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Hey friends,

When I went bankrupt in my early twenties (long story), one of the important ways I coped was to spend the following year writing and self-publishing a book.

(One of the other important ways I coped was to spend weeks lying on the couch eating ice cream and watching back-to-back episodes of House MD.)

I had never written a book before and didn't really know how to go about it, but I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and pretty much zero energy to deal with the outside world, so it turned out to be a good therapy project.

Into the book I poured everything I had learned about teaching people how to understand computers and have a better relationship with technology.

It was a way for me to create something meaningful out of a difficult experience, and to honour and acknowledge an important period in my life before moving onto the next chapter.

Transcend and include, as they say.

That was 15 years ago. You can still find the book on Amazon, though I've long since lost the account to collect any royalties so don't worry about buying it or anything – there's a free PDF here if you want it.

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is because I've recently completed another therapy project that I want to share with you.

As many of you will know, I said a firm farewell to the world of academia last year after being immersed in it for the last... well... 15 years (another long story).

A deep love of education runs through my veins, and while I experienced incredible personal and professional growth during my time in and around academic institutions, it was never a healthy or safe environment for me to be around, for a variety of reasons.

I have complicated feelings about this time in my life, and as I move more fully into the next chapter, I wanted a way to honour and acknowledge that period of my life, while creating something meaningful that is also of benefit to others.

So I made a game about it.

It's set inside the fictional Republic of Administravia, and combines Douglas Adams-inspired writing and characters with an authentic experience of navigating Kafkaesque bureaucracy.

I had never made a game before and didn't really know how to go about it, but after grokking the world of game development for a while, I eventually teamed up with a game designer and interactive fiction writer to bring my concept to life as a playable experience.

I specifically wanted to find out whether I could find a way to realistically simulate the dehumanising effects of bureaucratic systems in a way that's relatable, revealing, and most of all... fun.

Into the game I have poured everything I've learned about navigating the ethical, interpersonal, and political dynamics of large and complex organisations, and my reflections on what it means to survive and keep the system happy without losing your soul.

It's called Deferred Action.

If you are a caring person who knows what it's like to toil away inside an uncaring system, this game is my gift to you. May my therapy project make you laugh, and help you feel seen.

You can play it free in your browser here. It takes about an hour, and you get mailed a little certificate for completing it.

If you do try it out, please drop me a note to let me know how you found the experience and what it stirs up for you ([email protected]). I'd love to hear from you.

Grok on!
- Danu

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From the Grokkist Press

Articles, videos, podcasts and other creations

Explore the Grokkist Press ↗

Deferred Action: a frustratingly fun interactive adventure in navigating bureaucracy

by Danu Poyner

Welcome to the Republic of Administravia!

Step into the role of project leader for the Republic of Administravia's ambitious new public works initiative!

You've got unanimous support and unlimited resources, but can you navigate the twists and turns of Administravia's bureaucratic labyrinth to make it happen?

As bureaucratic hurdles mount, will you build a monument that embodies the national spirit—or will the process transform you instead?

Play the Game ↗

The music of politics

by Danu Poyner (25 min read)

How fresh political arrangements can help us conduct democracy in a way that values and voices harmony amid inevitable discord.

Part 4 of my After the End of History essay series which delves into the crisis of authority and legitimacy facing liberal democracy. [Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3].

Explore the Full Story ↗

From the Grokkist Network

Events and updates from our community

Learn more about the Grokkist Network ↗
Access/Pricing guide for our events
🟢 Free and open to all
🟠 Open to all with suggested cover charge. Free for Full Members.
🟣 Exclusive to Full Members only (Grokling, Indie Grokker, Groksmith)
We are a global community – dates/times for featured events below are shown in the host's timezone. For all other dates, add +1 day for Aus/NZ.

Education & Technology | Themed Café

🗓️ Thur 4 Jul | 7–9am BST (UTC+6) (view in your timezone)
Hosted by Richard Bennet Morales
🟢 Free and open to all.

I invite you to join the conversation on the dualities and ambiguities of our relationships with our devices.

How can we be so intimate with our devices but desire autonomy and separation? Are our devices digital prosthetics, an extension of ourselves? Do you have any strategies or ideas on how to move away from digital dependency? Are you just curious to hear about other people’s perspectives on the topic?

Come and share a moment of human communion where, ironically enough, we will depend on technology!

