The generative design of a computer sports performance


Kenneth Hansen, Assistant Professor, M.A., PhD.

Department of Communication, Journalism, Computer Science and Performance Design, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark

e-mail: keha@ruc.dk





“Otopia” is a large scale, new media experiment, which combines the areas of computer games, sports and performance in to a spectator oriented concept focused and premiered in a dome tent at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark the summer 2005. This paper presents and discusses the overall development and design of the concept. First, the project is introduced and a model of the concept is outlined. Then the basic design objects are presented and a discussion of their various forms is initiated. Special attention is here given to the way the design of rules has been used as a mean to specify the basic immaterial design form. This discussion leads to the suggestion of a rule based model for the generative design of situations as a practical option for designers of new media forms in the future.



The project of Otopia was supported by the Musicon Valley Innovation Centre in the region of Roskilde, Denmark. This includes The Roskilde Festival, Roskilde Technical College, Roskilde Business College and Seelite Light design. The project was managed by Kenneth Hansen (creative director), Kim Sandholt (project manager) and Rune Dittmer (art director), all from The University of Roskilde.

Project website: otopia.ruc.dk


1: The concept of Otopia


Otopia is a combination of a computer sports tournament and a performance. It was premiered at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2005. The name of Otopia is derived from the concept of Heterotopia, developed by French philosopher Michel Foucault [1]. Otopia was running for 3 hours the first day and 6 hours the following three days. It took place in a large, circular dome tent, 18.5 meter in diameter and 11 meter high. In the tent a large projection screen, 3 meter high and 11.5 meter wide, was placed in one end. One each side were two smaller side projection screens. Under the large screen was a scene with 6 computer stations on each side. From here 6 players on two opposing teams could play a kind of virtual (European) handball/rugby with weapons. The game was made as a modification of “Bombing Run” one of the level designs in “Unreal Tournament”, a popular multi-player computer game on the net. The game was projected on the panorama screen. The audience could move around freely and watch the game on the screens: On the smaller side screens they could watch visuals from the VJs, black and white video recordings of the players, and information about the score. Each team had a DJ and a VJ. The DJ had the audio line out when his team scored, and the VJ had video line out for the two VJ-screens when his team was in ball position. During play members of the audience could join the game by lining up to take over a game station. From the producer tower at the other end of the tent, a virtual TV producer, VR camera men, video managers and sound technicians managed the production. On the floor two sports commentators commented the game. The sound was primarily audible in a large amount of wireless headphones available for all participants. The event was, finally, every night closed with a song of Otopia, sung by Danish mezzo-soprano Nanna Bugge Rasmussen.




Fig 1: The Dome. 11 m. high and 18, 5 m. wide, the dome was made up of self supporting pentagonal space frames. The dome was positioned opposite the largest scene on the rock festival, behind the audience section in the back, i.e. just outside the concert area.

























Fig 2: The inside. Surrounded by 7 screens two teams of 6 players competed from the two sides of the scene. Opposite in a producer “tower” the producer team followed the game with virtual cameras and selected contents for the screens. The middle 3 screens hanging over the players and over the DJs and VJs, together formed a panorama. Here the spectators could follow the game. On the side screens, video clips from the VJs were projected, and, on the two screens nearest the producer tower everybody could follow the score. Graphics: production manager Kim Sandholt.
















Fig 3: Spectator sport. In front of the scene the audience could follow the game on the 11 m. wide and 3 m. high central panorama screen. Behind the player each team had a DJ and a VJ. The projectors were fixed on a circle rig hanging from the top of the tent. Graphics: Kim Sandholt.








Fig 4: Construction. The central panorama screen, 11,5 meter wide and 3 meter high, is, like the rest of the scenography constructed by students on Roskilde Technical College (www.rts.dk). On the picture the students are busy assembling the construction.


Fig 5: Wave form. The level design initially took the shape of a circular wave form as when a drop of fluid hits a fluid surface. This is inspired by popular astrophysical models of the universe. The arrows indicate the positions of two goals. To enhance the feeling of opposite ends the circular form has been pulled in to a more oval form. This also makes more room for the goals. Graphics: level designer Mikkel Thorsted.
















