There may be no need to do anything more with the information, subjective and objective, that Interview generates, beyond making it available to the players privately, perhaps in preparation for whatever they do next.  But when many people play Interview much information emerges, which may be sorted out and shared.  There are many ways to do this.  One is by the game Sorting, which gives us a first example of a way of combining learning games in useful sequences.

         Sorting is an ill-defined game because its rules must fit the context, so I’ll give an example of its practice.  Often we faced the following problem.  Given a large number of people, with diverse interests, strengths, and needs, who want to learn with each other for a time.  How to organize their cooperation usefully?  When the people were conveniently together, as we found them at long conferences or at organizing meetings on campus or in community, we could play what we called “instant free university,” a sequence of Interview and Sorting.

         At a ten-day conference of 500 student government people interested both in education and in their campus programs, we began by playing Interview with this set of questions:  {What are you working on?  What are the problems?  What do you want to learn?  What do you have to teach?}  We asked the interviewers to summarize what they heard on file cards labeled with the other’s name, and to check their own summary-cards for accuracy.  After lunch, we repaired to a large space with many tackboards and began sorting.  As gamekeepers, we read through many cards and blocked out broad interest areas on the tackboards, kept tacks in good supply, and brought the players into the game one by one as they drifted in from lunch.  When the game got going well, it ran itself, though we hung around to advise the uncertain.

         Each player put her own cards up on the tackboards, beside others or in emptiness seeking company.  Slowly the constellations of interest grew, each of its own size and texture:  a large group into student legal rights, bristling with expertise; as many interested in funding educational alternatives with no one knowing very much; two engineers into campus radio stations.  As they became defined, the players studied them, shifted their own cards around, helped each other decide.  It took all afternoon, with people drifting in and out, for only a fraction could work at the boards as one time.  Some got into the gamekeeping spirit and hung out for a while at the boards, making reason out of the sprawl of cards, rearranging them and making big cluster-labels.  More went off to talk with their co-interviewers, or with others of like interest whom they had met at the boards, advancing the organizing process informally.

         When only mop-up action was left on the boards, we stepped in again as gamekeepers and tidied the groups up, dividing or combining them when useful.  We listed the groups, their personnel, and the room assignments for their first meetings; ran off enough copies; and distributed these at the dinner line,  with a map of the cafeteria suggesting where each group might gather to eat together.  Over the P.A. system we announced the rest of the (minimal) rules:  Each group should meet that very night to plan how they would work together; we advised daily meetings at one of several basic times so that people could work in several groups if they wanted.  We would be available as process-helpers to groups seeking aid in working together, and also, as best we could, as resources to the groups that the boards showed needed particular expertise.

         As they moved among the boards, the dinner tables, and the rooms later that night, the players sorted out their priorities and settled into their groups.  They organized them in different ways:  a few were single lectures or presentations, more tried a more democratic sharing.  Over the next few days some fell apart, releasing their players to other groups or their own devices; but most accomplished useful work together.

         Whatever our success in engineering this brief school, it was due in part to a certain efficiency in organizing the information that defined the groups.  We might have taken less conference time by asking people to interview themselves privately beforehand and send us their summaries, and then greeting them with a structure of groups we had defined laboriously from these.  But the efficiency of our process was deeper:  it lay in the process itself, which not only sorted information, but involved the players intimately in defining their own needs and resources, and in moving to meet and combine them.  At each stage the responsibility for what emerged was theirs.  And so, as they moved from Interview through Sorting to begin, over the ritual of food, the next game called Make A Learning Group (Work), their groups were formed as organically as possible, rather than arbitrarily; and were knit together by the processes of their formation.

         The large-scale game of Sorting may be played in various ways.  We have taken Interview data and run it through a computer to define the groups; this took forever and was an unrewarding process.  Nor is Interview necessary; people can just write up their own advertisements at the boards.  When Sorting is played without people taking the responsibility of gamekeeping, as on a community bulletin board, it can easily be just a random muddle coming to little.  When it is played in the sort of high-pressure, time-jam context I describe here, it needs a gamekeeping staff who are well rehearsed and have their technical backup well in order.  Some version of all the gamekeeping functions I sketch is necessary to any slower-paced play of Sorting, as in starting a community free university, or in organizing a multi-thrust grass roots movement.


        Thirty years later, computers and the Internet enable easier or more efficient solutions to some problems dealt with by Interview and Sorting. In the simplest implementation, conference participants can submit self-interviews, expressed in well-predefined categories, to the organizers, whose software will assign them to groups automatically defined from their categorical input,  Forwarding the self-interviews to others in each group makes preparation richer; elimination of pre-defined categories can make the process more flexible. In the extreme, ample pre-conference participation through an intelligently-moderated Wikki can go far towards realizing the customization of working-groups that our games managed, and in some ways even farther. At their best, such means amount to the technologization of Interview-and-Sorting, with prospects of deeper preparation for participants, both personally and interactionally. (Note that intelligent gamekeeping remains an important factor!)

        Even so, for many kinds of conferences of all sizes, sorts, and durations -- unfunded, diversely-populated, spontaneously organized, among participants with little prior connection or technological  resources – such cybernetic means remain inaccessible or deficient, and the on-site, personalized processes of Interview-and-Sorting remain pertinent and powerful. In particular, the direct personal interactions involved in Interviewing and in collectively Sorting data on a limited, physical ground have values and consequences that cannot be fully realized by high-tech means.

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