[ISEA2023] Panel: Tincuta Heinzel, Dana Diminescu, Narcis Tulbure, Yanina Prudenko, Maria Mandea, Ioana Macrea-Toma, Lasse Scherffig & Constatin Vică — The Planning Game: for an Archeology of Cybernetics in Economy

Panel Statement

Theme: AI – Generative Sub Theme:  Symbiotic Organizations

Conceived primary as a pedagogical tool, “The Planning Game” is a scale model game of socialist economies that aims to put at work a series of concepts and tools developed after the second world war in the socialist states, emulating the developments in the Soviet Union. The mathematisation of the economy, the introduction of national statistics, the development of the cybernetics, along with the fast industrialisation, the planification and the automatisation of the accountability as well as that of the production, were some of key elements that dominated the study of economics in the socialist countries. The game shows the interactions between political actors, technocratic elites and consumers in those contexts and brings into the discussion the pressures of the 5 years plan, the “socialist” economic competition, and the impact of “economic shocks”, and reflects on the present attempt to overestimate the use of big data and AI in different areas. Oriented as much towards the present, as well as towards the future (“reaching the communism”), the industrial plans were about allowing the socialist states to cover the needs of their citizens based on “scientific calculations” (see the “rationalised needs” for every citizen) and to “fight capitalism” in the international trade.

Although mimicking the institutional structure of a socialist economy, the game can easily be adapted to a diversity of contexts – such as, hierarchical monopolistic companies, financial markets and their reliance on audit companies, evaluation matrices in systems of academic merit, or systems using Big Data (predictive policing, social media, etc.) – being a performative device meant to demonstrate the emergent fictional dimension of statistical representations in some of the milieus where monitoring and control are supposed to be strict.

Taking as starting point “Utopian Cities, Programmed Societies” project, as well as “The Planning Game”, the panel reunites presentations related to cybernetics, socialist industry, AI & cybernetics archaeology within the ex-socialist countries, and looks to offer a platform of reflection related to games as method and tool of analysis and critical intervention. Apart from the historical and theoretical aspects of the intervention, the panel will discuss game as a form of reenactment, as performative intervention, as a method to unveil the multi-scalar technological condition of socialist industries and economies. It will allow the audience to learn about the organisation of socialist industry (and the institutional incentives for generating “precarious data”), but also about the way of functioning and the incidence of the individuals. Our aim is to address aspects related to the symbiosis and dynamics between data and users, between a centralised economy and the citizens of a state, as well as the competitions between states.

  1. Tincuta Heinzel & Dana Diminescu – Presentation of “Utopian Cities, Programmed Societies” project;
  2. Narcis Tulbure – “Data Poverty across Economies: The Dialectics of Information Disclosure”;
  3. Yanina Prudenko – “Soviet Economy vs Soviet Cybernetics, or Lack of a Large-Scale Unit of Information in the USSR”
  4. Maria Mandea & Tincuta Heinzel – “The Planning Game – Game theory, economics, game design”
  5. Ioana Macrea-Toma – “Cybernetics and Dissidence: The case of Mihai Botez”
  6. Lasse Scherffig & Constatin Vică – “On the relevance of AI and cybernetics archeology”
  • Tincuta Heinzel is an artist, designer, and researcher with a background in visual arts, textiles design (BA, University of Arts and Design Cluj, Romania), cultural anthropology (MA, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj), and aesthetics and arts sciences (PhD, Paris 1 University – Pantheon-Sorbonne). She is interested in the new materials sciences paradigms, electronics and reactive textiles, as well as the changes provoked by 4.0 digital industry. Under what she labels as “aesthetics of imperceptibility,” she investigates the aesthetic issues of nano-materiality and design’s new roles as operator between scales. She initiated, curated, and or coordinated several projects, such as “Artists in Industry” (Bucharest, 2011–2013), “Haptosonics” (Oslo, 2013) or “Repertories of (in)discreetness” (Budapest – Bucharest 2013-2015). Her texts have been published in Design Issues, Journal of Textiles Design, Research and Practice, etc. She is presently Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University in the UK, after being previously a Fulbright Scholar at Cornell University in the USA (2017).