Fig 7: The Goals. With reference to the pentagonal isotropic space frames of the tent, the goals were designed as balloon like meshes of similar, now weightless, structures hanging by them-selves in each end of the court. Team players could jump on the inner track, move on to the outer track and speed down behind the enemy goal. To jump from the outer track here, with the ball into the goal counted as two points. To approach from the front and throw the ball would count as one point. Team members reappeared, “spawned”, on the “tees”, three on each side of their home goal (the one nearest the goal is visible to the left in the picture). Thus, they could return quickly to the defence by letting them selves die in the other end, for example by running of the field. Graphics by Rune Dittmer.



Fig 8: Complexity. The first full scale test revealed that experienced computer game players missed obstacles and hide outs. We therefore added more complexity by immersing pentagonal airship skeletons in to the ground. That reduced the general view, supplied an enhanced dynamics from depth, and added new intensity in near combat situations. It was, for example, now possible to hide in or behind, run around of or through objects, options the experienced players had missed. Graphics: Rune Dittmer.















Fig 9: Concentration. A player of the red team runs for the candy coloured jumping ball that will take him to the running tracks. On the panorama screen in the back the virtual camera follows the player with the ball being chased. He is all ready on the fastest running track. The small screen furthest back is the VJ screen of the opposing team.










Fig 10: Music. Behind the team a DJ is waiting for line out. In yellow t-shirts, two “Otopia guides” are standing by to help new players getting started.



Fig 11: Line up. The red and the blue team on the scene. In the back Djs and VJs. The blue light spots in the back indicate the team and the player in position of the ball.




Fig 12: On the scene. Two red players are running forward in the game. They can watch people dancing on the floor in front of the scene.



Fig 13: Heterotopia. The event ended each day with a song about the universe and the generative principle behind it. The text was taken from the renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno (see later). The video of the singer was projected on all screens simultaneously. The effect was a mirror hall, a visualization of the heterotopia concept as described by Michel Foucault [1], which has given the event its name.












2. The design task


The design task could as a start be divided into a set of basic forms:



Table 1: The basic design forms



Design object



Design document


Rule book



Scenography (virtual)







Text and melody

Scenography (physical)


Sound design

Control structure



2.1 Situation design


To approach the design objects in total I drew on the perspective of what I previously have designated “situation design” [4]. This approach is inspired by phenomenological and ethnomethodological work in human computer interaction where the focus is moved from the interaction with a computer to the interaction between people facilitated by technology [5]. In this tradition meaning is indexical and embodied in a situation which can be described with the interpretational rules that people use to make sense of it. Combined with the form theory of Spencer-Brown, which defines form as a difference between a marked and an unmarked state and draws it as a circle [6], the design of a situation can be describes like this:














Fig 14: Situation design



Some one, for example the designer, has an intention of starting a situation and makes a distinction, for example by saying: “this is play”. This accounts for the inner circle. Here the inner side is marked. To the situation belongs interpretational rules which reflexively governs the participants expectations and performatively constructs meaning and a shared performative space. This is basically a hermeneutic process [7]. With the initial difference it is now possible to distinguish between playing and not playing. According to the German sociologist Dirk Baecker, such a system can be further formalized by defining rules [8]. For Dirk Baecker a game is a social system per se, and the rules are the border between system and the surrounding world. These rules can hence be designed. The reflexive use of the game rules are them-selves regulated by 2nd order meta-rules. These rules can also be designed. The use of rules and meta-rules are, I suggest, called the game play. The rules have been formed from the informational horizon of the project. This is the context. Rules and the reflexive use of them are embodied in the context and in the cultural historical background of the project. Inspired by Danish cultural sociologist Lars Qvortrup [9], whose work on a theory of knowledge follows the tradition of system theoretical analysis of social systems, and thus Spencer-Brown and Dirk Beacker, the design task can now be systematized in a set of operational levels:



Table 2: A system of operational levels






1st. Order




2nd Order




3rd Order


Meta rules


4th Order


Rule collection



The designer, first, has to relate to the task of getting some one to act. If nobody acts nothing will, of course, happen. The design parameter for this is motivation. This can be done through the design of an instruction. Secondly, the designer has to design game rules which, reflexively, can be used to maintain and stabilize the situation. The rules need to be accountable. If they are not accountable people will not be able to use them, and the situation will, surely, eventually disappear. If the rules are accountable it will be possible to design meta-rules, that is, rules for the appropriation of the rules. Meta-rules should be so flexible that people can appropriate them in the on-going performative construction of the situation. For example a meta-rule can regulate if players should follow a rule in all cases or just move on when necessary.  Third, the designer must realize that meta-rules are funded in a cultural practice, and that even this practice is part of a larger cultural assemblage. This is reflected in the final design of a rule collection or rule book.


