Tabletop Inquiry

On the relevance of tabletop prototyping to humanities research English 508 at UVic Jentery Sayers

This is a reflection on “Paper Computers,” a UVic seminar on prototyping tabletop games informed by literary and media history. The term “paper computer” was coined by Matthew Kirschenbaum as a way to describe tabletop games (wargames, in particular). We used it this semester to also describe paper as a medium for storage, processing, and experimentation, including experiments with play and procedural thinking.

This document consists of three point-form lists. The first is a series of observations made while studying and prototyping paper computers this semester; it is intended to distill and document some of our conversations. The second list outlines some questions prompted by tabletop prototyping for project design in the humanities; it is intended to highlight how tabletop prototyping may apply to a broader set of research practices. The third list itemizes types of prototypes for engaging history; it is intended as a working vocabulary for prototyping as a form of criticism. Please note that this reflection is not intended to cohere. Pardon the contradictions and any typos, and thank you for your time.


Prompts for Project Design

Types of Prototypes

Here are some types of prototypes for engaging history. I’ve used the framework of “source materials,” but perhaps you prefer “texts” or the like.

Prototyping may be considered a form of criticism that:

Prototyping also asks how source materials address us (see Mitchell):