Thanks to everyone who participated in Rootbeans: What’s important?  game at University of Brighton as part of Brighton Science Festival. The amount of interest and willing participation (no bribery needed stragely!) was amazing. Our initial players were the event organisers and staff who got straight into writing their important things on beans. We promised to give them back a new set of random 10 beans at the end in their own bags and this proved a popular approach- giving a bit of data back.

The event was attended by scientists, researchers and the general public. Many people passed by and curiosity overcame many. It wasn’t hard to explain the general idea and we found that people would explain quite comfortably to each other.

On approaching one promotional table set up in the canteen, I found myself whisked into a debating room by enthusiastic Brighton Uni Professor Jackie Cassel who was exploring big data and how the medical profession needed to rethink it’s approach and strategy to data collection practices to include more anonymous data from people. It was an impromptu moment and I presented the idea to a smiling crowd who quickly wrote a few beans each for our little data set of things that were important to them. Thanks Jackie for that! after the event we talked and planned how we might collaborate to use a game like Rootbeans to faciliate user engagement for her work in the field of epidemiology.

Writing the beans itself was an interesting and engaging experience for many. A couple of friends who hadn’t met for many months said of the exercise

“We are so busy normally just getting on with life that we don’t really stop and think about what’s important. Each bean that we create together is a chance to have a discussion about it”

Playing the game – drawing the lines was another stage. It was a little trickier to explain especially about rolling the dice and what the choice and chance lines represented, but after drawing a couple of lines, people generally got it – and were quite pleased to tell each other what it meant. They liked the idea of leaving a mark and some felt the responsibility was too much at first – but then got down on the floor and drew the lines, some more wobbly and full of character than others.

Our best players by a long shot were 13 year old Ewan and his mum- and if you’re reading this please get in touch as I’ve lost your contact info :-( This lovely mother and son team were amazing to be with and to watch – so enthusiastic about taking part, drawing the lines, discussing the random meanings. Particularly poignant was a random line they felt simply couldn’t be ignored: to connect Science to Children. This challenge brought all of us together to trace a complex and long winding path from one bean to the other through the tightest spaces. Tanya created a breadcrumb of beans along the path so that Ewan could find his way with a think blue biro. At the end he was very pleased with himself.

Towards the end of the game things got tricky. We dreaded a random roll. Getting a five or a six was a tense moment and we quickly started to think of ways to ‘deviate from the norm’ and came up with a rule that would allow anyone else with a dice in hand to ‘help’ the person with by rolling the dice and hoping they too didn’t get a five or six. If they could choose a line – we encouraged them to choose one that would get the player out of a tight fix – connecting the random bean so that effectively they would have to choose another one which would hopefully be better suited. It’s possible that this slightly dodgy feeling practice might have the germ of corruption in it’s function but we felt it was necessary to avoid ‘destroying’ beans by not being able to connect them. At the very end however circumstance did destroy a few.



Whats important? Rootbeans 1st March 2014

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