Small biases, large consequences: an interactive online game on diversity or segregation

160817polygons(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Often it takes dramatic illustration to convey just why certain abstract concepts are so important to thinking critically about knowledge. For demonstrating the significance of concepts of “bias” and “implications”, try this online game with your students. “The Parable of the Polygons” provides an attractive, interactive – and startling! – visualization of what can follow from accepting some initial ideas, or from being influenced by only a little bit of bias! Students can play the game online, make their own choices, and see the graphic results form before their own eyes.

Designers Vi Hart and Nicky Case open their game of squares and triangles with the idea that small individual biases can add up to a large collective bias: “This is the story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.” Every polygon would prefer to live in a diverse neighbourhood…up to a point. The rule that guides the game is “I wanna move if less than 1/3 of my neighbours are like me.” The triangles and squares smile or wail until their desires are met. In the process, small individual biases add up to segregate the society: there are implications to the choices.

But the game can be played again and again. What happens to the neighbourhood if the bias is mathematically reduced? Can an increasingly open mind also be modeled through this mathematical simulation? Try it!

In their conclusion, the game designers link to further mathematical models of diversity, urge contribution to diversity education, and place their game firmly in the public domain. For educators, what is there NOT to like?


Vi Hart and Nicky Case, The Parable of the Polygons.

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