KEYNOTE ADRESS                      9:45 - 11:00 (Room 206)
Tony Fisher, Royal Central School Of Speech And Drama, University Of London

In 1973, the Trilateral Commission asked whether democracies were becoming ‘ungovernable’. Warning of the ‘rise of anomic democracy’, it identified threats that we are more than familiar with today, as we confront – once again – the ‘crisis’ of democracy: ‘the disintegration of civil order, the breakdown of social discipline, the debility of leaders, and the alienation of citizens’. In this talk I revisit this ‘problem’ of anomie, locating it at the very heart of democracy and the historical problem of its governance. In the Laws, Plato had already used the disparaging term ‘theatrocracy’, which drew on the analogy of the theatre and its audience, to describe the unruly nature of democratic forms of life. Just as the theatre audience is an ill-disciplined rabble so, he argued, the members of a democratic society are prone to various disorders. Thus the pathologies of the democratic polis qualify it for one of Plato’s ‘diseased cities’, where popular discontentment collapses democracy into something far worse: tyranny.
I pursue this ‘theatrocratic’ problem as a means of understanding democracy’s central dynamic, particularly visible in an age of popular discontentment, namely its constitutive proneness to displeasure, incivility and antagonism. The first part of my talk re-examines the legacy of theatrocratic discourse by reframing it in relation to the discourse on play. I argue that for theatrocratic discourses ‘play’ – often understood as ‘idleness’ – constitutes the core problematic of democratic or ‘common’ forms of life, and that for Plato, and for many commentators who later followed him, democracy must be viewed as ‘dangerous play’.
I show how the modern State sought to neutralise the ‘theatrocratic’ threat associated with democracy’s dangerous play by means of ‘education’, converting incivility into civility; disorder into orderly conduct; idleness and illegality into productive labour. The second part of the talk, focusses more closely on this educational solution, arguing that it leads to a further paradox and one with which we still contend today. This paradox becomes particularly acute in Schiller’s notion of the ‘aesthetic education of man’ and in his tract on theatre as a tool for (deontic) instruction. While Schiller sees ‘play’ as central to human emancipation, in advocating theatre as a tool of moral instruction, designed to reconcile the demos to the State, aesthetic education reverts to a discourse of two humanities – one civil, the other barbaric. Nonetheless, I argue Schiller’s insight that ‘man’ is ‘only wholly Man when he is playing’ remains useful to understanding the theatrocratic ‘crisis’ afflicting contemporary democracies with the rise of populism across Europe and beyond. Thus in the final part of the talk, I turn to consider how we might understand democracy through the figure of theatrocracy today.
Following the political theorist, Chantal Mouffe, I argue that the solution to the crisis of democracy is not less but more democracy. I suggest that what this involves is the need to reconstruct democratic engagement around two senses of the term ‘play’. First, that play is indeed correctly understood as a ‘subversive’ force – a productive ‘incivility’ – and that an ‘aesthetic education’ today requires ‘playful resistance’ to the total mobilisation of the social by capitalism; second, that democratic politics must be reconfigured around the notion of a radical ‘politics of rehearsal’ – where play signifies, not something subservient to an instrumental goal, but the opening of an autonomous space, emancipated from productive labour, in which new ‘identities’ can be created


TONY FISHER is Reader in Theatre and Philosophy, at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His book, Theatre and Governance in Britain, 1500-1900: Democracy, Disorder and the State was published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press. He is also co-editor (with Eve Katsouraki) of Performing Antagonism: Theatre, Performance and Radical Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and Beyond Failure: New Essays on the Cultural History of Failure in Theatre and Performance for Routledge, 2018 (also edited with Eve Katsouraki). Foucault’s Theatres, co-edited with Kélina Gotman will be published by Manchester University Press in 2019. He has published in a number of journals including Continental Philosophy Review, Performance Philosophy Journal, Performing Research, and Cultural Critique

SESSION NO. 1                               11:30 - 12:30 Room 205

Tom Drayton, University Of East London, The United Kingdom

Two years ago, Andy Lavender proclaimed that contemporary performance had reached an ‘age of engagement’; a theatre of ‘nuanced and differential negotiations, participations and interventions’ (Lavender 2016, 21). Daniel Shulze recently expanded on this by aligning the participatory audience to a desire for authenticity within performance (Shulze 2017, 73). He sees this as reflective of a changing ‘structure of feeling’ akin to Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen’s concept of the metamodern; an oscillation between postmodern irony and a modern yearning for truth, sense and tangible, human connection. By focusing on a number of contemporary productions, including the work of art collective LaBeouf, Rönnkö & Turner and performance artist Mem Morrison, this paper examines how artists are creating participatory, playful performances that engage with, and disrupt, both the physical, public space and the political sphere. Can playful participation lead to deeper social connections? Can interactive performance change the world?


TOM DRAYTON Is a theatre director and researcher based in East London. He has written for and directed Pregnant Fish Theatre since 2010 and lectures at The University of Worcester and The University of East London, where he is also studying his doctorate focused on political theatre of the millennial generation. Tom is particularly interested in metamodernism, millennial theatre makers and work created on the interstices of youth politics and urban space. He is also an associate artist for Project Phakama and works with schools in East London to provide children with access to quality, interactive theatre. www.tomdrayton


Elena Sarno, University Of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The film Daisies (orig. Sedmikrásky), second feature written and directed by the Czech revolutionary filmmaker Vēra Chytilová, contains vast amount of destruction: of food, physical space, language, images and film itself, intended as formal or narrative continuity. The form is explicitly and abundantly fractured, but it is also permeated with life and the pleasure of de-making the territory. The disconnected camera and sound work, as the actions of the two protagonists, two young women, can be described as destructive play. The film operates an aggressive social and moral critique, yet it avoids negativity. On the contrary, what stays with the viewer is a powerful sense of joy and aliveness. I will present the hypothesis that it is the ingredient of play which sustains the alchemic operation of generating life and joy from destruction. I will also attempt to outline a connection between the playful destructive drive of this film, to feminist affirmative thinking. In this sense, my perspective recognises that the raw and radical material of Daisies exerts a destruction of stale and misogynist social structures and points to revolutionary and exhilarating ways of joyful togetherness.


