A research & intervention project about conspiracy fantasies in a gamified capitalist world
CONSPIRACY GAMES AND COUNTER GAMES is an interview-driven podcast launched in June of 2021.
We explore the rise of conspiracies, conspiracy theories and conspiratorial thinking in a gamified capitalist world.
Conspiracy Games and Countergames is the second season of The Order of Unmanageable Risks.
You can listen to the first season, which focused on capitalism and anxiety, here.
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An eclectic conversation with Aleena Chia about the labour of fans, the joys of rabbit-holing, con/spirituality communities and the importance of democratic engagement.
Aleena Chia is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and incoming Lecturer of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She researches cultures of creativity such as automation in digital game production, lucid dreaming in Consciousness Hacking communities of practice, and wellness ideologies in social media disconnection. She is co-author of TechnoPharmacology (University of Minnesota Press/ Meson Press, forthcoming) and has published in journals such as the Journal of Fandom Studies and Television and New Media.
A feminist care conspiracy? An artwork transmogrified into a world-wide secret society? A free anti-capitalist social technology? A revolutionary pyramid scheme?
Cassie Thornton shares The Hologram project: a feminist, peer-to-peer social technology for collective health and rebellion.
Cassie Thornton is an artist and activist who makes a “safe space” for the unknown, for disobedience, and for unanticipated collectivity. She uses social practices including institutional critique, insurgent architecture, and “healing modalities” like hypnosis and yoga to find soft spots in the hard surfaces of capitalist life. Cassie has invented a grassroots alternative credit reporting service for the survivors of gentrification, has hypnotized hedge fund managers, has finger-painted with the grime found inside banks, has donated cursed paintings to profiteering bankers, and has taught feminist economics to yogis (and vice versa). Her book, The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future, is available from Pluto Press. She is currently the co-director of RiVAL: Re-Imagining Value Action Lab in Thunder Bay, an art and social centre at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada.
A wide-ranging conversation with acclaimed and bestselling author, essayist and podcaster Hari Kunzru centring on his 2020 novel Red Pill.
Born in London, Hari Kunzru is the author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission, My Revolutions, Gods Without Men, and White Tears, as well as a short story collection, Noise and a novella, Memory Palace. His new novel Red Pill was published in September 2020. He is an honorary fellow of Wadham College Oxford, and has received fellowships from the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy in Berlin. He is the host of the podcast Into The Zone. He also occasionally writes for Harper’s, recently about conspiracy theories. He lives in New York City.
We are caught between two wars of restoration: the far-right, seeking to return us to a fabled past and a liberal capitalist “centre” demanding more business as usual. Between these two, dark new “conspiracy theories” breed, especially among men, which reinforce the worst of patriarchy, with deadly effect…
Jack Bratich is professor of Journalism and Media Studies at the Rutgers School of Communications and Information. His research focuses on themes including the interface of political culture and popular culture, conspiracy panics, surveillance, journalism, activism, and the production of truth. He is author of Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture (2008).
with El Jones
How have governments and other powerful forces conspired against Black people in “North America” since the colonial invasion? How are fears about conspiracy theorizies displaced onto Black and racialized people? How do we separate the real conspiratorial functions of power from dangerous conspiracy fantasies?
El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor and abolitionist activist living in K’jipuktuk (Halifax, Canada). She is a two-time Canadian national spoken word champion and served as Halifax’s poet laureate from 2013-15. She is author of Live From the Afrikan Resistance.
Board games for social movements
We speak to Brian van Slyke of the TESA Collective about how board games have become an important part of the social movement ecosystem and what it takes to design a game that contributes to today’s struggles for racial, social and economic justice.
The TESA Collective is a 10-year old worker cooperative that designs and manufactures games for social movements. Their most recent game, “STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion,” builds on a long legacy including “Space Cats Fight Fascism”, “Rise Up: The Game of People & Power”, and “Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives.” Brian Van Slyke is a co-founder, lead designer and head of games for the collective.
Conspiracism as Dangerous Play
with Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, A.T. Kingsmith and Max Haiven
Is it wise to approach today’s rise in conspiracy fantasies as a form of dangerous play? The Conspiracy Games and Countergames team (Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, A.T. Kingsmith and Max Haiven) kick off the inaugural session of RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab’s 2021 Summer Institute. They discuss anxiety, financialization and the game they’re working on: DEEP STATE.
Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou is Associate Professor of Sociology at University College London, where he leads the Sociology and Social Theory Research Group. He is the author of Speculative Communities: Living with Uncertainty in a Financialized World (University of Chicago Press, 2021). His current book project, tentatively titled Winning in the Real Fake, is an intellectual history of conspiracy in finance capitalism.
A.T. Kingsmith is PhD Candidate in the Department of Politics at York University and Co-founder of EiQ Technologies, an emotion-AI start-up based out of the Design Fabrication Zone in the Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University. His forthcoming monograph, Anxiety as a Weapon: An Affective Approach to Political Economy, explores new modes for transforming the mental health landscape.
