National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

Serving Nanoscale Science, Engineering & Technology

Nanofun! The NanoEquity Game

Nano fun! The Nano Equity Game

Meghnaa Tallapragada, Cornell University


Need an icebreaker for your next event with your co-nano researchers? I have a suggestion, how about playing the nano equity game (also known as ‘Nano around the world’)? As I mentioned in my previous post (on midstream modulation), attending the Winter School organized by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society was probably the highlight of my winter break, and our first session began with this innovative game.

Each individual was randomly given three cards; a character card, a current nanotechnology card, and a future nanotechnology card. Every card carried details about the character or the technology. The character card provided a picture of the character, location, his/her family background, work environment, and annual income. The current and future nanotechnologies cards provided a description of the technology used and the possible applications it could bring to the character. Each participant then assumed the role of their character and moved around the room to exchange cards/technologies that would benefit their character. For example, I was randomly assigned to be a female Indian call center worker (it was random, believe me!). Being an Indian female I did not take too much time to familiarize myself with the character. I exchanged my current technology of carbon nanotubes enhanced golf clubs for a nanoparticle mask that trapped and killed germs. I figured being an Indian call center worker my chances of playing golf are no where close to my chances of being exposed to highly polluted air when I travel to and from the call center in India. I made the transaction with my friend who assumed the role of a wealthy cricket player, who decided he could benefit more from the golf clubs than the nanoparticle mask. I also exchanged a future technology of a space elevator for nano-enhanced vision. For a call center worker sitting across a computer screen for hours at a stretch, good vision definitely tops her priority list in comparison to a space elevator that could bring people and materials to outer space.

When everyone completed their transactions, which took about 20 minutes of moving around the entire room talking to almost every character in the game, we sat down for a discussion and two main themes emerged. First, there were ample questions raised about the target audiences of these current and possible future nanotechnology applications. Characters who assumed the roles of the not-so-rich class, such as the Chinese factory worker, Indian cotton farmer, Bangladeshi garment worker, the Kurdish sheep herder, or the unemployed Egyptian did not have too many beneficial nanotechnologies to trade. On the other hand, the Japanese businessman, the Chinese government official, or the Indian cricket player had plenty of nanotechnologies that would work wonders for them. The discussion although focused initially on risks and benefits of nanotechnology moved onto a more relevant discussion on values, which was the second major theme. When participants began to take on the roles of these characters, they began to assess technologies on a more value-based approach, than strictly risks and benefits.

These discussions went on for almost an hour during the session, and came up again during our other sessions at the school. I had fun playing this game and it instantly sparked lively conversations with participants I had just met at the school. If you play this with your fellow researchers, (who knows!) you could find a way to make one of the new technologies a current one. Oh the opportunities! I definitely recommend playing this game at your next nano gathering. If you would like to access the cards for the game, please visit the NISE Network (Nano Around the World). Let me know what themes emerge from your discussion of the nano game. Fun and work, at the same time!

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