Following this we have three kinds of rules: 1: rules, 2: meta-rules and ethnomethodological interpretational rules. Rules and meta-rules can be designed; the interpreational rules are what people have with them (including the designer) [10]. Game rules and interpretational rules can be isomorphic in which case accountability problems disappear. The main goal of the design process could hence be identified as the design of rules and meta-rules in relation to the interpretational rules of the users on the Roskilde Festival, and to collect such rules in a kind of rule book. In the following I will make a brief presentation of the final rule set. After this I will return to the discussion of the process of their design.


2.2 The rules


In the Dome tent, the 1st order instructions, printed on a piece of paper, were put next to all player stations. They were written like this:


Table 3: Instruction


The game is about:

  • Taking the ball and score
  • Helping your team and shoot the others.
  • Team play




Since there was only three instructions, the game appeared easily mastered and the reader was motivated to proceed, i.e. to take the role of a player. Instructions have a double role. In a 3rd order perspective they can also be used as a strategy. That is, as a rule for the use of rules and meta-rules. Used as such, they can form a whole new meta-game. Strategies like this were however, newer part of the design task in this case. Meta-game rules and the interpretational rules of the rock festival were from the start considered some what non-isomorphic. Or to say it more bluntly: To drink and rock did not really call for a game of check. The 2nd order rules were not made explicit visible for the participants. They are as today only represented in the rule book. Rules like these are in the contemporary popular literature on computer games design, for example, divided in to constitutional and operational rules [11], or into a division between constitutive and regulative rules [12]. These divisions refer back to speech act theory where certain speech acts establishes the speech situation and others regulate it. In this case then, the rules can be listed like this:


Table 4: Rules


Constitutional rules

The game is played with a ball.


There is a goal in each end of the court.


The game is about scoring goals.


The game takes place on a court in an arena. The court is only virtual and displayed for the audience in the arena.


The game is played by two teams with each six players. The players are standing in front of individual play stations on a scene in the arena. They are represented as avatars on the virtual court.


At game start the ball is placed on the play-off top in the middle of the virtual court.


At start the avatars of the players are situated on three tops on each side of their team goal. This is also the place where they reappear (spawn) if they are killed during the game.


A player can score by having his avatar: 1: Jumping with the ball through the back end of the goal. This adds 2 points to the score. Or 2:  Throwing the ball through the front of the opponent team goal. This adds 1 point to the score.


Goals are automatically registrated and the score displayed on two screens in the arena.


All players can take the ball by running his avatar over it. All players can move the ball by letting their avatar run with it.


All players can make their avatar throw and catch the ball. Throwing to other avatars is making a pass.


If the ball is lost, it can not be reclaimed unless another player has had it in position.


A player can tackle another player by letting his avatar shot the other players avatar.


A player can have three different weapons. One is the default weapon; the others are collected by the avatar during game play. 


A player can make use of the candy coloured running tracks by steering his avatar to a jump on the candy coloured jumping ball. The jumping ball will bounce the avatar up in mid air according to the direction (the vector). The direction can then be adjusted so the avatar will land on the inner running track.


On the inner running track the speed is increased by a factor of 2.5.


Form the inner running track it is possible to jump to the outer running track. The outer running track is meant for hiding and long distance shooting.


Regulatory rules


A game is played to 10.


The winning team continues. The other team is replaced.


A team can only win three times in a row. Then both teams are replaced.


All teams have free substitution.

Each team has a VJ and a DJ. One VJ at the time can display visual in the stadium. One DJ at the time can play music in the arena. Scoring leads to DJ shift. Ball position leads to VJ shift.






