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Saturday, June 10 • 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Collective world-building workshop: Dis/embodied audio-visual collage

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Collective world-building workshop: Dis/embodied audio-visual collage
Workshop Activity
In this workshop, participants will work together to produce an interactive, virtual 3D environment composed of photographic fragments, drawn sketches, audio recordings and phone-based 3D scans of participants' immediate shared, embodied surroundings. Over the course of the workshop, participants will use their phones to capture audio, 2D and 3D scan-based source material and work together to compose this material into a 3D scene using the Unity game engine and the Community Game Development Toolkit (see below). Participants will take a collage-based approach, composing a collection of audio-visual traces of participants bodies, clothing, belongings, and the shared, physical surroundings into a visually abstract scene that presents a hybrid embodied / disembodied experience of collective social, cultural and physical space.
Participants will then explore the resulting environment, charting a network of chance encounters with these artifacts, and a path of social and material connectivity. Each play-through of the scene will yield a unique journey through this collaboratively produced collage, representing a unique, virtual composition of participants’ physical, social and cultural togetherness.
The Community Game Development Toolkit
The Community Game Development Toolkit is a set of tools that make it easy and fun for students, artists, researchers and community members to create their own visually rich, interactive 3D environments and story-based games without the use of coding or other specialized game-design skills. Building on the popular 3D game design engine Unity, the toolkit provides intuitive tools for diverse communities to represent their own traditions, rituals and heritages through interactive, visual storytelling.
In order to quickly create vibrant, visually rich scenes without the use of 3D modeling, the toolkit draws on creators’ own photos, collages, drawings, sound recordings and 3D scans to create objects and textures in 3D space. This technique allows creators to bring their own visual references and sensibility into the game environment and makes creative experimentation rewarding and fun for creators who may have no prior experience in 3D modeling or even visual art. The toolkit also provides a set of game components that make it easy to add many types of interactivity to games without the use of code including mechanisms for moving between scenes to create interactive visual narrative, simple non-player characters and interactive text.
Community Game Development Toolkit development
The Community Game Development Toolkit is supported by an NSF REU at the Visualization and Virtual Reality Lab at Hunter College, CUNY in 2022-23. Previously, the toolkit was developed with the support of the Motion Computing / SloMoCo microresidency in 2021. The toolkit has been presented in collaborative workshops and presentations including SLSA, idMAa and Ammerman Center Biennial Symposium on Art and Technology (2021-22); a paper documenting its development will be presented and published at the Virtual Reality Science and Technology conference (2022). The toolkit is used by artists including Teresa Braun and Ayodamola Okunseinde [1], and is taught at colleges and universities including Baruch College, CUNY; City Tech, CUNY; Parsons, The New School and Winona State University.
At HASTAC 2023, the workshop will place a new emphasis on using collage in 3D space for exploring embodied and disembodied forms of social and cultural connectedness. This will also be the first time the workshop explores do-it-yourself 3D scanning using phones and tablets as a means for creating art assets for the collectively composed scene..
Further information about the toolkit can be found at https://www.daniellichtman.com/toolkit/
Related game design tools and software
A number of other platforms, apps and frameworks also aim to make game design accessible. One such example, designed at Yale University, is the Verb Collective [2], a framework for Unity that encourages users to explore “the material properties of the worlds they create” and the fundamental elements of interactivity by introducing a repertoire of verbs, or actions, that can trigger other actions within a scene. PlayMaker [3], by HutongGames, introduces a high-level visual scripting interface for creating fully developed games in Unity. TiltBrush [4], by Google, allows users to produce graphical 3D paintings in VR space. The Community Game Development Toolkit is unique among these projects in its focus on intuitive visual collage-based scene composition, and its focus on supporting diverse communities to explore 3D interactive world-building as a tool for exploring their own heritages, histories and rituals.
Connections to Social Justice and Critical Making
Many games do important work in addressing issues of social justice through game play. For example, Momo Pixel’s excellent game, Hair Nah, addresses racism by allowing the player to perform the role of a black woman who is tired of people touching her hair without her consent; game-play consists of swatting away the hands of characters who try to encroach upon her personal space. As a complement to the value of critically-engaged play, the Community Game Development Toolkit focuses on the process of intuitive, playful making and emergent visual narrative as a site for addressing causes of social justice.
Student use of the toolkit provides examples of the emergence of stories – a process of critical making – that abstractly, but compellingly address causes of social justice. In one example, a Chinese student reflected on her personal experience as an immigrant in the United States. Through an open-ended process of collaging, she used the toolkit to create an abstract scene of a park that she used to visit in her hometown in China that has since been abandoned. Through the process of making, the student playfully re-created a lost-memory and lost-space, a central component to many immigrant experiences. Another student used collage to recreate a few blocks of his neighborhood in The Bronx, New York, imaginatively exploring the visual, architectural and social elements of the scene on the streets surrounding his home. Through a process of critical making, the student explored how people relate to each other, to buildings, and to the public sphere of the street. Both cases illustrate the potential of the toolkit to address causes related to social justice, not just through play, but through an open-ended process of making, and a visual exploration of personal and collective experience.
[1] https://practicegallery.org/meta-eternity/
[2] https://yalemaquette.com/The-Verb-Collective, https://github.com/yale-ccam/verb-collective, https://ccam.yale.edu/projects/blended-reality-0
[3] https://hutonggames.com/
[4] https://www.tiltbrush.com/


Daniel Lichtman

Visiting Assistant Professor, Stockton University

Saturday June 10, 2023 1:30pm - 3:00pm EDT