Escaping the Strange Loop

Copenhagen Institute of Interaction DesignDenmark


Concept / Professional


CIID Research: Principal Investigators: Monika Seyfried & Annelie Berner. Research & Design team: Joshua Walton, Cyrus Clarke, Raffaella Róvida, Peter Kuhberg, Calle Nordenskjöld. Scientific Collaborators: Mohamed Belhorma, Petra Nieckchen, Chiara Bustreo, Ana Delicado, Ana Prades.


CIID Research composed a team of designers, technologists and researchers to create the concept for an exhibition on future of energy as part of the EUROfusion consortium. The exhibition will travel throughout Europe, setting up pop up installations at urban and rural public spaces. The goal of the overall exhibition is to share knowledge and gathering feedback about the work done so far by the consortium – on everything from robotics innovation to future energy technology to models of integrating new energies into society.

Our role was to research, conceptualise and prototype an immersive, participatory experience for visitors to engage with possible futures based on EUROfusion’s social, economic, environmental and scientific research. ‘Escaping the Strange Loop’ showcases diverse stories about the role of energy in near and far futures by exploring its unpredictable and complex impacts on real life problems. Participants learn about different kinds of futures they could create through their group decision-making by moving through different scales of impact in multiple missions.

In this project, we collaborated deeply with social, economic and environmental scientists, learning about their data models for the future. We worked to flip the data into a meaningful, relatable experience. Through deep research, prototyping and collaboration, we created the exhibition based on several key principles for our design team: Embrace complex futures. Make data tangible. Uncover diverse futures. Explore deep time.

We iterated to find a combination of playful yet resonant, doing justice to the data. The stories and decisions in the experience are based off of socio-economic models of different pathways of our futures. We explored multiple types of data-based story-telling to write the final stories. We use the three foundational scenarios from our partner, EUROfusion, and their TIMES Model (ETM) that holds storylines from 2010 to 2100 across varying degrees of environmental responsibility, energy technology investments and international cooperation.

Those three scenarios — punctuated by time and enriched by environmental impacts such as air quality, temperature of the planet and sea level — turned into a branching tree of stories and decisions. Once we had created this tree, we shaped it with a structural logic of three: three “missions” hold jumps into the future and each of mission shows is grounded in a guiding principle (human, infrastructure and landscape level). Each ring holds data-driven stories, “provocatypes” and videos. Thus, we transitioned from 2D data to 3D experiences.

‘Escaping the Strange Loop’ is designed for three people at a time. The trios become teams who collaborate and decide throughout the missions. They begin with an immersive onboarding, then continue into the experience’s three missions. After each mission, they decide which path to follow. Their decisions feed into our system which outputs custom stories according to the team’s trajectory through time. After the final mission, they observe the result of their choices and reflect on how they impacted the world. Once leaving the space, players access a website that shows other possible journeys and welcomes their input for new stories.


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