Whisper-Listen-Whisper: A collaborative game to facilitate the creative unknown

Michael Whittle, Robert Manners

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


‘Whisper-Listen-Whisper’ (WLW) is an international collaboration developed into a game to facilitate the creative unknown as a working methodology. The project was run as a pilot study with two groups of undergraduate art students from Plymouth College of Art in the UK, and the Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University.

The study involved students at various stages of their education, engaged in different specialisations, and working under a variety of circumstances. The first-year UK students on a printmaking module were under lockdown at home for the entire duration of the project, whilst the third- and fourth-year Hong Kong students on a sculpture course had access to studio facilities for half of the semester.

The project evolved from an initial desire to link students from different cultures experiencing similar social impacts on their day to day lives, and to enable an exchange of their ideas and experiences through collaboratively working together. The pedagogical strategy was to demonstrate that artistic outcomes can be enriched by allowing outside aleatoric events to influence the creative direction of artistic projects.

WLW drew upon the genre of instructional art, and was presented to the students as a game. This format helped generate a feeling of friendly competition, and the use of the virtual white board ‘MIRO’ allowed students to follow one another’s progress and compare, discuss and gauge their ideas and approaches. 36 students were divided into 6 teams of 6 anonymous players. Before the game started, each member was required to compose a single ‘open instruction’ in the style of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s ‘Oblique Strategies’. These were then circulated among the other players in their team over a three weeks period.

On receipt of an instruction students had to consider the different ways in which it could be creatively interpreted, and then adapt their projects in novel and unexpected directions. The process of idea generation and creative action were then documented and uploaded to the MIRO game board. Particular emphasis was placed on developing a narrative, material or conceptual thread between each stage of the game, and students rose to this challenge by employing a remarkably diverse array of techniques and ideas.

There were some highly creative and original outcomes, which were very unlikely to have emerged without a chance instructional process. Students who chose to participate in the study showed a high rate of completion and project feedback. A successful post-game group meeting allowed participants to share their experiences and comment on the development of one another’s projects.

Several students also actively sought out novel ways to incorporate chance processes into their projects, including reverse google image searches and public involvement. Several students reported they are now more likely to employ similar approaches within their artistic practices. Based upon this pilot study and positive student feedback, the authors believe that the W-L-W format is flexible enough to be easily adapted and developed for use in other creative fields in the arts and humanities, such as music and literature.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2021
EventDigitally Engaged Learning Conference 2021: Embracing Uncertainty - Online, Hong Kong
Duration: 24 Sept 202125 Sept 2021


ConferenceDigitally Engaged Learning Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleDEL 2021
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Internet address

User-Defined Keywords

  • Digital learning
  • Pedagogy
  • Uncertainty
  • Instructional Art


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