Max Haiven is Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice and co-director of the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL) at Lakehead University. His recent books include Revenge Capitalism: The Ghosts of Empire, the Demons of Capital, and the Settling of Unpayable Debts and Art After Money, Money After Art: Creative Strategies Against Financialization.
Transformative Gaming & the Lessons of Play
Rebecca Rouse joins us to discuss the use and misuse of empathy in games and the ways games and gaming can be profound platforms for individual and social transformation.
Rebecca Rouse, PhD is a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Game Development at the University of Skövde, Sweden. Rouse’s research focuses on both the history and practice of storytelling with new technologies. Rouse creates projects for museums, heritage sites, interactive installation, movable books, and theatrical performance, all with the thread of investigating and inventing new modes of storytelling, as well as accompanying historical research into connections of today’s emerging media with technologies of the past.
Neoliberal Feelings Don't Care about Your Facts
Writer an activist Marcus Gilroy-Ware explores how conspiratorial thinking thrives in a digital neoliberal world where truth is sold to the highest bidder and where alienation is rampant.
Marcus Gilroy-Ware is a writer and scholar-activist who is focused on understanding how people learn about the world they live in through media. His work draws connections between a variety of fields, from political economy, to psychology, to journalism studies, to theorise the status of information in the late-capitalist public sphere. He is senior lecturer in digital media at UWE Bristol and author of Filling the Void: Emotion, Capitalism and Social Media (2017) and After the Fact: The Truth about Fake News (2020)
The Muslims are (Still) Coming! & Other Fantasies
Writer and activist Arun Kundnani helps us unpack over two decades of Islamophobic conspiracy fantasies of the War on Terror and think about radical responses to a world of neoliberal warlordism.
Arun Kundnani writes about racial capitalism and Islamophobia, surveillance and political violence, and Black radical movements. He is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror (Verso, 2014) and The End of Tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain (Pluto, 2007), which was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He has written for the Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Vice, and The Intercept.
Vulnerable Games and Queer Controllers
Game designer, writer and researcher Jess Rowan Marcotte joins us to discuss the importance of community, connection and queerness in game design.
Jess Rowan Marcotte (they/them) is a queer mixed white-passing Mi’kmaw game designer, writer, maker and Doctor of Philosophy (Critical Interaction Design, Individualized Program). Their work focuses on interactive experiences of all sorts. They are the lead co-organizer of the Queerness and Games Conference (QGCon) and one-third of Soft Chaos, a worker’s co-op that designs intimate, vulnerable interactive experiences. Their most recent solo work includes TRACES, a hybrid game about trans experiences and time travel, and UNLOCK. UNPACK., exploring carry-on suitcases, puzzles, and written messages as tools for creating intimacy between strangers who may never meet face to face.
Episodes 01 and 02
The Q in Qonspiracy
Narrative, Games and Other Conspiracies
In the first of our two-part interview, Wu Ming collective member 1 discusses his new book La Q di Qomplotto (The Q in Qonspiracy: How Conspiracy Fantasies Defend the System).
In the conclusion of our two-part interview, Wu Ming 1 discusses the power of narrative and games in driving conspiracy fantasies and the forms of activism that have risen to confront a system that gives rise to them.
Wu Ming 1 is an original and ongoing member of the Wu Ming collective, which was founded in Bologna in 2000 and has, since that time, published several collaboratively written novels including 54, Manituana, Altai, The Army of Sleepwalkers, and The Invisible Everywhere, which have been translated into many languages.
Wu Ming evolved out of the experimental collective project Luther Blisset whose famous 1999 novel Q focused on conspiracies of liberation and of repression during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
More recently, that novel and the Wu Ming Collective have been the subject of a great deal of speculation around the rise of the QAnon conspiracy fantasy. Regarding that, Wu Ming 1 has just published a book in Italian, La Q di Qomplotto (The Q in Qonspiracy: How Conspiracy Fantasies Defend the System), which presents a highly original and important analysis of the genesis and dangers of this strange hallucination.
This is a research and intervention project about the role of conspiratorial thinking in a gamified era of digital capitalism.
Led by Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, A. T. Kingsmith and Max Haiven, its activities include producing a podcast, organizing events (seminars, talks, conferences), sustaining a network of researchers, journalists, activists and game designers, developing and studying (counter)games and acts as a platform for text and media publishing.
Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice
A. T. Kingsmith
Political economist, emotion-AI and mental health researcher
Political sociologist at University College London
Ongoing and upcoming
We are in the process of developing a global network of scholars, journalists, artists, game designer and other interested people wishing to discuss the connection between conspiratorialism, gamification and capitalism. If you are interested, please get in touch at inquiries [at] conspiracy.games
The project team is working on an interactive board game tentatively titled DEEP STATE to help players explore the lure of conspiracy fantasy. If you are interested in the game, or want to help us playtest it, please contact us at deepstate [at] conspiracy.games