ELENA SARNO is currently writing a PhD thesis on contemporary playful filmmaking, at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). She has obtained her Honours degree at the University of Bologna, Italy, in 1992, with a thesis on ‘The Theatre and Its Double’ of Antonin Artaud, on the centrality of the performer. In the years in between her academic endeavours she has mostly, but not exclusively, worked in filmmaking and made a few small films of her own.

SESSION NO. 2                          11:30 - 12:30 Room 206

Lucy Benson, Islington Play Association, London, The United Kingdom

Children and adults are in a continuous state of negotiation for public space. Adult fears about children’s subversions of adult systems arise as a theme of these negotiations. Children and young people frequently use public space noisily and in large groups, which is often interpreted as anti-social. Because children use public spaces differently from adults, their citizenship is also in negotiation. Elements of children’s presence in public and their play can be seen as a form of ‘voiceless’ political engagement. Although they do not always articulate or even understand the politics of their actions, their acts can still be seen as political, a means of constructing power relations. Could children’s play be a voiceless expression of revolt from a narrow construction of the meaning of ‘childhood’? We have plenty to learn from children’s playful negotiations for public space. I will follow Kallio & Hakli, Christensen & Mikkelsen and Valentine to support my argument.


LUCY BENSON is Head of Adventure Play at Islington Play Association, where she works with and for children in six adventure playgrounds. She recently co-authored a paper with Dr Rachel Rosen which was published in Children and Society - From Silence to Solidarity: Locating the Absent ‘Child Voice’ in the Struggle Against Benefit Sanctions. She holds an MA in Sociology of Childhood and Children’s Rights from University College London.


Einar Sunsdal & Maria Øksens, Norwegian University Of Science And Technology, Trondheim, Norway


The value of play for children`s learning and development is increasingly recognized by researchers and policy-makers. Their attention is on how to “make play work” for education. In this paper it will be critically discussed so called “playful learning” or “guided play” with the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben (2007) as a backdrop. According to Agamben we now see a new phase of capitalism, where areas of the human life that hitherto have been considered unexploited, is invaded in the sense that the state and the market are reaching more offensive and deeper into certain areas of life. The claim is that one such arena is children’s play. In this discussion, it will be highlighted that there seems to be some qualities in children’s play that keeps it free and not within reach for adult planning and control.


EINAR SUNDSDAL is associate professor of pedagogy at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Education and Lifelong Learning. His professional interests are primarily Bildungstheorie, philosophy of education, and general didactics.

MARIA ØKSENS is Professor of Pedagogy at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Teacher Education, Norway. Her research interests relate to play, leisure, childhood, children, youth, and resistance.

WORKSHOP NO. 1                      14:00 - 15:30 Room 205

André Baier, Technical University Berlin, Germany

Betzavta (Hebrew for togetherness) is a pedagogy of democracy with over 100 (playful) excercises. The focus here is the recognition of the equal right of all people to a free development. This brings everyday situations into focus, as they arise when any two persons come together to take a decision. Here, Betzavta reveals power relations and shows how people participate in decision-making processes or are accordingly excluded. Thus, Betzavta does not take democracy exclusively as a form of government, but in the sense of John Dewey as a way of living together. This workshop comprises the “Chocolate Game” excercise which addresses the equality of people as well the need for rules to ensure specific equalities. The excercise is then reflected which will also help to analyse one’s own approach to teaching/learning. The workshop is concluded with a presentation of how Betzavta is implemented at TU Berlin.


ANDRÉ BAIER is a philosopher and democracy educator. He has a Master Degree in Philosophy of TU Berlin as well as of Université Rennes 1. His dissertation was on education for sustainable development within the engineering sciences. He currently holds a postdoc position at TU Berlin where he is responsible for the study reform project „Blue Engineering - Engineers with social and ecological responsibility“. In addition, he is coordinator of the sustainability certificate for students and vice chairman of the Sustainability Council. He is teaching fellow for excellence in higher education of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft.

WORKSHOP NO. 2                          14:00 - 15:30 Room 206

Nancy Smithner & David Montgomery, New York University, The United States

As nationalism takes hold in the face of migration across the globe, we wonder how playful investigations may support the inherent worth of every person in a democracy. We propose a 90-minute workshop motivated by Augusto Boal’s Newspaper Theatre (and expanded upon by many theatre companies internationally) in which participants playfully transform non-dramatic texts into performance, drawing on such techniques as improvisation, satire, repetition, object play and movement. Exploring the metamodern through active engagement and storytelling, while also deploying postmodern notions of irony and pastiche, we will encourage a phenomenological journey into playful perceptions of migration and citizenship within democracies. We are keen to explore how the democratic juxtaposition of news articles and opinion reporting collaborate to produce a perplexing media landscape. Through playful tools of artistic interpretation this workshop contextualizes and complicates narratives of criminals and refugees within democracies across the globe. Ultimately we wonder: How might artistic play impact democracy and socio-political ideologies?


NANCY SMITHNER is a director, performer, deviser and associate professor in the Program in Educational Theatre at New York University, where she teaches Physical Theatre, Acting, Directing, Theatre History, Play Theory, Pedagogy and Community Engaged Theatre. A theatre director, she specializes in the devising of original performance works and plays, and has worked with populations of all ages, engaging participants in philosophical play. As an applied theatre practitioner, Smithner teaches and directs in medium and maximum security prisons and was a senior member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, performing for children in pediatric settings.

DAVID MONTGOMERY is the director of The Program in Educational Theatre in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. He is a specialist in drama education, theatre for young audiences, devising, directing, teacher training and integrated arts. As an actor and singer, David performed in numerous professional venues before working as a K-12 teaching artist in New York City, and was a full time middle school drama teacher at I.S. 292 in Brooklyn, New York.
David is the artistic director of the New Play for Young Audiences (NPYA) series at the Provincetown Playhouse, a project where three new plays, written by leading playwrights for young audiences, are developed every summer. He has also directed a number of productions at NYU, most recently Radium Girls by D.W. Gregory in 2019. David co-wrote, with Dr. Robert Landy, the book Theatre for Change: Education, Social Action, Therapy (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), and wrote a chapter for The Handbook of Artistic Citizenship entitled ‘Applied Theatre and Citizenship in the Puerto Rican Community: Artistic Citizenship in Practice” (Oxford University Press 2016). He also collaborated on two chapters in Teaching US History: Dialogues Among Social Studies Teachers and Historians (Routledge 2009). David continues to present papers and facilitate workshops at a variety of conferences around the globe, most recently delivering a keynote lecture and workshop in Zhuhai, China.



