.

Provos carrying blank banner

Play­ful activism has always done this. To play­ful­ly sub­vert the rules of soci­ety.

Sit-in organized at a Nashville lunch counter in 1960

And in some cas­es, it has been a pow­er­ful force for change.

But even in the cas­es in which it has not brought sweep­ing change, each and every act of play has always had mean­ing on a per­son­al lev­el. And for me, that is already a lot.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2015 at 15:56 | Permalink

    Nice read, wish I could have attend­ed. I see it as a mod­ern day con­tri­bu­tion to the ‘reclaim the streets’ move­ment. I’m always inter­est­ed in mechan­ics that enable audi­ences to kind of; Stop. Look, Lis­ten. I’m glad it can just be this sim­ple. PS I know you know, but still wish I could Stand on Android…

  2. Kars
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 10:01 | Permalink

    Thanks for leav­ing a com­ment, Syl. I too like projects that encour­age mind­ful­ness.