As stated the rules can be divided as outlined. But, following the systematic outline above, it would seem more appropriate simply to regard the instructions as constituting the situation, and all the rules in total as stabilizing and regulating it. In this case the next level, the set of meta-rules, can be outlined like this:


Table 5: Meta-rules



Everybody can play the game


A game is played to 10 points.


The winning team continues. The other team is replaced.


A team can only win three times in a row. Then both teams are replaced.


All teams have free substitution during the game.


First person in a line of waiting players gets to play first.

Each team has a VJ and a DJ. One VJ at the time can display visual in the stadium. One DJ at the time can play music in the arena. Scoring leads to DJ shift. Ball position leads to VJ shift.


The game is regulated by commentators and, secondarily by guides.




These simple meta-rules regulate the behaviour of people in the arena, and generate what could be thought of as a tournament. This leads to the final level of the design schema: Meta- rules should be appropriable in a way so they will not stop or prevent the game play. But the meta-rules them-selves are rooted in a social practice. This could be called the FIFA-model. FIFA, The Fédération Internationale de Football Association [13], will, for example before an important tournament, state the rules for regulating the soccer games according to the rules of soccer. A game leader, the referee, then uses the meta-rules in an appropriation of the rules in the context. But also FIFA is part of a larger whole: in the cultural context there is a store of interpretational rules that can be consulted in the design. Whether meta-rules are appropriable, rules accountable and instructions motivating rely heavily on how open the final design of the rule book is to the cultural practice in question. Though soccer is perceived differently in Brazil, Japan and Norway it is, indeed, possible to meet in a tournament. In the case of Otopia the meta-rules where operated by ”Otopia-guides” and two “sports commentators”. The guides, dressed in yellow T-shirts, helped people getting started by reading the instruction aloud and showing them the controls, and they helped in the on going replacement of players and teams. The commentators were in fact stand up comedians and could in a non-serious way mediate the use of the rules. They would often repeat the rules, or a selection of them, and they would often explain to the audience what was happening in the game by referring to a rule. The commentators would also announce the team exchange, and discover if a player were staying longer than allowed. Thus commentators and guides replaced the need for a traditional referee.



3 Generative design


To develop all these kinds of rules, the design process was in fact itself regulated by rules. This is what, in this case, constitutes the heart of the generative design approach: a rule governed generation of rules in a complex environment. This approach owes heavily to the study of evolutionary computing [14] and the concept of genetic algorithms [15].  Generative systems are basically self-organizing and run by taking as input, their own output. This can produce an immensely complexity as is well known from, for example studies of models of cellular automata [16], [17], neural nets [18], Lindenmayer Grammars [19] or Artificial Life [20]. When these kinds of complex systems run, it is not possible to predict determinalistically their end state. Final solutions can though, be modelled as a kind of configurations, stabilized over time in a solutions space of possible outcomes. In the study of chaotic system and in the general study of complex systems these kinds of forms are often referred to as attractors [21]. An attractor is a state that the system will end up in if the basic operation is allowed to run long enough. A pendulum, for example, oscillating in a space without friction can be described mathematically as a circle (the rule is for example: x = 1 – y). This circle is the attractor of the system. Since nothing affects the pendulum the form is stable. In a normal physical space the pendulum is affected by, a.o. air molecules and gravity. At some point in time the pendulum will, because of this, come to a stop. The mathematical description of this is the spiral. The end point is the systems attractor. In the example of the pendulum the process is constrained by the parameters of friction and gravity. These are the parameters of the abstract solution space. The configuration of form in the solution space of the parameters is called the fitness landscape.








Fig 15: A rule:  A form stabilized in the solution space as a result of the generative design process.






Following this the game rules are the attractors in the fitness space of the design parameters. The force running the process, the operation, is the cyclic design process.


The design of Otopia can now be viewed as a similar complex and dynamic generative process: The process generates an ongoing amount of forms, rules, which can be tested for fitness. The fitness space has four dimensions expressed in the design parameters: motivation, accountability, appropriation and openness. These are the fitness values. All the rules then, the instruction included, are to be tested and described with the four values. The fittest rule survives. This is the basic generative rule of the design. If we consider the parameter of motivation as a condition of the generative process, and openness as a principle, it is possible to model the process in a fitness space with two dimensions:








Fig 16: A rule in a fitness space with two dimensions
























In the process the solutions will, as only illustrated here, oscillate between the two parameters but will eventually end up in the attractor of the blue circle. The circle represents a rule. This is the basic generative design process of Otopia.