SESSION NO. 3                            10:00 - 11:00 Room 205

Susanne Kass, Freelancer


Can democracy break our hearts? If our relationship to democracy is going through crisis, who should we address our distress towards? Is it democracy’s ideals, institutions or the individuals that represent it? This workshop offers participants an opportunity to write a love song to express feelings usually directed at institutions and politicians who have disappointed us. Lament, disillusionment, anger, longing - the many feelings we usually express through protest, critique, opinions and actions often set us in an offensive or diplomatic position. However, the love song is a more introspective text. The heartbroken attempts to formulate the breakdown of communication and understanding between themself and the beloved. Maybe we are not in love with democracy, its institutions or political representatives, but by pretending we are (or have been) gives us an opportunity to process some of the complex feelings and relationships these players confront us with as individuals and a society.


SUSANNE KASS is a conceptual artist and teacher working with themes of language and communication. At times she assumes the role of a guide or teacher, but mostly likes working as a spy who can bring unnoticed perspectives to light. She completed her Masters in Fine Arts/Conceptual Practices at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and holds an BA (photography) and MA in Arts and Entrepreneurship from Novia University of Applied Sciences in Jakobstad, Finland. She has performed and exhibited her works in Prague, London, Finland, Germany and Mexico City. She lives and works in Prague.


Catherine Homan, Mount Mary University, Wisconsin, The United States

Recently, some politicians and thinkers have argued that “safe spaces,” especially in schools, foreclose free speech, and thus democracy. Some call for play, fostering cooperation and imagination, as antidote. I maintain that play and democracy are connected, but argue that such accounts misunderstand “safe spaces” and mistake child’s play for play as a whole. Drawing on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics, I examine conversation as itself playful. For Gadamer, dialogue is always with another and resists final interpretations. Our social practices are likewise contingent and our own identities transformed through play. Thus, play is fundamentally oriented toward freedom. Furthermore, dialogue offers a model of play meaningful for all ages. Reconceiving safe spaces as playspaces, I argue such spaces, rather than preventing speech, critically question and challenge anti-democratic power dimensions and marginalization while preserving ambiguity, creating more radical opportunities for taking risks within shared horizons of meaning and more robust shared democratic participation.


CATHERINE HOMAN is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Mount Mary University. She earned her Ph.D. from Emory University in 2014. Her philosophical work focuses on the intersections of play, poetry, and education. She is currently completing a book project developing an account of poetic education as an alternative to aesthetic education. She has published work on themes such as Eugen Fink’s account of the play of the world, the relationship between play and ethics in Fink’s work, and Nietzsche’s metaphysics of play. She has also translated philosophy essays from German into English.

SESSION NO. 4                           10:00 - 11:00 Room 206

Martin Weichold, University Of Regensburg, Germany


In this paper, I propose a ludic interpretation of Immanuel Kant’s conception of a kingdom of ends and apply this interpretation to the topic of democracy. Kant famously proposed the idea of a kingdom of ends, that is, of a “systematic union” of persons who always treat each other as ends, and never as mere means. Importantly, he holds that this kingdom of ends is “only an ideal”, but a “glorious ideal”. Yet “such a kingdom of ends would actually come about” if everyone followed the categorical imperative. This categorical imperative, in turn, demands that a “being must so act as if through its maxims it were at all times a legislating member of the universal kingdom of ends”. In my interpretation, this means that the categorical imperative demands pretend-play: Even though there is no kingdom of ends in ultimate reality, we humans can make the moral fiction of a kingdom of ends to our social reality by pretend-playing to be members in the kingdom of ends. This deliberate role-play of being a member in the kingdom of ends would, I argue, also lead us to play our roles as democratic citizens with more seriousness and dedication.


MARTIN WEICHOLD is an assistant professor at the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Regensburg in Germany. He studied philosophy and law and conducted PhD and postdoc research at the Georgia Augusta-University of Göttingen, the University of Vienna, and the University of California, Berkeley. In result, he published a book on the nature of unreflective action, as well as numerous articles on the philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, moral psychology, action theory, ethics, and social philosophy.


Freddie Rokem, Theatre At Tel Aviv University, Israel

The paper I want to present in Prague will develop the ideas presented in my article “The Ludic Logic of Tragedy”, published in 2016 where the paradoxical and even playful uses of logic in Sophocles’ Antigone and Oedipus Tyrannus were discussed for defining what it means to be human. Now I want to focus on the third and last (in the order of writing) of the three Theban plays, Oedipus at Colonus, in which the body of the blind, dying Oedipus, no longer the ruler of Thebes, becomes an object of strife for the rulers of Thebes and Athens. The reason for this strife is that the location of his grave will become a potential source of power for the polis that will ‘host’ it. However, Oedipus is not willing to play this ‘game’ and disappears in death, making his grave unknown even to his daughter Antigone, who will later meet her own death after trying to bury her brother Polyneices against the will of her uncle Creon. The macabre title of my proposed presentation reflects the wide range of reactions to the dead and their bodies in Sophocles’ plays, beginning with Laius in Oedipus Tyrannus.


FREDDIE ROKEM is Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Theatre at Tel Aviv University, where he was the Dean of the Faculty of the Arts (2002-2006) and held the Emanuel Herzikowitz Chair for 19th and 20th Century Art (2006-2016). He is currently the Wiegeland Visiting Professor of Theater & Performance Studies(TAPS) at the University of Chicago. His more recent books are Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance (2010; translated into Italian, Polish and German; to appear in Hebrew); Jews and the Making of Modern German Theatre (2010, co-edited with Jeanette Malkin); Strindberg‘s Secret Codes (2004) and the prize-winning book Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre (2000; translated into German and Polish). He was the editor of Theatre Research International (2006-2009) and was a founding co-editor of the Palgrave Macmillan book series ‚Performance Philosophy‘ (2012-2017) also being among the founders of the ‚Performance Philosophy‘-network. He has been a visiting professor at many universities in the United States, Germany, Finland and Sweden, and is also a practicing dramaturg.

