Bateman’s Vegas and a news-stand in Euston Station

Yesterday we started chewing through the modelling phase of this project. We’ve been busy making games with a systems flavour, but it’s safe to say that none of them would qualify as modelling in a scientific sense (except for Nathan and my systems model of an 8-year old’s birthday party). So today we took Brian Walker and David Salt’s Resilience Practice and began applying the tools of resilience thinking to two settings.

Firstly, we created a systems description of a news-stand in Euston Station. This was intended to be a throwaway exercise, but we made sure to go through all the steps, mapping the focal system (a concession stand selling newspapers, confectionary, cigarettes and lottery tickets) and the surrounding systems at the scales above and below. The result was a pile of sheets of paper with diagrams, flow charts and timelines on it. Our conclusion: It Is Hard To Run A News-Stand In Euston Station.

As trivial as that sounds, the truth is that we spent four hours analysing a news stand from a variety of perspectives. We role-played a variety of customers to get a sense of the time that transactions take. We explored potential disturbances to the system from the small (a staff member leaves) to the massive (a bombing on the Underground) and finally we developed an interesting and logically consistent picture of the running of a fictional news-stand.

Today was the next step in that process, and the first major venture we have undertaken towards our final goal as a group. We took one of our four favoured potential settings for the final show – a beach resort – and began to run it through a systems analysis.

The town of Bateman’s Vegas is a small but bustling seaside resort town in which the locals have set up a range of hotels and small businesses to cater to the large but fluctuating tourist market. The tourists are drawn to the beach by the great waves, beautiful sand and thriving wildlife. All of these elements, however, are dependent on the behaviour and impact of the system as a whole. Over a number of hours we got to grips with Bateman’s Vegas from all number of perspectives, going deeper and further in every respect than with our news-stand model. At last, we divided the system up into a small network of interacting sub-systems, each of which contains a key threshold.

The next step is a major one in this process – we have each taken one of the sub-systems and we are going to construct an interactive game around it, as well as a storytelling device. Over the next 2-3 days we are going to develop these games and link them together into a whole picture. Lastly, we will introduce a series of disturbances and see how Bateman’s Vegas responds to them. What happens when a massive storm surge hits the beach? What happens when an entrepeneur decides to hold a massive festival on the beach without consulting the locals? What happens if a colony of penguins decide to start nesting in the rocks?

If you’re curious about the answer to any of these questions, come to our showing at 5pm Wednesday 17 October, in the Pearson Building of University College London on Gower Street.

– David F


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