3.1 The actual design process


How then, was this rather abstract generative design process carried out in practice? The most basic difference from an evolutionary model is the time frame. Al design processes has to stop at some time. In nature processes can, in principle, continue for ever. In the case with Otopia this is obvious: The Roskilde Festival starts at the same time every year. The deadline was definite. As often is the case the official ”go” to the project was given very late relative to the deadline. Basically this meant that we only had a little less than 3 months to develop and produce the event. I there fore chose to work with parallel processes instead of sequential phases in the organization of the work. This approach was inspired by recent work in the study of the development of multi-media systems that combines concepts from traditional models of movie production and newer models of software development [22]. The approach refers to design practices known as, for example, “extreme programming” and “rapid prototyping” where the main point is that the solution space is changing so rapidly and is so complex, and, at the same time, is so constrained by solid conditions (for example lack of time and money) that the design has to happen as an on going flexible oscillation between relevant activities.


What was now, the content of the activities in this case? The activities suggested in the literature were: identification, description, realization and testing. Applied to the case of Otopia, the activity of identification was a question of widening the horizon of the design form by gathering relevant information, and making a logical connection of know elements, that is, journalistic research and analysis. The research task was given to those people who had the time, while the analysis was performed in a dialogue with the three development teams: One for level design, one for sound design, and one for scenography.


The second activity, description, was pursued by organizing a series of workshops: one for development of ideas, one for sound design and one for pre-production. These were supplemented by three open meeting with all participants, and smaller meetings when needed. The descriptions were all uploaded to a content management system and could be accessed by all members of the design teams. This was the design document. Through the content management system is was possible to edit the content when needed and to allow monitoring when relevant, for example when communicating with the producers. The content of the system always expressed the state of the development process. In the end it was transformed into the official website of the project (www.otopia.ruc.dk).


The third activity of “realization” is accomplished by implementation and production. But in this case the implementation was an integrated part of the process, not an activity in it self. The design was continuously tested and adapted in a complex environment which it-self was in the process of being created. The festival emerged simultaneously around the design. Everything was in flux. Further, the concept of “production” indicates a mature structure of manufacturing. The structure of a “machinery” which can be started again and produce the same product again. In this case, also the machinery was generated simultaneously with the design. One of the goals of the project was to make a kind of “Invisible theatre”, that is a generative machinery that could, in the future create other events and performances. This ambition is for example reflected in this paper. Otopia was an experiment for the uncovering of such generative formalisms in the organization and design of new media forms. Thus, a search for traditional description of a, so called, mature production, would seem like a futile quest. Flow charts of the production line or an organizational diagram are useful, in this case, only as momentarily cognitive cultural models to think with, they do not constitute a total description of a formal whole. A notion reflecting a basic distinction in cognitive anthropology between models and theories: Cultural models are good to think with, cultural theories are good to think about [23]. It would however, be possible to have an office for the execution and coordination of generative formalisms, a kind of store of generative rules. The Roskilde Festival has such an office and will, of course, be able to ad the generative rules of Otopia to its stock. A main point of this paper is there fore, to make these rules accountable, so that they can be activated again, by the festival, or by other relevant parties.


3.2 Testing


The last developmental activity “testing” would normally, in multimedia productions, be carried out by evaluation and post-production. In this case, due to time constraints, only one full scale evaluation was possible. This took place in a large studio in Roskilde (a former concrete factory). But since everything was continuously being developed only the basic set-up could be tested. Further, a kind of pre premiere was planned some days before the festival opening. But this, second, full scale evaluation had to be cancelled since too many unsolved problems remained. Thus the first full evaluation was at the opening of the Roskilde Festival (with only three hours on run time on the opening day). During this evaluation the last technical problems were solved and the last design issues resolved. For example, it was through this process that the final meta-rules were stabilized, giving the regulative authority of the game to the commentators supported by the guides. But the full scale evaluation really was a test of technical solutions and game play. The project had no time for a formal evaluation. This is true too for the use of a postproduction. Due to the special combination of complexity and constraints in the solutions space, formal concepts of evaluation and postproduction have to give way for a continuous testing of technical set up and rules. Testing was an integrated part of the generative design cycles. It created a practical selective procedure in the evolutionary fitness space. A more tight time schedule could arguable, optimize the design process, but since most participants were volunteers and the few employees were paid by the hour, early and strict testing would only have tested parts of the concept. A flexible testing approach with one full size test and a final thorough test in the actual environment still seem like the optimal solution.