SESSION NO. 5                            11:30 - 13:00 Room 205

Laura Camas & Gonzalo Jover, University Of Madrid, Spain


John Dewey criticised the perception of democracy as a political mechanism and called for the re-creation of democracy through the continuous use of attitudes and practices which forge relationships with life, as a modus vivendi which is personal. In this paper, we argue that the participatory and democratic identity of children is constructed in their daily experience, in this case, through children’s play. Following Jane Addams assumptions, organised play is a way to canalize the energy and democratic aspirations of young children and youth, as she did with the young newcomers who arrived at Chicago. Addams already drew attention to how the modern industrial city underestimates the value of game, a situation that she catalogued as a dangerous experiment for the participatory and democratic culture. Addams and Dewey’s proposals lead us to understand children’s play as a participation laboratory beyond any educational institution. However, nowadays children’s lives in cities is characterised by the precariousness of the play experience.


LAURA CAMAS is a Ph.D. student and member of the research group Civic Culture and Educational Policies of the Faculty of Education at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). At present, her thesis focuses on the study of pedagogical possibilities of democratic and culture meaning of children’s play from Jane Addams’s perspective.

GONZALO JOVER is Full Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education at UCM. His major research areas are educational theory and history, politics of education and values education in childhood. He has authored or co-authored various books and more than one hundred book chapters and articles.


Rosana Kohl Bines, Carolina Moulin, Liana Biar
Pontifical Catholic University Of Rio De Janeiro, Brasil


Hundreds of Venezeluans cross the northern border of Brasil daily, due to the socioeconomic and political crisis in their home country. At least fifteen percent are children under the age of 14, sheltered with their families in refugee camps run by the Brazilian armed forces. Playful strategies among displaced children in those confined and controlled spaces is the focus of our research. Can children´s play produce dissenting ways of moving about, of being and doing that can affect the “redistribution of the sensible” (Rancière, 2004) and thus encourage political rearrangements in people´s perceptions of the spaces and conditions they live in? The inquiry is conducted by an interdisciplinar team of scholars associated with the Chair Sérgio Vieira de Melo (UNCHR/PUC-Rio), devoted to refugee studies and human rights.


ROSANA KOHL BINES is Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and a CNPq researcher (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development/Brazil). She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature (University of Chicago, 2001). She is a member of the Chair on Refugee Studies (UNHCR / PUC-Rio). Her current research interests include: childhood figurations in contemporary artistic theories and practices; children‘s and youth books in the expanded field of literature and the arts; aesthetic and political dimensions in writings of limit experiences; narratives of refuge and displacement.

CAROLINA MOULIN is Professor at the Institute of International Relations, PUC-RIO, Brazil. She holds a PhD in Political Science from McMaster University, Canada. She currently coordinates the Graduate Program in International Relations and the Chair on Refugee Studies at PUC-RIO. Her work deals with how refugee and forced migration studies intersects with central concepts of international politics, such as sovereignty, citizenship and governance, particularly in the South American context.

LIANA BIAR is Professor at the Linguistics and Literature Department (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio
de Janeiro - PUC-Rio, Brazil). She holds a PhD in Language Studies from PUC-Rio and a master degree in
Linguistics from State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). She is currently member of the Chair on Refugee Studies (UNHCR / PUC-Rio). Her work deals with narrative analysis and social interaction applied to stigmatized / deviant groups, focusing on discursive clashes and identity redescriptions.


Dag Oisten Nome, University Of Agder, Norway


Norwegian kindergartens are expected to work towards children`s democratic citizenship. According to thekindergarten curriculum, the aim is “to create a basis for brave, independent and responsible participation in democratic communities”. Play is regarded as the preferred social setting for such experiences. How could play among toddlers that are unable to interact verbally be an expression of democracy? In which way are bodiesand material objects involved? This is explored through the lens of Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). It is based on two cases from a kindergarten-group in Norway for children below three-years of age. ANT imply, according to the founder Bruno Latour, that social life includes more than human agency. All other living or non-living phenomenon must be considered as agents included in Heterogeneous social networks. I explore how toys act as social agents and take part in democratic processes such as talking, listening and the experience of resistance.


DAG OISTEN NOME works as associate professor by the Department of Education at the University of Agder in Norway where he lectures at the program for Teacher Education. As a researcher and writer, he mainly works in the Early Childhood Education-field, where he has published several articles in journals and anthologies about play in early childhood both scientific and popular. Nome has a professional background as a practicing Waldorf/Steiner-teacher and is also a guest lecturer at the Rudolf Steiner University College in Oslo, Norway. In his PhD, he explored nonverbal social interaction between toddlers in kindergarten.

SESSION NO. 6                              11:30 - 13:00 Room 206

Liam Miller, University Of Queensland, Australia

To live an absurd life, according to Albert Camus, is to recognise our human desire for order and meaning, and the chaotic and meaninglessness of the universe. The absurd life is one that does not resolve this conflict, but lives in it. Camus‘ idea of the absurd has some interesting similarities with a playful attitude. Play, according to Johan Huizinga, is a voluntary and temporary activity limited to a specific time and place, where a series of arbitrary, but absolutely binding, rules are accepted in order to allow for specific actions to occur. There are three consequences of an absurd life: freedom, passion, and revolt. In the following paper I will look at the connection between the concept of play, and Camus‘ idea of revolt or revolution as a democratic process. I contend that in order for the Camus‘ project to succeed, a playful attitude is necessary in the absurd perswon. In order to show this, I will look at the difference between graffiti, as an act of destruction, and street art as a act of re-creation.


LIAM MILLER is an early career researcher and lecturer at the University of Queensland in Australia. He teaches in Philosophy, Ethics, and Pop Culture. Dr Miller‘s research interests are in the philosophy of play and games, fiction, existentialism, and pop culture.


Lise Specht Petersen, University Of Southern Denmark, Denmark


This paper is focusing on the democratic dimension in the design of urban space with a playing appeal. The paper is introducing the concept of ‚ democratic architecture and discussing what we can understand hereby. Is the urban space becoming (more) ‚democratic‘ if local citizens, children from the neighborhood or specific user groups are participating with their perspectives and preferences in the developing process of the architectonic design? Or is democratic architecture rather a question of architectural professionalism and design skills – where the architect is the guarantee for incorporating needs of different citizens or specific users in relation to the specific context? Further it seems relevant to ask if democratic architecture is always something we should pursue when planning and developing urban space? The paper is discussing these questions based on empirical studies, representing different involvement “approaches” in order to make better and more useful urban designs; like “giving the children a (democratic) voice in the city planning” (Petersen, 2017), by letting specific users (for example skaters or parkour practitioners) be co-designers of the urban design in order to practice specific street-activities (Larsen, Petersen, Ibsen & Hasini, 2015, Petersen, 2018) or by designing more “sculptural architectural designs” with a playing appeal “for everybody” – without any pre-definitions of what is going to happen (Petersen, 2018).


