The Box
of Human Potential
In the Box of Human Potential a group of people spend a limited amount of time in a private or public space. Their mission? To explore and experience the vast realm of the human potential – the only tool they are offered is a box with unknown items that they may open or not.

Different times require different approaches, and so the Box of Human Potential takes another form. It moves online and in doing so adapts its original concept to the new circumstances.

This edition of Box of Human Potential will take place in the digital space. As before, a group of people, let us call them EXPLORERS, sets out to meet in a digital environment. This time each explorer will prepare a personal box with items to explore the human potential.

Will you be one of them?

Join the expedition on Thursday, 14th of January 2021, 19.00 MET.) To join visit and you will find a big red button. Press this button to explore the human potential! Note that there is no audience: once you join the call you are participating.

There will be a short introduction at 19.00 before we start the Box of Human Potential. You can expect the Box of Human Potential to last for roughly 2 hours. Afterwards we will host a debrief and reflect the experience. We aim to be finished at 22.00 latest.

Before playing we ask you to prepare this:

Mark a square in your room of approximately 4 m2 . It does not have to be exact. The important thing is that you have a specifically marked area with a clear border. You should be comfortable in this area with your computer and the box for the duration of the game. Ideally, your camera catches the whole square. We know that everyone has different technical hardware and that depending on your setup you might have technical difficulties to meet the ideal requirements. Your willingness to participate is more important than to have the ideal setup. Whatever works, works.

Prepare a box containing the 9 following objects:

something long and thin (eg string)
a bag containing many small objects (eg a bag of rice or safety pins)
something that has personal value to you
something soft
something blue
something to write with something to write on
something to eat and something to drink
something that makes a nice sound
something to shuffle

You should have one object in each category. If an object fits in multiple categories choose the one you think fits best.

Ideally, you will not leave the square during the 2 hours of the Box of Human Potential. Of course you stay responsible for your own wellbeing. So if you need to go to the toilet or have other emergent things that require you to leave the square, please do so.
The Protocols that Shape Our Life

There is no official guide that tells you how to behave in a restaurant. Nevertheless, you and everyone else usually stick to a certain sequence of (inter-)actions: You take a seat, wait for the waitress, look at the menu, give an order, eat, small talk about not-too-personal subjects, pay and leave. This sequence is internalized to an extent that we think of it as natural, but it is nothing more than conventionalized. This becomes obvious when we think about alternatives to conventional behaviours.

To exemplify this, here are some actions that would seem unconventional in a restaurant:

_:Join a group of strangers at another table.

_:When you have to wait too long for your food, go into the kitchen and inquire on its whereabouts.

_:Bring a fish to the restaurant and ask them to prepare it for you.

_:Invite the waitress/cook to your home in exchange for their service.

All of those actions seem unconventional because they go against the unspoken protocol of “How to eat at a restaurant”. Everyone seems to know how it works. Most people are assuming that you know of them and are expecting you to behave accordingly.

Here is another example of a protocol:

Think of a privately hosted dinner, that you host at home: you invite a couple of friends or family to your home, you organize or cook food, guests may bring presents or gifts if there is a celebration to be held – or as an expression of gratitude for your hosting. You eat together around a table, chat politely, comment on the delicious food, and so on. Although dinners usually are outside of our everyday routine they still feel routinized to some extent. You just know how dinners work – no need to explain every detail of them (e.g. that we will sit around a table and eat).

We can describe more protocols for other situations. In fact, most of our everyday life follows certain protocols. They are the fundamental basis that constitutes our culture. They are the reason we experience something as the culture shock when going to another country, because we don’t know how those protocols work. We can fall back on them when we are unsure in social situations, they make our life easier.

But at the same time, they make our life predictable and boring. We cannot expect to experience – nor learn – anything new when we all repeat the same actions and knowledge over and over again.

What if we apply the same experimental creativity to our actions that we usually apply to art pieces? What if we propose variations on existing protocols (a variation of a dinner-party e.g.) or develop new protocols that we can implement into our life on a regular basis? If we start questioning these internalized rules and patterns, will we discover better alternatives to how to act in everyday life? How much does it take to change the cultural norm?

The suggested Cultural Protocols questions our basic cultural behaviours and as such they propose alternatives on how to live our life. Ultimately changing the cultural norm of how we experience each other and ourselves.

All of those options aim to motivate interested people in taking up whichever cultural protocol they want to implement into their everyday life (maybe even on a regular basis).

Protocols are traditionally a sequence of behaviours, which are considered conventional and convenient. Those protocols usually leave room for improvisation, individual interpretation, and management of unforeseen events, but in order to have several people act in accordance with each other towards a common goal, they will eventually all have to follow the (unspoken) protocol: protocols are a structure to create certain experiences shared by its participants.

Again, protocols can be found in almost any social situation. Without consciously thinking about them, we act according to them. We have learnt about them, have internalized every of their steps and are able to improvise on the underlying structure without breaking the structure as a whole.

What we intend to do with this proposal is to a) create an awareness for these protocols, b) vary the existing ones, c) adding new protocols to the palette of our everyday life, and d) ultimately enhance and encourage people’s capacities to host, vary and create protocols on their own. Getting some control over the protocols you follow along, gives you some power over the culture you are living in.

As protocols evolve fluently in a certain culture, what we are proposing is a conscious fiddling with what seemed to have happened naturally. To emphasize this agency, we will call protocols that were actively modified or purposefully created cultural protocols. They twist the norm or give a new perspective on what the new norm could be.

Cultural protocols share the same characteristics as the conventional protocols. They are only highlighted by the fact that what they propose seems unconventional at first. Although the following list might be incomplete, it should as a start to understand protocols more closely.

(Cultural) protocols are…

…interactiv: Protocols organize the interaction between different people and their environment. Every participant is active in a sense that they can alter the outcome of the experience for the group.

…simple: Those interactions should be relatively simple, at least the interactions of the basic protocol – leaving room for personal variations.

…easy to set up: Protocols are easy to organize. While a theatre piece for example needs a lot of preparation and material, protocols need almost nothing of the sort. Also, they don’t require a large budget or no budget at all.

…reproducible: In order to become part of a new cultural norm, protocols need to be repeated. By repeating them they transition from being single events to a cultural practice.

…variable: A protocol is open for individual variations. That’s part of their appeal: Offering a more or less fixed activity that everybody can copy, while its openness for individual creativity gives you the possibility to make it somewhat your own style.
How was the street space used and by whom?