Adjacent Possible Playground: Story

Card-play conversations at small group genius scope and social machine scale

John Kellden
7 min readSep 1, 2023

The card deck is designed for card-play conversations
at small group genius scope and social machine scale.

Adjacent Possible Playground: Core Innovation
The core innovation lies in the transformative
potential of card-based exploration. It shifts our
perspective from traditional power dynamics
to a collaborative, interconnected approach.

Adjacent Possible Playground: Value Proposition
The value proposition is the empowerment of
individuals and communities to navigate
complex systems, elevate their media games,
and collectively unfold paths to preferable

Card: Multiplicity
The existence of multiple
perspectives, stories, and
pathways within a system.

Cards for Insight: Use the cards to explore and address wicked problems

Cards for Insight: Cards as Media
Cards become the medium for this evolution,
providing structure and process to this
dynamic journey of discovery and change.

There’s two stories below, the User turned Participant story, and
the Adjacent Possible Playground story. The Adjacent Possible
Playground is an online community of card-play conversation
practice, homesteading a different social machine.

Card: Cards*
Cards are play, conversational intelligence,
insight, small group genius and shared
understanding affordances.

Adjacent Possible Playground: Sign up here:

… patterns of play is what players engage with, before,
between, after and around questions and cards …

Card: Social Machine
Web-based socio-technical systems
in which virtual, networked, language,
human, and technological elements
play the role of participant parts with
respect to realization of system-level
processes in service to local goals
and societal purposes.

… participate in an online community of card-play conversation practice in ways conducive to formulating and gathering around generative center questions, addressing worthwhile dilemmas …

Card: Social Machine
A combination of structures,
processes and flows where
humans perform creative
work and machines provide
administration, access and

flow = structure x process

“x” = patterning in general and shared understanding in particular

“=” = context as 103% of the source of intelligence

Flow in general and knowledge flow in light of arriving
at a simplicity beyond complexity, in particular.

— John, complexity?
— Yes. Other people in light of you trying really hard
to remain inside your own personal ken comfort zone.
— But what does that mean?!
— Your opinion is not truth.

Card: Other People
In a network, the best place to store knowledge is in other people.

Card: Play^n
In a network, we play^n to win^n.

Card: Possibility Space
In a network, in transition, moving to and through a problem space turned possibility space — networked knowledge applied to preferable outcomes.

Card: Analogy
In a network, in transition, moving to an adjacent
possible, language in general and code in particular
is to path unfoldment what color in general and art
in particular is to light unfolding wholeness.

“Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability,
which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.”
— Alfred North Whitehead

… add your thoughts in ways conducive to intelligence turned ability …

Card: Conversational Intelligence
In a network, storytelling is a generative and convivial
superset of marketing, with conversational intelligence
replacing ersatz communication.

The story from a user perspective:

… formulate and gather around generative questions …

Card: Review
How do I know what I know?

… pick two cards and add your thoughts between …

Card: Orientation
How much of the world do I have access to?
What perspectives, what language and
what tools, forming what informed practice?

… pick two cards and add your thoughts, ideas, prompts and prompt responses, insights, individual notes and small group genius annotations, book and article excerpts and quotes, between …

Card-play conversations at small group genius scope and social machine scale.

Card: Story
In light of my own unfolding path, how do I
shape and evolve select parts of what I know
into something meaningful (why) and useful (how)?

… there’s a place beyond proprietary
platform algorithms — let’s meet there …

Card: Tasks
How do I click on like buttons and add
non-committal emojis, while remaining
comfortably numb inside my own
personal ken comfort zone?

… choose your tasks wisely …

Card: Navigating Online Labyrinths
In the digital realm, I cautiously signed up to Facebook around 2007, initially with a sense of curiosity, then with growing indifference, and over the years with an increasingly desperate need for connection and meaning. As I navigated the virtual corridors of this inextricable platform, I couldn’t help but notice its ever-changing landscape. The experience was akin to wandering up stairs of varying widths and heights, each step inducing a peculiar social cognition fatigue.