LISE SPECHT PETERSEN‘s a primary research field is about play, movement and architectural designs at
playgrounds and in the urban space. With her PhD thesis she investigated, how different architectural designs at the playground and in the Urban Space are influencing the playing interaction and did find important differences on the playing interaction in different types of architecture (Petersen, 2014). As post.doc Lise Specht Petersen did ethnographic inspired research on the “My Playground” project - a temporal urban space design which has been visiting four different city-contexts during the European Capital of Culture in Aarhus 2017 – investigating the design process and how My Playground´s sculptural architecture has been used and experienced by different user groups in the four different contexts. Another research project is “the Play Ship”, a project with a vision of giving children and adolescents “a voice in the urban planning” in their municipalities. And finally - as part of a big research project about “co-production between the voluntary and the public sector” at the University of Southern Denmark - Lise Specht Petersen has been studying how Citizens involvement is being practiced in Danish Municipalities to develop the local communities (Petersen and Fehsenfeld, 2018).


Nélio Conceição, Nova Institute Of Philosophy, Universidade Nova De Lisboa, Portugal


The critical and political strength of play has been at the core of several reflections (and practices) related to urban space. The International Situationist notions of dérive and psychogeography are linked with a ludic experience of space; for Michel de Certeau, “habitability” concerns an “area of free play” which counters the totalitarianism impoverishing our urban existence. Taking this into consideration, how can playful experiences with the city contribute to the democratization of the right to the city (Lefebvre, Harvey)? My answer to this question will be threefold: firstly, I will sketch the theoretical background of the relation between play, urban space and politics in the above mentioned authors; secondly, I will give some examples of art practices which dialogue with that background; thirdly, I will show how the differential space created through these aesthetic experiences challenges the radical rationalization of public space, thus contributing to reevaluate the relation between contemporary cities and democracy.


NÉLIO CONCEIÇÃO obtained his PhD in Philosophy (Aesthetics) from the FCSH - Universidade Nova de Lisboa (2013). His thesis focuses on the relation between philosophy and photography, paying special attention to the thought of Walter Benjamin. He is an integrated member of the IFILNOVA – Nova Institute of Philosophy, where he coordinates the research group “Art, critique and aesthetic experience”. He is currently developing a postdoc project on the philosophical and artistic ramifications of Walter Benjamin’s work, focusing on the concept of play, and he is the team member of a research project investigating the aesthetic experience of the city.

SESSION NO. 7                                     14:30 - 15:30 Room 205

Martin Pehal, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic


This paper will present a case study of the so-called Velvet Carnival – a masked satirical procession annually reanimating the celebrations of the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution of 17 November 1989. In the weeks leading up to the procession itself, the participants (NGOs, civic groups, high-school student groups, etc.) undergo a process during which they transpose various pressing social, political and cultural issues to a satirical level subsequently giving them a physical form of masks, floats and other props. I will argue that: (1) even though this is a playful process, the underlying reflexive ritual dynamics represent the core values of any functioning democratic society; (2) the form itself has power to transform the participating communities and thus elicit a direct bottom-up influence on society; (3) it strengthens the ability to resist political manipulation by, paradoxically, symbolically manipulating the participants.


MARTIN PEHAL is an assistant professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Charles
University (Prague). Outside of ritual theory, public festivity and ritually marginal events, Martin specialises
in ancient Egyptian mythology and ritual. He assisted Olga Cieslarová with founding the Velvet Carnival
seven years ago and has been an active member in its organisation ever since.


Radek Chlup, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic


To avoid the frequent black-and-whiteness of verbal and visual communication on political occasions (e.g. during demonstrations), the organisers of the Prague Velvet Carnival have attempted to set firm limiting rules for the creation of political symbolism during the carnival. All the participants have to wear masks covering the entire face, they are forbidden to use language in the ordinary semantic sense (though they are encouraged to use it in a symbolic manner), they have to express their topics by means of visual images enacted in performance, the images should be satirical and self-reflexive. Needless to say that such limitations are not easy to deal with for the participants. The paper will illustrate the creation process by means of several examples and will discuss some of its pitfalls. These may consist not just in the failure to communicate one’s meaning intelligibly but also in mistaking self-reflexive satire for a black-and-white caricature.


RADEK CHLUP is an associate professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Charles
University (Prague). His specialisations include anthropology of religion, symbolical patterns in rituals,
ritually border-line phenomena, but also ancient Greek religion and ancient (Neo)Platonism.

SESSION NO. 8                              14:30 - 15:30 Room 206   

Martin E. Rosenberg, University Of Pittsburgh, The United States


This essay addresses how the complex processes that govern jazz improvisation enact behaviors that resemble the logic of gift exchange first described by Marcel Mauss (1968). It is possible to bring to bear structural, sociological, political economical, deconstructive or even ethical approaches to what constitutes gift exchange during the performance of jazz. Yet, I would like to shift the focus from grounding this analysis of jazz improvisation with reference to the language of music as symbolic action (which all of these approaches require), to grounding jazz improvisation in embodied and distributed cognition, the performance of which begins with a ritual gift of silence. Silence constitutes an initial condition that performing jazz musicians must experience in their bodies, and thus it becomes necessary to ground embodied cognition in a collective field of cultural production that, while containing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, exists behind these elements. This cognitive field emerges from each embodied individual, and yet also pervades the distributed ensemble in ways reminiscent of feedback loops in complex systems, and it is by recourse to recent research into the cognitive neuroscience of music generally, and jazz improvisation, that the empirical grounds for an anthropology of neuro-resistance become visible.


