Foldit: First Contact (2022)

Foldit: First Contact is a narrative-enhanced version of the citizen science game Foldit. Wrapping an original science fiction narrative around the Foldit tutorial levels, this project experiments with emergent meanings at the intersection of gameplay mechanics and a fictive storyworld. The narrative campaign mode publicly debuted as an experimental feature in the May 2022 update of Foldit (build ID 20220510-28efe43995). The narrative campaign mode aspires to cultivate certain structures of feeling, encouraging players to engage in critical self-reflection about science, technology, and civic values.

Play the Knave (2013–)

This project uses our Mekanimator platform to enhance understanding of Shakespeare in performance. Play the Knave is a Kinect-enabled game for Windows that offers players an immersive, embodied experience of staging Shakespeare. We believe that interactive, gamified engagement with theatrical production not only stimulates audience interest but also helps spectators build the competencies required for theatergoing. The game is designed for theater installations, K-12 education, and literary entertainment. Play the Knave was launched to the public on Feb. 2, 2020. A new VR version of the game is currently in development.

Mekanimator (2013–2020)

harrymeKanimatorck-e1395793009769 Mekanimator is a framework that makes animating digital characters easy. It runs a Windows-based web server to expose information gathered and processed by the Microsoft Kinect. Because client programs are written in Unity, the data can be accessed on any supported development platform. Character motion and audio can be mapped onto 3D models for use in various applications, including low-cost motion capture for games, theatrical karaoke, and live remote avatar control.

Sivad (2019–2020)

Sivad is a live-action role-playing game (larp) set in a solarpunk universe that playfully re-articulates concepts from physics and chemistry. This is a “code-based” campaign boffer larp with aggregate code- and content-generation, offering participants the opportunity to practice RPG rulesmithing, worldbuilding, and basic larpwrighting techniques while gaining fluency in the game’s STEM-saturated codebase. Sivad’s developers include Samara Hayley Steele, Katherine Buse, Iris Xie, Kaylani Juanita, Slater Kenney, Alisha Chan, Evelyn Chan, Zoe Fochs, Nathan Green, and Colin Milburn.

Ugly Robot Studios (2020–)

Based out of the ModLab, Ugly Robot Studios brings together larpwrights, performers, designers, and worldbuilders in the development and launch of larp productions that span a variety of larp styles, structures, and forms.

Realitycraft (2019)

Realitycraft (2019) is an analog game by Samara Hayley Steele that breaks down and explores the creation of intradiegetic objects, applying the theories of Gérard Genette to codic role-playing games (RPGs). This piece also highlights the way codic RPGs may offer a material intervention into the normalization of reified law, economy, gender, race, and other diegetic systems that, at times, find themselves congealed into material objects.

Infrastructural Listening Initiative (2017–2019)

ILI The Infrastructural Listening Initiative (ILI) focuses on critical sonic engagements with our built environments. ILI is dedicated to exploring auditory, resonant, and vibrational tactics of infrastructural inversion. The initiative drew on fields such as science and technology studies, electronic and experimental music, sound studies, and sensory ethnography in order to better attend to the soundscapes, fundamental frequencies, politics of vibration, and noise/signal boundaries which shape everyday life.

Music for Concrete (2019)

The first production of the Infrastructural Listening Initiative (ILI) was the “Music for Concrete” performance series, in which composers, scholars, and makers, were invited to produce site-specific pieces/objects/texts/improvisations that sound-out Davis and its surrounding areas. Pieces prepared included music for a library stairwell, a resonant outdoor hallway, and a series of grape trellis wires. UC Davis students were introduced basic ILI concepts in a course taught by Owen Marshall in Spring of 2018 (STS 198: “Sounding Data.”)

What Happens in the Lab… (2019)

What happens in the lab…. (2019) is a larp in four acts that incorporates data and themes from technoscience cultures. This piece is influenced by a style of analog game developed by Larry Bogad for his Santiago 9/11. It also features influences from Boston-style “Secrets and Powers” larp, and Nordic freeform larp.

