BoHo Interactive: Computer Games in the Lecture?

Watch out people! There’s a new disease spreading like wildfire around Canberra and the ANU. It spreads through speech, even over the phone, and it attacks the rationality of those afflicted, preventing them from critically analysing what they’re told (and no, it’s not exam fatigue). Tasked with addressing this problem are a crack team of scientists. You are one of them. Go.

The 100th Birthday of Canberra has brought some of Canberra’s best ideas to the forefront, particularly in the arts and, in this case at least, in the sciences. BoHo Interactive have acquired a national reputation since they were founded in 2001 by ANU graduates Jack Llyod, Michael Bailey and David Finnigan. Perhaps surprisingly, none are have a background in science; however, they collaborate with researchers at CSIRO to present science-based theatre. Using performance, they work to present complex scientific ideas and to correct the misinformation and blatant falsehoods spread by the media in many scientific fields. The journalistic ideal of “fair and balanced” reportage can, and often is, interpreted as meaning equal coverage. This results in unequal arguments being presented on a level playing field, despite the fact that one has the weight of the vast majority of the scientific community behind it, and the other does not. Past productions include The Prisoner’s Dilemma, which looked at game theory, and True Logic of the Future, an exploration of the effects and consequences of climate change.

This year, BoHo are behind a ground-breaking new piece of experimental scientific theatre running at the CSIRO Discovery Centre throughout May and into very early June. In Word Play, BoHo examine some of the most pertinent issues in modern epidemiology, including the spread of diseases, the way in which we manage them and the emergence of new, anti-biotic resistant “super-bugs”. Due to the overuse of anti-biotics, diseases such as TB are becoming resistant and novel diseases such as Hendra, SARS and Ebola, usually confined to animal populations, are increasingly coming into contact with humans. As Llyod notes, it is increasingly likely that medical practitioners and patients in some areas will have to start dealing with pre-Penicillin conditions.

Using an innovative form of lecture/theatre, the audience learns about the issues challenging modern epidemiologists and doctors. They also, as the scenario plays out, take control over the actors and the situation so that, ultimately, it is they who have to identify and address the issues. The lab the actors are working in is covered with cameras and all the actors are fitted with head-cams to capture what they see. The footage is then streamed live from the lab to the CSIRO Discovery Centre. Essentially, it’s a cross between a seminar and a zombie apocalypse-style first-person computer game.

Be warned, it’s probably not suitable for children or persons under the age of 15 years. Take your phone. Go!