Paré, D., Shanahan, M-C. & Sengupta, P. (2020). Queering Complexity Using Multi-Agent Simulations. In M. Gresalfi & L. Horn (Eds.), Interdisciplinarity in the Learning Sciences, 14th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), (pp. 1397-1404). London: International Society of the Learning Sciences. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340902907_Queering_Complexity_Using_Multi-Agent_Simulations. Nominated for Best Student Paper at the 2020 International Conference of the Learning Sciences.
The paper proceedings from the 2020 International Conference of the Learning Sciences were released some months ago, but I’m just catching up with this longer blog posting now. Our paper, Queering Complexity Using Multi-Agent Simulations, was nominated for Best Student Paper which is a great honour.
I am a long-time activist-scholar, and when I began my Ph.D. it was with the intention to design and research better ways to engage people in learning about gender and sexuality. When I first began working with my advisor, Dr. Pratim Sengupta, and learned that he and Dr. Marie-Claire Shanahan did public computing research on the giant touch screen computers in the hallway of the Education building at the University, I thought, “Before I finish my Ph.D., I am going to make something queer to put in that space.” The other part of that thought was that my design was not going to be something queer that was easily digestible or a “nice” celebrationTM. This is known in the literature as homonormativity, a framing of queerness within heterosexual ideals so as not to be “threatening” to the normative frameworks of heterosexuality.
Fast forward about a year and a half later, and one virtual reality prototype, a funded documentary film + 360° film, and the Queering VR Chapter nearing publication, plus some conferences, speaking/exhibition engagements – it’s kind of a blur…
I never stopped brewing the idea of queering the boids simulation over that year and a bit, but in March of 2019 I finally took two weeks to hammer out a basic prototype that informed the initial design during our Leighton Studio Artist Residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in April 2019, and was then used was in co-design sessions, two of which are preliminarily analyzed in this paper.
This paper proceeding, Queering Complexity Using Multi-Agent Simulations, is just the beginning and the expanded paper will be able to show cases and an extended analysis. For now, I hope you enjoy and feel free to check out the Flocking QT Stories simulation, which is now online at
In this paper, we demonstrate how multi-agent simulations of gender and sexuality-based marginalization can help us understand gender and sexual experiences as complex, emergent, multi-level phenomena, which involve dynamic interactions between individuals, groups and institutions. We present Flocking QT Stories, a multiagent-based simulation that illustrates how structural (macro-level) phenomena such as gender and sexuality-based marginalization and resilience can manifest through individual-level interactions between computational agents. We then present illustrative cases from an ongoing co-design study with people with lived or professional scholarly experience of gender and sexuality-based marginalization. Our analysis reveals how participants interacted with Flocking QT Stories through turning (Ahmed, 2006) their attention toward marginalized agents, and engaging in multi-level reasoning (Hostetler, Sengupta & Hollett, 2018; Wilensky & Resnick, 1999) to make sense of the audio stories embedded in the simulation as well as the macro-level, emergent behaviors resulting from interactions between individuals (boids), and between individuals and institutions.