One thing we keep coming back to in this process is how to capture the experience of many different stakeholders in a representation of a system. The risk of making a game about any real life system is that it is impossible to capture all experiences of every person in it. As a result there will likely be people who play the game who find that it upsets their understanding of how Flaten works, or believe it misrepresents the area that they know so well. One of the things we are looking to do with this game is to try and engage people who already have a personal perspective of Flaten. For these people we don’t want to interrupt their perspective of it necessarily. We want to allow for their relationship with the area to be able to sit within the game. But we also want to find a way to include those who have never set foot in Flaten to make them feel like they have some experience of the place and be able to form their own connection to it somehow.
In an system like Flaten there are so many stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who has interest of concern in something. Stakeholders range from the people who walk their dogs in the area, those who camp there for extended periods of time, to those who have governance over the area but may never visit it. One of the instigations Miljöverkstan has been to ask ‘Who has a right to Flaten?’. This poses further questions about the weight of voices of different groups in the area and who is most considered in decisions for the area.
One of the ways systems co modelling is used by systems modellers is by gathering all the stakeholders of a system together and facilitating a mediation between these groups. This can sometimes lead to an awareness among stakeholders of their role in the system and the cause and effect of their interactions with it. This creates a more holistic view of the system in which they operate.
No one engages with an environment on a daily basis and thinks constantly about it as a complex system as well (Systems scientists possibly are the exception to this). We all get annoyed at train delays, or a traffic jam. But we also might experience joy at seeing a plant we’ve been watering bloom or get pleasure from feeling refreshed after having an early night. All of these are small examples of experiencing a system from a personal perspective. For me, one of the beautiful things about engaging with individual stakeholders means getting to see a system from the personal perspective many times over.
Personal reflections relate our emotional connection to a system. Sometimes this is of annoyance and irritation, but it’s also where we express our love and nostalgia for a place or process. It’s from this perspective we can express what is special to us about an environment be it a place of wonderful or bittersweet memories, or just a place where we had a moments peace and magic such as a sunset over a lake quietly experienced during an evening walk, or a small creature witnessed going about their daily rituals. These little moments characterise a system to us. They make it part of us and something we care for. We might have different ways of how we think we should care for it – but we each have some interest in what happens there. They are also the reason that systems co-modelling is hard. If we didn’t have this relationship to systems then we wouldn’t be stakeholders.
When we think about planning for the development, maintenance or conservation of an area we often think about the big picture, about long and short term consequences, about finances, what we can do and for how long, and who this will upset. First person and personal accounts are often not taken as being very valuable. They are sentimental, subjective accounts of people who live in and care about a system. These accounts are given more or less respect according to how many of them say the same thing and how much power the groups complaining or pushing for something hold (aka how much money/political sway each group holds). A group of eight year old children have much less sway when it comes to discussing new developments in their area even though they may be the exact people it effects the most. These first person accounts are discarded or disregarded, mostly because they cannot be quantified in reports and research. And so those with the least presence in society get the least voice in how we develop systems that they have to use.
How do we create a language of value around different stakeholders personal engagements with Flaten, while also creating a wider reflection of the complex system (which might contradict some of them)?
In a show about the system of Flaten how can we consider all the voices of those who use the system as equally as possible?
How can we create a personal experience of Flaten for an audience who have never been there while also engaging those who have a deep personal connection with the area?