MARTIN E. ROSENBERG wrote his dissertation on the cultural work, in philosophy, and across the arts, of
the scientific concept of “emergence.” He published a widely-read article on emergent behaviors in jazz
improvisation and composition that are visible in music notation, and currently researches the philosophical implications of the cognitive neuro-science of improvisers. He has programmed instructional software, theorized about hypermedia and interaction-design, and contributed articles on the role of metaphor in trans-disciplinary inquiry. He co-directed the first completely digital global academic conference–AG3-Online: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy Conference. He has an essay on jazz and cognition forthcoming for a volume on narrative and cognition from the University of Nebraska Press, and will be headlining a pioneering conference on the philosophy of jazz this May. Originally trained in jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music, he has returned (after thirty years) to performing in the Pittsburgh area.


James Harvey, Griffith University, Australia

A symphony musician’s field report to the empowering of ontological and phenomenological gestalt ideals through democratic structures and processes found in community orchestra music associations. Examples of collective agency being skillfully employed by accomplished musicians forming corporate nonprofit associations in producing and presenting concerts of orchestral music. The presenter is a principal “player” and corporate board member with three community orchestras - extending from “amateur” (sic.) to semi-professional ensembles – offering pragmatic experience and philosophical insight into such symphonic music co-operatives being successful self-organizing, democratic, artistic associations.
A widely established historical trend of long term localized cultural projects undertaken by musically trained people and professionals - in many fields - “playing” music in accomplished public performances. A gestalt artistic phenomena of musical imaginative expression, structured by self-organizing democratic not for profit corporate entities, contributing to enhanced well being and community health.


JAMES HARVEY holds a Master of Music Brass Instruments from Ithaca College USA (1971) and a Master of Music Research (2017) Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium in Australia, where he is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate in tuba performance practice. His MMR thesis Elder Music, Instrumental Music Performance and Affirmative Aging is an exploration mature music making through a return to accomplished classical tuba performance following a 24year hiatus. His DMA project is entitled: Elucidating the Sound of It, An Ontological Investigation of Tuba Orchestral and Wind Ensemble Performance.

WORKSHOP NO. 4                           16:00 - 17:30 Room 205

PLAYFUL SATIRE: (UN)MASKING PRESSING ISSUES (a follow-up to the Velvet carnival session)
Olga Cieslarová, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic


The workshop would like to performatively simulate the creative process which the participants of the annual “Velvet Carnival/Festival” (NGOs, civic groups, classes of students, etc.) undergo every year in preparation for the masked satirical parade reanimating the celebrations of the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution of 17 November 1989. Since the foundation of the Velvet Carnival in 2012, the organisers, who will be guiding the workshop, have developed a method allowing the transposition of pressing social, political and cultural issues to a satirical level. This “un-masking” process then leads to creating symbol-laden masks which are donned in the procession. We will practically link the reflexive dynamics, which arise from such usage of symbols, to the dynamism which the Velvet Carnival utilises to transform negative emotions into constructive feelings relating them to a framework of the social, cultural and political order, keeping, at the same time, an iconoclastically reflexive distance.


OLGA V. CIESLAROVÁ is a junior researcher at the Charles University focusing on the role of public festivity in the shaping of modern liberal democracies. Her PhD thesis focuses on the satirical carnival “Fasnacht” in Basel (Switzerland). Outside of her academic interest, Olga has been actively engaged in the NGO sector, more specifically in the issue of public satirical performances as the means of drawing attention to crucial social and political topics. Seven years ago, she has founded the Velvet Carnival.

SESSION NO. 9                         16:00 - 17:30 Room 206

Martin Nitsche, Institute Of Philosophy, Czech Academy Of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic

This presentation draws from three sources: Donald Winnicott’s connection of play and transitional objects, Bonnie Honig’s democracy of things, and Davide Panagia’s Political Life of Sensations. I aim to highlight the importance of a transitional area (Winnicott’s “intermediate area of experience”) for democracy. Playing re-localizes us into this area, since a play restricts any strict division between inner and outer experience. Spaces of play must be, therefore, strictly understood as third-spaces. In the presentation, I want to analyze how the fact of being re-localized by a play (where I am an active player) changes my sensation. Consequently, my goal is to examine both how these changes modify a perception of public space and how they enrich a perceptual environment of democracy. In the context of these examinations, I would also like to address briefly one of the questions from the CFP - “Do computer/video/internet games present a threat to democracy?”


MARTIN NITSCHE is a Senior researcher in the Department of Contemporary Continental Philosophy at
the Institute of Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. He is an Associate professor of
philosophy at the Jan Evangelista Purkyne University in Usti nad Labem (CZ), Faculty of Philosophy. Nitsche received his MA in philosophy and history from the Charles University Prague in 1999, and his PhD in philosophy in 2007 from the same university, Faculty of Arts. 2016/17 he worked as a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Political Science. His research focuses on phenomenology, phenomenological topology (Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty), philosophy of art, aesthetics, political philosophy, theory of media, philosophy of religion. Nitsche formulated a „transitive-topological model of phenomenology“ (see in his book Methodical Precedence of Intertwining. An Introduction to a Transitive - Topological Phenomenology, Orbis Phaenomenologicus, Königshausen u. Neumann, Würzburg, 2018).


Alice Koubová, Czech Academy Of Sciences And Academy Of Performing Arts In Prague, Czech Republic

How can art support current democracies that face ongoing social polarization and dangerous erosion of institutions fuelled by the neo-populistic discourse? Can artistic institutions be a powerful agent in this political setting or do they miss any tangible impact? One possible view (following Foucault and Žižek) sees art as politically powerless due to its subordination to the social power that enables it. However, cultural institutions are generally considered politically highly strategic. Although their primary task is not to reach explicit political goals, they contribute significantly to the society’s self-interpretation and development. They provide a transitional space of play (Winnicott) where collective and individual emotions, bodily schemes, or unconsciousness are intertwined with verbality and critical analysis in order to tackle the problem of basic norms, values, or social conflicts. As such they can serve as a space of sharing and reshaping attitudes towards life. However, if controlled by oppressive regimes, they can also be used as an instrument of manipulation, political propaganda, consumerism or misuse of collective emotions. In my speech I will refer to Donald Winnicott’s concept of transitional space of play in order to support political theories (Bowker, Elkins, Levine) supporting the idea of institutional turn, and Bojana Kunst’s theory of the institutionalisation process in art that is powerful enough to support democracy. I will discuss the principles of development of institutional integrity, the importance of iconoclastic gestures in the process of institutionalisation and the importance of playfulness in these processes.


