Melbourne Knowledge Week (MKW) is the City of Melbourne’s unique annual festival attracting an estimated 26,000 people. Geared to a different central theme each year, in 2019 the MKW focus moved from a public information forum to a public engagement forum. MKW 2019 was themed ‘So, what if…?’. The City of Melbourne commissioned the authors to create an interactive installation that would help people understand the networked impacts of their actions. The installation ran in The Hub from 10am to 10pm throughout the festival 20 –26 May 2019.
Initially, the installation was imagined as a ‘search engine’ that allowed audiences to search a single possible action and experience the full extent of that act’s consequences—such as throwing a cigarette butt onto the street, consuming take-away beverages in single-use containers, taking up cycling and only buying second-hand goods.
The strategic design process determined specific criteria that influenced the outcome, most significantly, that the installation had to provide festivalgoers with a visualization of the possible networked impacts of that action, ensuring people of all ages and abilities could engage with it in some way. The process integrated the Futures Wheel, a strategic foresight tool that helps identify 1st, 2nd and 3rd (or more) order consequences of an action.
(A retro 8-bit-style game ‘Consequest’ featuring a Ninja-inspired character was developed in collaboration with Telstra Readify and City of Melbourne.) Playing Consequest took you through an imagined quest to find the solution to four challenges linked to four ‘What if…’ scenarios. Along the way the character encounters a wizard whose commentary helps guide the way through the emerging complexity of seemingly inconsequential choices.
Adjacent to the installation was a manual interface where people could investigate a broader range of scenarios. Festivalgoers could imagine their own scenarios or try to create links between different possible actions and impacts.