AlgoMantra, b. 2005

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Monday, January 31, 2005
AlgoKreeda #1: The Grid Vid
The preparations for Algomantra are now underway. We have shot and edited the first AlgoKreeda video( click "show more", see below for link).

We gatecrashed the TechFest at IIT Powai (Bombay) and played this game. The video is hosted by the nice and loverly people of IndyMedia.

Other film-makers and vloggers (video bloggers) are invited to send us their videos so we can host them on the festival site in a downloadable or web-friendly format. All you have to do is play the game using your own role-playing scenario. Also, please drop a comment here so we can contact you.

In the video, we played the scenario of a hive-mind police control room where someone is trying to send the message that 500 grams of cocain is being sent in a blue truck at a particular time from Powai. The game had people walking around like automatons on a tile-gird, so they shared packets of encrypted information and figured out the intended message due to crystallisation by hive activity.

Sunday, January 16, 2005
A Yatra literally means a walk, a pilgrimage, a journey into faith.

When Gandhi took on the colonial power he chose to walk it. The Salt March, his 23-day yatra to the sea to produce salt, became a direct statement against the imperatives of colonial capitalism. Walking was not only a means of getting from point A to point B. It was directly political.

While the aims of AlgoYatra are somewhat more modest, the same spirit lives on.

You walk a city. Your destination is preplanned by the imperatives of your daily life. Your routes routine, rushed, constrained. Home to work, work to home, home to work ... a short detour on the way to where you consume. Cities and its spaces have become grid-like maps, of dead movement without exitement and adventure. But the spaces we live in are also much more. Every neighborhood breathes with the foul sweet smells of history; its narrow byways evoke different feelings and moods for the vagabond that drifts in and out of them.

Now take a map of London, walk around with it in Paris. A map of Calcutta and drift through the crowded strees of Bombay and get lost in unimagined ways. Destroy the old map you carry in your head like a carcass of how a city is supposed to look and feel. Experience space as you have not been experienced it before. Follow your smell for direction for a change. Ask the stray dog sleeping on the pavement what the philosophy of that particular space is. Experiment. Create your own psychogeography of the spaces you live in.

With this in mind, we introduce AlgoYatra.

The idea is simple: we provide the Algo; you provide the Yatra.

We provide the algorhythm, a set of simple directions that allow you to break away from the repetions you carry in your head. You then become a machine that follows this rhythm and provide the yatra, your walk, in the neighbourhoods you live in, in the area you last felt an incomprehensible dread or joy. What matters is not place or space. What matters is intensity of experience. Find you own pilgrimage. Take the journey into faith that alwas lurks behind the second turn to the right after left.

All we ask for is you to have fun and record your feeling in a form that will be provided. The data from this experiment will then be gathered into a central database from which new knowledges, new maps and new politics can be created according to principles of generative psychogeography.

Documentary about the specific of the game will be provided soon. Meanwhile see:
When are we going to play this?

Since the date will be announced early in February 2005, you need to wait and find out. The festival will be held over a weekend, so OrganicPoetry will be held on the Friday evening of that weekend.

What does it feel like?

Amazing, in our experience. Just sit down with a few friends, print out this page, and start playing with what you have. You can also make elaborate arrangements like erect OrganicPoetry installations in a public square, but that depends on the resources at your disposal.

You can play this on a piece of paper, a human body, a wall..the choice is entirely yours! The job is to grow a network of words emanating from a single word in the centre. It's a lot like Scrabble, but you link up words instead of letters. You can play in any language!

What's so special about OrganicPoems?

Often, they are better than any poem an average human being could write. There are great poets in history who may be great, but OrganicPoems are almost always very fresh and inventive. This is because they harness the beauty of our collective mind.
Saturday, January 15, 2005

What is AlgoKreeda?

It's a very simple game. You can design your own variations on it. Using a simple three or four-step algorithm, a bunch of people move around in a square grid. They carry fragments of a message with them on a piece of paper, and every time they cross each other, they show each other the information they possess. Soon, someone figures out the complete message and raises an alarm. If it's correct, he stays in, and if it's erroneous, he goes out of the grid. The game resumes or restarts.

What do we need to play AlgoKreeda?

Just a bunch of people, a space, and some stacks of paper. It can be 2 people or 200 people, depends on your social capital.

I'm getting the picture, so describe a scenario.

You're quick! Imagine this - a 20x20 square grid that has been painted on a field or verandah. People start entering the grid at preset points, and travel like electrons in a computer circuit, following a very simple algorithm, something like:

first street right
second street left
first street left

Everyone carries a fragment of a message - a word, a phrase, but not the complete message. Everytime they meet, they compare notes, and their cache of the messages grows until someone figures out the complete message.

More soon! Keep watching this space..
Friday, January 14, 2005
What is AlgoMantra 2005?
AlgoMantra is an open source festival. This means that you can download the document which tells you how to hold it in your neighbourhood or city or country, anywhere in the world. Without spending any money, or needing any sponsors, you can hold this festival with your own flavor.

What happens in this festival?
On a Friday night at 7PM (date to be announced) all the participants of the festival, anywhere on the globe, take a vow of silence for 58 hours, that is till Sunday night 9PM. During these 58 hours, they play three games.

What kind of games?
Collaborative games/experiments that will demonstrate the phenomenon of crowd intelligence. You will not need any computers or hardware to play these games, all you will need is people - your friends and family, your society.

Interesting. Tell me about it.
On Friday night, we will play Organic Poetry, which will show you that while no one in the participating group (two or more people) may be a good poet, the group as a whole can be better than Browning.

And on Saturday?
We will conduct a strange kind of walk called AlgoYatra, around your city. We will have a lot of fun, and also generate valuable scientific data in the process. The basic idea is to walk around the city by following a simple algorithm, something like:

{ take first left
take second right
take first left }

You will be able to experience your city in ways you may never have imagined, we promise that much. Matti Pohjonen, one of the founders of AlgoMantra is preparing a document for your use. It will be posted here soon. The original idea is the .walk concept as practiced by Wilfried Hou Je Bek.

Tell me about the third event
The third event is a game called AlgoKreeda. The document for playing that will shortly follow.

What are you doing for publicity?
We will NOT be allowing, as a rule to be followed by the participants, traditional media to cover the festival's various events. The festival will be covered by the participants themselves, via blogging and SMS reports.

Who are the people behind this?
The concept was cooked up by Bombay-based writer Rohit Gupta & and visiting Finlander Matti Pohjonen. Also in the team are some people behind cool projects like Sea Eat, Social Fiction & ChiensSansFrontiers. This includes Megha Murthy, the Template Queen.

Besides, with Visible Monsters' Mike Sizemore on your side, you can be sure it's the coolest gig happening on the freakin' planet.