ALICE KOUBOVÁ is a senior researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences and a lecturer at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. As a core convener of the Performance Philosophy initiative, her main interests range from the relational topology of performance and philosophical reflection to the ethics of play and policies in art. Her activities in the Performance Philosophy network include organising conferences that challenge the petrified habits of academic gatherings, public events focused on the development of civic society and discussion in art, and authoring performances that straddle the borders of philosophy and theatre. For her work, Alice has been awarded the Libellus Primus Prize (2008), the Otto Wichterle Award (2014), and the Popularisation of Philosophy Award (2017).


Martina Pecková Černá, Arts And Theatre Institute, Prague, Czech Republic

As of the forthcoming 30th anniversary of democratic changes in Central and Eastern Europe, I would like to pay attention to the state of “democratic nature” of theatre organizations seen as a “cradle” of performance. Not only official state, regional or municipal theatre institutions underwent the process of transformation after 1989, but a new player appeared on the scene: independent theatre organizations established in order to gain profit or as non-profit subjects. The latter will be the item of my interest focusing on conditions they had and missions they aimed at in the 1990s, and conditions, in which they operate in our geopolitical area nowadays. I will try to find arguments for their legitimacy in public space defined by the power struggle, which has been influenced by populist and post-democratic trends as well as restrictions of democratic processes by free market. What is the basis for the organizations’ state as pillars of civic society? To what extent are they democratic and controllable? What extent of social responsibility can be demanded and what extent of social responsibility do they set in their activities?


MARTINA PECKOVÁ ČERNÁ is a theatre researcher, translator and cultural manager. Since 2010, she has
been the Head of the International Cooperation Department of the Arts and Theatre Institute in Prague.
She graduated at the Department of Theatre Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague
(Master program) and at the Department of Music management/Art of Music of the Music and Dance
Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (PhD. program). She is focused on contemporary drama,
mainly German and Spanish speaking theatre, current Czech performing arts scene and cultural policies in
the Central European region. She is secretary general of the Czech ITI Centre (International Theatre Institute).




Benjamin Shepard, New York City College Of Technology

How do we dream of a better world? How do we create an image of a more liveable world and then create it? Doing so, we engage in a dialectical clash over what is possible. Such conflicts seem to be inevitable parts of life. Living Theatre founder Judith Malina long argued that there could be no separation between art and life. For Malina, we are all part of the Living Theatre. Every policeman, actor, student, activist, anarchist, every school teacher and homeless person, we are all part of it – all contributing to the be-autiful anarchist revolution she imagined and supported. This revolution is takes expression in the street actions, stories, performances, poems, and ways we all reimagine urban public spaces, the way we use these spaces and spend time there.
Dialectical activism helps us come to grips with the contradictions which are part of a larger social struggle and totality. Through such thinking, we grapple with the constant flux of urban living; the “all that is solid that melts into air,” Marx famously describes, offering a distinction between “solid” and “melting” space. A dialectical activism grapples with these clashes between opposing social forces. This paper offers a framework for a dialogue between street activism, anarchism, and the con-trasting forces which push the world forward.
Doing so, the paper considers street clashes between liberation and social control, revelry and labor, work and play. Case narratives from recent social movements in New York City consider naked bike rides, performances in community gardens, acts of civil disobedience in halls of power, as well as play-based movement work toward transforming urban spaces into a sustainable living theatre. Explo-ring workings of play and public space, this paper traces lines between, “different ways of knowing,” opening “space between analysis and action” to consider official and subjective forms of knowledge (Conquergood 145), expanding ways of knowing toward a sustainable urbanism.


BENJAMIN SHEPARD is a professor, assistant and adjunct professor, and a field instructor working at several institutions in New York: City University of New York, California State Long Beach School of Social Work and Long Island University School of Social Work. He has a Ph.D from Social Welfare at the City University of New York, he also studied at the Wiliam A. White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology, at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, and at the Pitzer College in Clarmont California. His research interests include social movements, community organization, sexual politics, labor, or social work practices. He published six books, and numerous book chapters and articles. More see at

SESSION NO. 10                              11:30 - 13:00 Room 205

Adrian Voce, University Of Gloucestershire, The United Kingdom

Set within the context of a social ecology analysis (Bookchin, 1982) of the political and economic structures that have brought human civilisation to the brink of unprecedented catastrophe, this paper will suggest that the nature of children’s play from a trans-disciplinary perspective means that its marginalisation and compartmentalisation – conceptually and spatially – in the modern world represents nothing less than humanity’s suppression of a key to its own evolution. The paper will contend that the UK practice of playwork contains perspectives – on the nature of play and development, constructs of childhood, the role of adults working with children, the allocation and use of space, and children’s rights – unique among the children’s professions. It will explore argue that playwork affords insights into how society might reconfigure itself to create structures and systems of co-operation, mutuality and co-creation; rather than competition, singularity and exploitation. It will suggest that adventure playgrounds true to the playwork ethos can be seen both as democratic greenhouses and urban eco-niches; and that as such, they may hold a key to a human civilisation realigned with the natural world. As well as Bookchin, the paper will draw on Aitken, Winnicott, Fagen, Sutton-Smith, Russell and others.


ADRIAN VOCE is a writer, consultant and advocate for children‘s right to play. In 2016 he became the second President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities, and is also on the boards of the UK‘s Playwork Foundation and Playing Out. He is the author of Policy for Play – responding to children‘s forgotten right (Policy Press, 2015). Previously, as founding director of Play England, Adrian was the main architect of the UK government’s £235m Play Strategy (2008-11), advising ministers and officials, drafting and commissioning guidance documents and directing the support services for local authorities. Adrian is currently completing his MA in Professional Studies in Children’s Play at the University of Gloucestershire. He was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to children.


David Kennedy, Montclair State University, The United States

In this presentation, I will explore the role of that form of educational play known as community of philosophical inquiry (CPI)—that is, communal philosophical dialogue organized as an ideal speech situation—in the emergence of a culture of social democracy, by which I mean (after J. Dewey) those habits of mind and relational norms that make successful political democracy possible. I will begin by exploring the status of social democracy as a normative, evolutionary ideal in Western cultural, social and political theory, and its utopian promise of what H. Marcuse called a “new sensibility,” and E. Fromm an emergent form of “social character.” Second, I will argue from influential play theorists (Gadamer, Vygotsky, Erikson, Bateson and others) that the structure and dynamics of CPI fit the criteria of play as organized under the broad categories of space, time, rules, risk and power. Finally, I will explore how those structural dynamics act to foster democratic habits and sensibilities among regular participants in this form of group dialogue.