Fig 17: Testing. A large studio, originally a concrete factory, was used for the first full size testing. In the back the scene is being assembled. To the left the level designers are putting up computers and, out side the picture, to the right; carpenters have put up a workshop.




The testing was, as stated, aimed at selecting the rules. In the final test it was very obvious to what extent the rules fulfilled the design values. First and foremost it was obvious that the game play was working. People played the game and continued to play. The rules were both accountable and appropriable. Secondly the meta-rules of the tournament also seemed to work: people were able to join a team on the scene, and to leave again when they had to. Since these rules were regulating behaviour in the scenography it showed that the physical design did not prevent the appropriation of the meta-rules. When told by the commentators to participate or to stop, people had no problems of moving along. In total thus, the design was facilitating the flexible use of instructions, rules and meta-rules. It did not prevent it.


The most problematic part of the design however, turned out to be the sound design. The festival, especially the architect and the music planners, had demanded that we used a wireless head phone system. We were not allowed to make what they, the music planners, thought of as a new music scene, and the tent was to used again in the evenings, after the run time of the project, to host a large, so called, “Silent Disco”, produced by the architect. In a silent discotheque everybody wears headphones and can chose between three channels of music. The crowd thus dances in silence to three different pieces of music. This is a popular and entertaining concept but it didn’t have much to do with the Otopia project. Since all music had to be played and heard in the head phones it severely restrained the experience of being a member of a sports audience: People were not able to hear themselves and others cheer and shout, and they were not able to navigate in the tent using sound. Where were the commentators? Which DJ had the line out? Which team had the ball?  Thus the accountability of the rules was, in this case, limited. This limitation was further increased by the run time schedule: Since the architect was producing a silent discotheque in the evening (and night), Otopia could only run in the day-time, between 2pm and 8pm. In the middle of the summer the reflections from the sun at this time of the day, were so powerful that the screen image seemed less colour-full and less full of contrast, than planned. This also made the game less accountable and the experience of it less dynamic.


Finally, it was clear from the start that a producer tool probably would be difficult to develop. A producer tool would facilitate the selection of video feeds from the virtual cameras. Like in the TV-production of a soccer match a well designed producer tool would lead the spectators to a feeling of excitement, dynamics and overview. It would be a tool for the on-line narration of the game. We started out with the intention of developing such a piece of software, but, as expected, the development of such a tool was too complicated a task; It demands its own, probably more traditionally structured development process. In stead of a software tool focus was put on the producer team. This team of up to five people could navigate cameras, administrate the VJ screens and the two score boards, and manipulate a video switch that could switch signals between the screens on the fly. All directed by a producer. This construction meant that the production became better during the festival, as the team got better trained. In the end they were quite skilled and the production smooth moving. Whether to aim at developing the software or the team might seem a question of taste or temper. However, in the light of the complex design space it would seem appropriate to aim for a compromise: allow the team to get better tools in the future. This might be a goal for a future (post) production.


4 2nd order testing


To design the rules of Otopia was, as we have seen, basically a question of a recursive combination of rule elements in a rule form, and to test this form in the a complex environment constrained by the two parameters of accountability and appropriation. This involved the activities of identification, description and testing. Thus, one activity leads to another and the design task is about identifying the most relevant activity and move on in cyclic process, until a solution is stabilized. One cycle then, would signify one oscillation between the two parameters. The last activity called testing is, we can see now, also a second order activity. By testing the design it is possible to monitor, evaluate and regulate the generative process itself. That is, by testing the design, the oscillation, or the wave function, might be adjusted or tuned. A goal for this second order activity is hence, to maximize the output of each cycle and to minimize the amount of cycles or oscillations in total. To address this goal three development groups with, then, three different oscillations were started at the same time. Each group, one for level design, one for scenography, and one for sound design, were instructed to identify relevant form elements, to describe a design as needed and to test it as much as possible. The task was to oscillate between these activities when relevant, and to keep moving. This was true too, for the design task in general: to manage the process was to move the design forward by shifting attention between the three development groups, evaluating the generative processes in the groups and of the general process it-self, and, at the same time, keeping the final goal in view.


