Conspiracies and Countergames Online Summer Institute (19/7-05/8)

Hosted by RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab


A three-week online Summer Institute bringing together artists, activists, scholars, students, gamers and weridos to learn about reactionary and oppressive conspiracy fantasies and craft creative games to respond to them in the name of social, racial and economic justice.


Twice-weekly 2h sessions begin with a Q&A session with artists, activists, scholars, novelists and game designers (see schedule below)…

…followed by creative workshops where participants are invited to design their own “countergames” to intervene against reactionary conspiracy fantasies.

Background readings and preparatory work will be provided in advance (2-4h per week of work extra).


Mondays and Thursdays, July 19-August 5

10h00-12h00 Pacific 13h00-15h00 Eastern 19h00-21h00 Central Europe


All events will take place on Zoom and supplemented by a Discord chat channel.

Q&A sessions with speakers will be broadcast to and archived on RiVAL’s YouTube channel.

Speaker schedule


with Max Haiven, A.T. Kingsmith and Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, coordinators of the Conspiracy Games and Countergames project.


with TESA Collective (TBC), a social movement training and game design platform.


with El Jones, Black liberation and abolition activist, poet and scholar.


with Jack Bratich, Rutgers University professor, expert on ideology and conspiracism.


with Hari Kunzru, bestselling and award-winning novelist, essayist and podcaster.


with Cassie Thornton, artist and convenor of The Hologram **peer-to-peer viral health project.


Three ways to participate:

📺 Watch the speakers’ on YouTube and engage through comments section.

🦜 Join the Zoom conversation with the speakers.

🎲 Participate in the conversation and take part in the game-building workshop.


RiVAL welcomes applications to participate from all people who desire to overthrow capitalism, white-supremacy, cis-hetero-patriarchy, colonialism and/or other systems of domination including workers, people who refuse to work, formal or informal students, artists, scholars, activists/organizers and other people.

Participation is limited to ensure quality of experience. Selections will be made on the basis of (a) ability to attend and participate in all sessions, (b) diversity, (c) fit. Successful and waitlisted applicants will be notified by July 5, 2021.


To apply to participate, please complete this form by June 28, 2021 —>


RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab is a workshop for the radical imagination, social justice and decolonization located physically on Anishinaabe terriroties on the northern shores of Githi-Gami (Thunder Bay, Canada) and with activities online and around the world.


Dr. Max Haiven is a writer and teacher and Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice. His most recent book is Revenge Capitalism: The Ghosts of Empire, the Demons of Capital, and the Settling of Unpayable Debts (2020). Haiven is editor of VAGABONDS, a series of short, radical books from Pluto Press. He teaches at Lakehead University, where he co-directs the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL).

Participants will also be joined by students from Dr. Max Haiven’s Lakehead University graduate course “Conspiracy, Disinformation and Games,” for whom participation in the Summer Institute comprises one part of the course requirements. If you would like to earn university credit for participation, please contact mhaiven [at]


The neoliberal economic game we’ve all been made to play is rigged, and everyone seems to know it. Is it any wonder that, in a world saturated by corporate disinformation, the relentless lies of advertising, craven news media, political hucksters and relentless bullshit people are increasingly spellbound by “fake news,” emotive online propaganda and virulent conspiracy fantasies?

In this three-week intensive Summer Institute, hosted by RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab we examine conspiratorial thinking from a critical perspective. Directed by Dr. Max Haiven, Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice, the Institute is part of the Conspiracy Games and Counter Games project (which also includes a podcast) which seeks to understand conspiracism, fake news and how to confront them in a gamified capitalist world.

What would it mean to invent games that confront and resist that games of survival we are forced to play?

That is a world where corporations (and many public and non-governmental organizations) are eager to transform all aspects of life, from health to love to learning, into digital games. But this all transpires within a bigger game in which we are all forced to be players: global neoliberal capitalism.

Dark forces are brewing within such a system, where we are all forced to compete to survive and thrive at the expense of our ecosystems, one another, and our wellbeing. Revanchist white-supremacy and other forms of ethno-nationalism and fundamentalism animate a turn towards authoritarian parties and pundits around the world. Often mobilized around fears of a loss of established power and privilege, these reactionary forces harness their war chariots to cis-hetero-patriarchal tropes and promise to “return” society to a fictional bygone era of purity.

In order to hold together this dangerous make-believe we have seen the rise of reactionary conspiracism: the development of popular narratives where social power and resistance to it is presented in a skewed or fantastic form to distract people from the real sources of oppression, exploitation and alienation or, even worse, to redirect people’s rage at its victims and survivors, rather than its true perpetrators.

But without diminishing the roots of many forms of reactionary conspiracism in this poisoned soil, we must contend with the fact that the popularity of QAnon, anti-vax and other conspiracist “movements” flowers in an atmosphere of profound social alienation. Among many other things, such movements can be framed as forms of “dangerous play,” where individuals find a sense of meaning, validation, common cause and even fun in an otherwise disenchanted world.

What if confronting dangerous conspiracy fantasies was about more than just banishing disinformation but included inventing new ways to be and to play together?

Conspiracism’s playful elements cannot be disentangled from the rise of the internet as a forum where cynical grifters, die-hard evangelists and bored dabblers can, together, engage in imaginative world-building… with sometimes disastrous consequences…

This online Summer Institute is dedicated to helping us better understand this set of phenomena, and to challenge it. If conspiracism is, in a sense, a kind of gaming within a gamified capitalist world, (how) can games be part of the response of those who would challenge it? All too often mainstream experts and pundits assume that the antidote to disinformation, fake news and conspiracism is simply “sharing better, more reliable information and analysis.” But this perhaps noble impulse is based on a profound misrecognition of the socio-cultural and political-economic roots of the problem which cannot be solved by information alone.

This online Summer Institute is also a laboratory: can we compliment our learning about these issues by creating experimental games aimed at challenging the grip over the imagination of conspiracy fantasies and, instead, open new horizons for thought and action?

Over the three weeks of the Institute participants will hear from and discuss with guest speakers and design “counter-games” to challenge reactionary conspiratorialism. Blending art, activism and rigorous inquiry, this Institute is for anyone who wants to more deeply explore these phenomena and dream of creative ways to confront them.