DAVID KENNEDY is Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University and Fellow at the
Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. He is author of numerous papers, most recently
“Community of Philosophical Inquiry and the Play of the World” in the journal Teaching Philosophy, and
author or co-editor of six books, including The Well of Being: Childhood, Subjectivity and Education (2006); Changing Conceptions of Childhood (2006); Philosophy for Children in Transition: Problems and Prospects (2011); Philosophical Dialogue with Children (2011); My Name is Myshkin: A Philosophical Novel for Children (2013); and Philosophy of Childhood: Exploring the Boundaries (2016). His scholarly and research interests include philosophy of childhood, community of philosophical inquiry, and theory and practice of democratic schooling.

SESSION NO. 11                            11:30 - 13:00 Room 206

Mechthild Nagel, Suny Cortland, The United States

Appropriating blackness for nefarious ends has been an enduring pastime across the Global North in the past two centuries. Tracing its beginnings in the secular Jim Crow dance in the northern states of the US, I will compare the ritual to the Netherlands’ Black Pete and Germany’s secular and religious blackfacing rites. Drawing on Viviane Saleh-Hanna’s Black Feminist Hauntology and my own Ludic Ubuntu Justice theory, I show how racist games affect nation-building and a collective unconscious and propose strategies of resistance.


MECHTHILD NAGEL is professor of philosophy and Director of the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies (CGIS) at the State University of New York, College at Cortland, USA. Dr. Nagel is also a visiting professor at Fulda University, Germany and at Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain. She is author of seven books: Masking the Abject: A Genealogy of Play (Lexington, 2002), co-editor of Race, Class, and Community Identity (Humanities, 2000), The Hydropolitics of Africa: A Contemporary Challenge (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007), Prisons and Punishment: Reconsidering Global Penality (Africa World Press, 2007), Dancing with Iris: The Philosophy of Iris Marion Young (Oxford University Press, 2010), and The End of Prisons: Voices from the Decarceration Movement (Rodopi, 2013). Her recent coedited book is titled Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusive Excellence: Transdisciplinary and Global Perspectives (SUNY Press, 2014). Dr. Nagel is founder and editor-in-chief of the online feminist journal Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies (


Zuzanna Rucińska, University Of Antwerp, Belgium

In the US, there is a heated debate whether it is acceptable to dress up for Halloween as Moana, a Polynesian Disney character. In the Netherlands, dressing up as Santa‘s little helper Black Piet by painting one‘s face black has increasingly been called offensive. While some consider dress up to be harmless play, others who promote the democratic values of equality and tolerance find it insensitive and disrespectful to minorities. In short, people cannot decide whether it is racist to pretend play to be Moana or Black Piet. This presentation will pose a meta-question inspired by this problem: is pretend play ever to be evaluated through (political) norms? Enactive cognitive science might provide some new insight on this topic. To enactivists, play is not a ‚mirror of reality‘ that represents social rules; it is a negotiation and an exploration of possibilities for action. Pretend play, I argue, is not in itself normatively right or wrong. But as it is always contextual, it can still be open for normative evaluation.


ZUZANNA RUCIŃSKA is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) at the Centre for Philosophical Psychology of the University of Antwerp, Belgium. She studied philosophy and psychology and Leiden University in the Netherlands, and got her PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, where she worked on the embodied and enactive account of pretending. Her research interests include pretend and imaginative play, forms of creativity, and embodied and enacted cognitive science.


Faith Ibarakumo Kenaminikpo, University Of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Children of all ages play in all kinds of ways, these plays are recognized part of a child‘s development. This paper examines artistic play as a model for civic education in order to inculcate children’s rights and also create an informed society which in turn strengthens democracy. A synergy between the arts and education at all levels which places emphasis on imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving in the play; ‘Say ‘No’ to Child Abuse’ to build a consensus voice of the children. The philosophy of Eudemonia supported this paper on the grounds of working hard and cultivating virtues experienced by characters in the play.’This play educates the essentials for the prevention of human rights abuses and sustainable development. The relationship between democracy and human rights in this artistic play shows the need for education which overcomes the reductionist understanding of democracy and recognizes child‘s rights education. Therefore, the arts play a pivotal role in educating the whole person for the sustainability of democracy.


FAITH IBARAKUMO KENAMINIKPO is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt. She possesses a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Theatre in Education (TIE). Her area of focus is on Children’s Theatre Activities and Practice, Theatrical Productions and Costume and Make-up Arts. She hails from Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State, South-Southern Nigeria. She joined Academics in 2006 and has to her credit numerous plays, books and research articles that are published in reputable local and internaional journals.

WORKSHOP NO. 5                          14:30 - 16:00 Room 205

Jeff Watson & Kiki Benzon, university Of Southern California School Of Cinematic Arts, The United States

Democracies around the world are in crisis. To navigate the effects of neoliberalism and the Internet, democracy needs new visions, new fixed stars to sail toward. What does a thriving democracy look like in the middle of the twenty-first century? Or the twenty-second? What futures can we imagine? What futures do we want? What do those visions say about where we are and we need to go? To enable public engagement with these kinds of questions, the Futures of Democracy Project is conducting a yearlong interdisciplinary research and design process focused on the creation of a collaborative imagination event and game kit intended to facilitate community and individual engagement with present-day issues through acts of playful speculation. Project leaders Kiki Benzon and Jeff Watson will reflect on the project’s outcomes as they guide attendees through a play experience based on the game kit produced by the Futures of Democracy team.


KIKI BENZON is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Cinematic Arts (Media Arts + Practice Division) at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. A multimedia artist with a background in English literature and neuroscience, Kiki teaches courses on digital culture, transmedia entertainment, and environmental games. Her research focuses on interactive media and the mind, and she has published work on new media and disability, cognition and narrative, and writing by various contemporary authors. Kiki is currently a project leader of “Futures of Democracy,” an interdisciplinary collaborative at the Sidney Harman Academy of Polymathic Study at USC.

JEFF WATSON is an Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Games at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, and a director of the Situation Lab (@sitlab). An interdisciplinary scholar-designer, Watson uses a range of methods to investigate the relationships among play, technology, creativity, and politics.