Embodied Complexity: Exploring complexity and playing with tensions through embodied experiences


Zlatina Tsvetkova

Learning Experience Designer at Digital Society School

The intention of this workshop is to create space for the exploration of complexity, systemic transformation, and paradoxes as an embodied experience. It provides an opportunity to align thinking, feeling, and acting. Embodied experiences allow for deeper understanding and reflection of our thoughts and actions. This workshop creates space for grounding in practice as systemic designers, and openness to ponder on the, often unseen, impact we may have on the systems we design for. Participants will observe their actions at the moment and practice switching their perspective from actor to observer, to thinker and empath.

Embodied complexity games and simulations

When we work with social problems, we work with diverse groups of stakeholders and may encounter cultural, educational and language barriers when engaging them and explaining concepts like complexity and systemic design. With this workshop, we aim to show that anyone can experience and relate to those concepts and can be engaged in taking conscious action as part of the systemic transformation process.

Participants will experience being part of a simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic system (based on David Snowden’s Cynefin framework) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework and experiment with different approaches to transform them. They will also play with tensions, paradoxes, and multiple perspectives.

This workshop is a playful exploration of a few of the key themes of the symposium – complexity, systemic design, playing with tensions. It is an opportunity to create a common ground for workshop participants to start conversations about those topics based not only on intellectual understanding but also on physical and emotional levels.

At the Digital Society School, we use this workshop to introduce our Digital Transformation Designers in training to the concepts of complexity, systems thinking, and transdisciplinary collaboration. Since our trainees come from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, this workshop has worked extremely well to introduce challenging concepts on a visceral level.

For systemic designers, the games and simulations introduced in this workshop can be relevant tools they can use to introduce their approach to the diverse stakeholders they are working with.

Workshop format

90 min | TBA | maximum of 30 participants

Workshop Agenda: Embodied experiences

The approach in this workshop is to use methods and games inspired by dance, contact improvisation, and improvisational theatre to create space for embodied experience rather than just intellectualising about designing interventions in a complex system. The workshop will balance embodied work, reflection and collective sense-making.

This workshop requires proximity and physical interaction, so participants need to be willing to move around and interact with others. Due to corona restrictions, this may mean that we will wear masks since keeping a 1.5 m distance is impossible in some of the activities. (You can also choose not to participate in some activities and just observe).

The workshop is kept appropriate in terms of physical contact and doesn’t require special physical abilities, however, if you have certain movement limitations, it will be good to know in advance so I can adapt it accordingly if needed.

The workshop is intended to be inclusive for everyone.

Posted September 2021


RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested Citation Format (APA)

Author(s) (20XX). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) Symposium. rsdsymposium.org/LINK.

Creative Commons Licence
Share This