Destination Wedding 2070 (2019)

Destination Wedding 2070 is a netprov that attempts to make data about climate change more comprehensible. Netprov is networked, improvised storytelling through online media. Although climatologists have strong predictive models, they typically report future scenarios via graphs and charts. Destination Wedding 2070 goes beyond visualization by bringing the data to life through data dramatization as participants experience the effects in a speculative future scenario. The data for this netprov is based on simulations from the CanESM5 model under SSP585, a high emissions scenario that represents substantial increases in fossil fuel use in the coming decades. This project was created as a collaboration between the ModLab, Meanwhile Netprov Studio, and the UW EarthLab.

Buypartisan (2017)

title screen background 3 Buypartisan is a video game that illustrates the impact of money on elections. Players take on the role of political parties in competition to win an election in an imaginary nation. The dynamic of the game is such that it gradually illustrates the corrupting influence of unregulated money on the democratic process.

Economusic (2017)

Economusic: Keeping Score is a performance concept by Larry Bogad which he has performed live in New York, Helsinki, Barcelona, Buffalo, San Francisco (at SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts), and on the UC Davis campus. In this piece, economic data is converted into music and performed with a great deal of audience participation.

Frack the Game (2016)

frack_title_screen Frack the Game explores the environmental and sociopolitical implications of fracking. Players assume the role of fracking corporations that compete to survey, drill, and extract as much natural gas as possible to become the largest and wealthiest corporation before the world ends. Through the course of the game, players encounter difficult decisions as they must negotiate concerns around profits, environmental health, policies and laws, and public reception of fracking practices.

Intangible Body (2016)

Intangible Body This project offers an opportunity to connect research on movement for virtual environments with practices of gesture, media, and gender in the Muslim world. Working with a dancer who performs under an abbreviated name in order to avoid state surveillance, the project draws parallels between sousveillance and the anonymity produced via the motion capture process and between veiling as a gendered and policed activity and “veiling” as a technocultural practice of character animation.

Performative Speech Analysis (2016)

poetryperformance This project adapts and improves pitch-tracking tools—commonly used by linguists to analyze the fundamental frequency of the human voice and intonation patterns—in order to refine methodologies and terminology used by humanities scholars concerned with sound and performance. The first phase will develop a simple, user-friendly interface for pitch-tracking, drawing on two open-source software programs, Praat and ARLO (Adaptive Recognition with Layered Optimization). These tools will then enable new empirical research on recordings of individual performances, as well as distant listening projects (analogous to distant reading), using machine learning on the “big data” of audio archives to study trends in performance and oratory.

Critical Wearable Computing (2015–2018)

Lilypad This project utilizes research-based design methodologies to explore the capacity of current technology to express a broader horizon of human subjectivity. Rather than developing a consumer-driven deliverable device, we instead investigate the area of wearable computing devices and self-tracking, utilizing approaches variously referred to as “adversarial design” or “critical making.”

Multi-User VR Environment (2015–)

The ModLab hosts a hybrid multi-user VR environment. It consists of a front-projected stereoscopic 14×9′ screen and a NaturalPoint OptiTrack optical tracking system, as well as one or more head-mounted displays (currently Oculus Rift DK1). System developed by Oliver Kreylos

Scoring Beckett (2014)


Scoring-Beckett_John-Zibell Scoring Beckett is a multimedia, mixed-reality performance project developed by John Zibell in collaboration with Oliver Kreylos, featuring Elena Atanasiu, Nina Galin, Anna Kritikos, Emelie Mahdavian, Caro Novella, Linda Noveroske, Wendy Schmidt, and Juan Hernando Vazquez. The project is an inquiry into listening practices and methods of playing improvisational theatrical scores, engaging with the work of Samuel Beckett. Scoring Beckett uses various virtual reality environments to examine presence and exhaustion. The performers and researchers in Scoring Beckett use improvisational theatre techniques built from Beckett’s plays alongside motion capture devices, 3D imaging technology, and visualization tools designed for creation and manipulation of large data sets to reveal alternative ways of reading (and performing) Beckett.

Going to the Movies in Paris in the 1930s (2011)

colin-in-cave This multi-platform project about cultures of film spectatorship in 1930s Paris currently exists as a VRUI 3D CAVE experience and in Second Life, on the Humanities Innovation Lab island. [SLURL teleport link]. Developed by Eric Smoodin, Joseph Dumit, Caren Kaplan, Ingrid Lagos, Josef Nguyen, Oliver Kreylos, and Colin Milburn.