Event Details and RSVP ↗

"What is money to you?": let's talk money relationships | Themed Café

🗓️ Wed 10 Jul | 7–9pm BST (UTC+1) (view in your timezone)
Hosted by Margarita Steinberg
🟢 Free and open to all.

What is money all about? Beyond the technicalities of how money is supposed to operate in the world, there is the hidden-in-plain-sight reality of the role/s money plays in people's lives.

For most of us there are few places where we can talk about our personal and emotional experiences with money both frankly and tenderly. And to go further than being able to name and air our history with money and the views we’ve formed and absorbed – to dare to step into the place of possibility and to give airtime to our hopes and dreams involving money.

Event Details and RSVP ↗

Other Upcoming Events

For an up-to-date list of all our public events shown in your timezone, bookmark the Events and Meetups space on the Grokkist Network.

🍬 Snackables

#1 - What makes games fun?

Fun isn't something you can just add to an experience – dipping broccoli in chocolate doesn't make it dessert. Fun is an inherent part of how we relate to certain situations. To find the fun and play in everyday situations, we may need to take everyday practices more seriously, not less. An engaging and philosophical 10-minute talk on the nature of play by game designer Ian Bogost, whose book Persuasive Games had a huge influence on my approach to making my Deferred Action game. The talk is 10 years old now so update the pop-culture references accordingly, but the substance still stands.

#2 - Research as a leisure activity

research as leisure activity
my favorite form of entertainment is downloading PDFs ✦ plus favorite Fluxus artists and early programs

Research is usually defined as systematic investigation to produce original knowledge, and is "conventionally understood as occurring within academia—and potentially in government or corporate research labs, think tanks, and similar institutions ... But the phrase “research as leisure activity” suggests, for me, a form of research that is explicitly not isolated to traditional institutions."

A thoughtful reflection on the difference between big-R Research, and research as play. The latter is "directed by passions and instincts", is "exuberantly undisciplined or antidisciplinary", and "involves as much rigor as necessary." It's also open to "anyone with a serious commitment to intellectual inquiry." In other words, this is research for grokkists.

#3 - "Every one of us is a zoo": the human body is made up of a consortium of micro-communities and ecosystems

Being Human | Atmos
The human body is made up of a consortium of micro-communities and ecosystems, harboring entire worlds beneath our skin.

A beautiful introduction to the idea of deep ecology, which is a major theme covered in our Ecosophy course. "You are akin to a planet. Within your body are different climates that give rise to different types of ecosystems. Within these different environments live varying types of species that altogether make up your microbiome. The swampy atmosphere of your armpits and feet play host to an entirely different cadre of life than the caverns of your gut and the cold tundras of your hands. But even between similar habitats, there is diversity to be found; for example, the palm of your right hand shares only a sixth of the same microbial species as that of your left hand."

#4 - A baffling list of occupations from the 1881 UK census

...Peas maker, Piano puncher, Ponty sucker, Ransacker...
The (Oddest) Occupations of the English People in 1881

In the mid-1800s, the UK government for the first time started including people's occupations as part of the census. "Unsurprisingly, some job titles, when written down without context and presented to an outsider, sound completely ridiculous." Some especially intriguing examples: bat printer, butt woman, cullet picker, maiden maker, piano puncher, thurler, and tingle maker.

#5 - "Let's go somewhere where there's cheese" – a love letter to Wallace and Gromit

Somewhere There’s Cheese | A Grand Day Out (1989)
This is what makes Wallace and Gromit’s take on space travel so revolutionary: to go to the moon, outer space, a place of infinite interest and possibilities, with the simplest goal in mind: to eat some cheese.

A love letter to the original Wallace and Gromit film, A Grand Day Out. "In contrast to all of our digital fare, their world was texturally intoxicating. We swiftly adopted the duo’s language: small gestures, eyerolls, Wallace’s precise way of saying “cheese,” the way he speaks the word with his whole being, like the high whizz of an untied balloon."

The author also offers a melancholic lament for the loss of imagination, adventure, and mystery. "When Wallace suggests they go where there’s cheese, it’s a code for something wonderful. Let’s go on an adventure, but let’s never stray too far from home, from what we love." In contrast with a cartoon moon made of cheese, the money-fuelled realities of private space travel, such as when Jeff Bezos took William Shatner into space with Blue Orbit and Shatner went off-script in his interview back on Earth, offer a sobering comparison: “There was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death. I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness, it was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth.” 

A pair of parting thoughts...

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” – Clay Shirky

"If you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was." – Terry Eagleton

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