The Stanford University Graduate School of Education and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation present:

If You Weren’t: Playing with Realities in ARG, AR, and VR

Council of Stones

Between 2008 and 2016, the Stanford Registrar reported a drop in Humanities undergraduate matriculations of -20%, from 2511 students in 2008 to 2087 students in 2016. In the same time, Engineering undergraduate matriculations rose from 695 to 1526 students, by +219 percent. By this trend, Stanford could have 0 Humanities enrollments 40 years from now. The Stanford University Board of Trustees, highly attuned to minute changes in the academic environment which affect the quality and cost of education, is now considering how to respond to this trend. Among other efforts, the Board tasked the hosts of the ARG symposium (in exchange for support) to conduct a survey among participants to recommend one of the following three mitigation strategies:

  • a) Phase out the Humanities by 2036 through a hiring freeze and retraining program for affected faculty who do not reach retirement by 2036
  • b) Increase enrollment in the Humanities by shifting all courses to an Engineering program with an emphasis in Digital Humanities (DH)
  • c) Implement an admissions policy assigning admits to 2000 Engineering seats and 2000 Humanities seats.
  • Additionally, the Board is open to reviewing one (1) alternate strategy which it may or may not have anticipated. Always considering both Stanford's legacy and it's commitment to the dynamisms of the future, the Board is recognizes the need to include a broad range of perspectives. Many of these perspectives are represented by sculptures on Stanford's fabled grounds. The Board wishes to assemble all these diverse perspectives in one location so they can conduct a "Council of Stones" to reflect on the grave matter of the fate of the Humanities. Teams of scholars shall adopt the perspectives of the sculptures through Matter-to-Mind Transference (M2MT) algorithms (first pioneered by Class of '97 alum Grant "The Touch" Stone). This algorithm requires practitioners to first empty their mind of their own personality through Transcendental Meditation (TM) and then allow the mind of the Stone (or other matter) to transfer into their own mind. That is why the exact location and identity of the sculpture must be unknown to all participants in the process, for only a unprepared mind can be fully open to its own temporary undoing. Therefore, the sculptures must be found through "perspective resonance", a concept developed by Clarie D. View, Class of 2017. Because of post-M2MT re-entry concerns, this process requires the full support and encouragement of a team of empaths, who approach the sculpture with the practitioner.
    For the record, an intake log showing markers of the transference will also be completed. The council can then be held while the practitioners hold the transferred mind in stead of their own. Once the transference is complete, timing is crucial. Studies show that a safe transference should last no more than 18 minutes. In some cases, overextending transference through "whispering" has led to irreversible personality changes, and the Board declines all responsibility for such occurrences, so "whispering" must happen at the practitioners' own risk.

    Teams must synchronize their arrival at the Location, so that the council will be able to meet for about 10 minutes after all participants gather at the Council Meeting Location at the Stanford Sculpture Garden (allowing for physical travel from the sculpture to the Location). In past studies, teams have been reported to attempt transference of more than one sculpture, and while some results showed robust parallel identities, unfortunate cases of "synthesis" were also reported, leading to much confusion. In one case (Zimbardo, 2008), an anoymous practitioner synthesized the voice of a Calais Burgher with Jane Stanford's person, resulting in a delivery of her unread inaugural address in 14th Century French.
    In the Council Meeting, all M2MT practitioners and their support teams will discuss the fate of the Humanities and either endorse one of the three options proposed by the Board, or articulate a fourth option in their infinite collective wisdom. The recommendation of the council will be transferred to the Board by way of networked videographic recording (pioneered by Jason Wishnow, Class of '97).
    As usual, at the end of the meeting, the M2MT practitioner with the most complete transference will receive a prize, which will be a recent Stanford Humanities publication signed by the authors and editors.


    Click here for your free registration via eventbrite.

    Book Orders

    Click here to view or order the new book, Alternate Reality Games at the Cusp of Digital Gameplay.

    In the Area

    Visit the nearby Anderson Collection, filled with waves of art and inspiration: Closed on Tuesdays.

    floral drawing over baran network diagram

    Artwork by Paul Baran and Jenny Odell.