Image: Players prepare to merge with their companion species in Now London Is A City Farm…
Now London is a City Farm… is a live action role play game (LARP) created as part of the Algorithmic Food Justice workshop series.
Players form multispecies assemblies and turn over all available green spaces and infrastructures to transform London from an extractive financial centre into a global city farm. They create a thriving food commons for its biodiverse inhabitants, developing on and off-blockchain systems to grapple with the challenges of interspecies cooperation.
Set after a fictional event in 2020 known as “The Great Food Emergency” the game design draws on real-world events and (social/scientific/technical) possibilities to establish new decision-making systems and urban infrastructures.
In the game, players each adopt a human character and a companion species. Together they work to make space for the dreams of both human and companion species (and some nightmares too).
Algorithmic Food Justice is a research project that focuses on two injustices in the global food system and tests how emerging decentralised coordination technologies might support positive transformation.
Led by researchers at City University, London in partnership with DECAL Decentralised Arts Lab at Furtherfield, Spitalfields City Farm and the Gaia Foundation. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council “Not Equal Network”.
Firstly, in relation to unequal access to food the research asks how can we create a sustainable “food commons”, where food production is managed for the benefit of all, including low income and ethnically diverse communities? Our project explored this issue in partnership with urban agricultural communities, who already experiment with alternative models of labour and distribution within the fabric of our cities.
Secondly, we addressed the injustices inflicted on other species by intensive human food production. To grow food successfully, humans require the help of other organisms – for example bees, or soil micro-organisms.
We asked how might we use the features and affordances of blockchain technology to organise differently and to recognise and value the contributions of more-than-human participants, and therefore help avoid problems like soil degradation and bee extinction that threaten life on earth? How might this algorithmic “more-than-human value system” take shape in urban agricultural contexts?
We held four workshops to collectively re-imagine a future food commons and operationalise different value systems by working with blockchain technologies. As we look into the future of urban farming, what will urban agricultural communities need in order to flourish, for the benefit of all? How can the interdependencies between humans, creatures and natural resources be better catered for?
Drawing on this collaborative and participatory work, we developed speculative prototypes to float new arrangements of the food web and stimulate further discussion on how urban food futures might generatively reshape our increasingly algorithmic systems and environments.
Live Action Role Play (LARP) is a form of game in which a group of people take on a variety of characters to play make believe in response to a given scenario – historical, fantastical, futuristic.
Inspired by Nordic LARP, since 2016 the LARPs I have built have focused on open, collaborative and immersive role play and games. People inhabit and develop characters in response to research-based, near-future scenarios hosted in specific community settings.
The Road To Budgetary Blockchain Bliss with Ben Vickers, MoneyLab#3 2016
The Treaty of Finsbury Park 2025 in development with Cade Diehm, 2020-21