‘I’m entering a fabrication of the gods,’ I mused initially, marveling at the architecture of Facebook, with its halls of mirrors holding one billion humans turned users. Yet, as I delved deeper into its uninhabited corners, I couldn’t shake the feeling of desolation, the gradual erosion of online social cognition. ‘The gods who built it have died,’ I corrected myself, acknowledging the emptiness that lurked beneath the surface.

With each click and scroll, I uncovered more of the platform’s peculiarities, leading me to a troubling realization. ‘The gods who built it were mad,’ I concluded, my sense of reprobation mingling with intellectual horror at the Grand Theft Data and the Dopamine Hit Shiny Content Consumption Like Button Clicking behavior by most if not all users.

This digital labyrinth is so vast and dreadful that its very existence taints the past, the future, and even the real world outside,’ I reflected. Even in the midst of a social web turned increasingly deserted, Facebook’s reach and grasp loomed ominously, casting its algorithms over time, space and online presence.

This adaptation transforms Jorge Luis Borges’ exploration of a physical palace and labyrinth into a metaphorical journey through the digital maze of Facebook, where users navigate its complexities and contemplate its implications. Mark Zuckerberg and his team of engineers are likened to the gods who constructed this virtual realm, with its intricacies and madness mirroring the architectural wonders and horrors of Borges’ palace.

… find the others, find places leading beyond, and agree to meet there …

Card: Tasks
How do I engage around questions and
card-play conversations together with
others in ways conducive to better thinking?

… cards with added human and AI-assisted annotations
turned boundary objects, building blocks of information
mapping and knowledge flow …

Card: Tasks
How do I craft notes in ways
conducive to better thinking?

Card: Feedback
How do I apply my own social cognition,
my understanding and use of social
information, in order to make
different, better decisions?

Card: Design Synthesis
How am I to synthesise all of the above in order to
make a difference for my own knowledge work?

Card: Play
What living, dynamic, evolving mix of
finite and infinite games am I playing?

This generative user story and engagement turned participatory play sequence forms circles, cycles and spiraling inquiry, where Play returns “back” to Review, with spiraling lines of inquiry evolving with your ongoing alignment between your essential character and evolutionary purpose.

The story from an Adjacent Possible Playground perspective:

… formulate and gather around generative questions …

Card: Core Innovation
The core innovation of the card-based collaborative
narrative approach is the use of generative questions,
cards, human and AI-assisted annotations, and patterns
of play as building blocks for individual note-taking, small
group genius card-play conversations, collaborative
meaning-making and collective sensemaking.

… engage in card-play conversations around center, generative questions, with human and AI-assisted card annotations addressing worthwhile dilemmas, cultivating shared understanding as generative closure, with thoughts, insights, moves, paths and preferable outcomes evaluated against envisioned end game scenarios …

Card: Story
As players use the cards to engage in dialogue and create and share stories, the deck becomes a living record of the online community’s knowledge and creativity.

… cultivate shared understanding as generative closure and co-create knowledge artifacts building on the card-session participation ...

We made it? What happened? We happened.

“What we perceive as the present is the vivid
fringe of memory tinged with anticipation.”
— Alfred Whitehead

… align with your own essential unfolding, while
learning to play really well together with others …

Card: Essential Character
Learning into

… participate in ways conducive to one trillion trees,
one million villages, one thousand eco-cites and
one planet, seven generations to come …

Card: Evolutionary Purpose
Unfolding wholeness.

… embrace your own unique niche and
contribution, in light of all of the above …

Play? Sign up here:

Adjacent Possible Playground

*There’s around 500 cards in the source deck, with more than
100k two-card and 16M three-card combinations.
Two, three-, four- and five-card combinations can be seen,
understood and played as a different approach, forming an
adjacent possible to LLM’s, Large Language Models.



John Kellden

Cards catalyzing stories, Conversations that mind and matter, Digital communities and collaborative narratives