What if the people who design and build our technological future included members of radically diverse groups, instead of the comparatively like-minded research scientists and product designers who typically drive the work in these fields? What new directions might we open up, and what kinds of beneficial use cases might we discover? The Digital Future Lab (DFL) at the University of Washington Bothell approaches creative and speculative projects from a radically diverse team perspective, where radical means expanding our common notions of diversity to include neurodiversity and other kinds of differences. Our teams aren't just diverse, they're radically diverse.
The below video includes gameplay footage from our original interactive game Corrupted. The experience was initially designed in the service of a National Science Foundation grant to develop simple game-based teaching materials to support introductory programming classes, but we discovered that as we added more diversity to the team — pushing beyond what conventional wisdom would consider practical limitations — the creative process took remarkably unexpected turns, and the game began to feel like something unique and compelling. Also unexpected was the level of quality our largely undergraduate team was able to reach: Corrupted meets or exceeds audio, visual, and gameplay production standards for similar retail titles, and succeeded in securing investment funding to explore a full commercial release.
The DFL is a unique environment — we’re a design slam, mixing research, social justice, performance, speculative design, commercial game development, gender studies, art history and any other discipline we can include to make objects with meaning, both physical and virtual. We seek to demonstrate how radically diverse teams are both capable of achieving novel insights and, contrary to conventional wisdom, how they can also become exceptionally productive and efficient.
DFL has 50 (and growing) participating students, staff and faculty from virtually every background and circumstance (UW Bothell is the most diverse campus in the state), and we’re currently working on projects spanning speculative interface design, prison reform, sex trafficking awareness and advocacy, bullying interventions and education, game-based education, gender and sexuality, grassroots community activism, installation art, entertainment game development and transmedia narratives.