The general design space was primarily constrained by the deadline. Objects had to be constructed before they were thoroughly designed, the tent had to be decorated without knowledge of the tent shape, and the event had to be organized without proper knowledge of what the event was. Everything was developed simultaneously. Thus, everything was in a state of constant flux: to control or focus on an element in one corner of the design space lead to unexpected formations in another corner. To control this design process called for 3rd order correlation. This is expressed in the 4th order principle of synchronization.


4.1 Synchronizing oscillations


To ensure a correlation of all the oscillations, known and unknown, in the fitness space the rule of synchronization was chosen as a fundamental generative design principle. Synchronization is a concept used in the study of complex systems to describe the complex behaviour of, for example, fire flies, bird flocks or fish schools [24], [25]. In cases like these, small and similar distributed instructions replace the need for a total algorithm or mysterious, transcendent communication abilities. This approach seemed to go well with the design task of Otopia which called for a correlation of self-regulating, generative processes, and it went well with the idea and intentions of the whole Otopia concept, with its focus on community and mutual reflections reflected against a Utopia [1]. The design in total can now be described as a hierarchy of rules:



Table 6: A system of rules





1st order



2nd order



3rd order



4th order





The rules and the meta-rule were generated in a fitness space with two dimensions: accountability and appropriation. The oscillation of the design process was it self generated in a 2nd order fitness space with the two dimensions of motivation and synchronization:



Fig 18: The design process in a 2nd order fitness space with two dimensions



























In this 2nd order fitness space the formation of the form of the rules oscillates between the parameters of motivation and synchronization. Thus the over all design task was, in this case, to motivate people (many worked for free) and synchronize distributed creative processes. The concept of synchronicity further, helped in making the design meaning coherent: The song of Otopia which every day closed the event is, as an illustration, a song of synchronicity. Sung and improvised by Danish mezzo-soprano Nanna Bugge Rasmussen it reflects the thoughts of renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno [26]. The text asserts the boundlessness of the universe and discusses the place for a fundamental generative principle, that is, the place of God. Inspired by this discussion, the design of Otopia ideally, opens for a discussion of the possibility of a community of man in connection to a fundamental generative principle. The computer game takes place on a wave model of the universe and is less a game of winning than of playing: The game goes back and forth in an ongoing oscillation. Is there a point in this oscillation or is the oscillation the point? Can a synchronized state be reached? This is the basic question of the design.  


Giordano Bruno laid the foundation of the later philosophy and radical pantheistic theology of 19th Century romanticism – for the romantic philosophers God was a ubiquitous principle in nature. In the case of Otopia we ask if the romantic longing for a utopian unity with a transcendental order is a driving force behind new mediated, reflexive communities. The song was a tribute to the power and possibilities of a creative community. It paid homage to the special generated and imagined space through which a paradoxical meeting of creative man is possible. The end of the song thus marked the end of Otopia: it closed the space and stabilized the point in the middle of the spiral: the last and final attractor.


5 Conclusion


Forms like the ones discussed in this paper seem to be generated, adapted and stabilised concurrently in a complex environment. This is the evolutionary process that has been modelled. But the rules are not, neo-darwinistically, just made from the combination of elements in a generative process. Nor are they just, ethnomethodologically, indexical forms of the environment. They are part of a process of processes where all generated forms in the design context interact with each other and with the complex and changing environment [27]. To deal with a complicated design challenge as this, I have pointed to the use of a generative model of rule-based situations. The focus on situations is a practical tool to manage a design task that otherwise would seem overwhelming. The project of Otopia indeed, indicates this. If this is the case it would seem appropriate for the design of such new media in general, to require a similar approach. Thus I end this paper by a calling for the meta-design of new media in the future.









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