The Science of Sustainability

Inside the Jejune Institute, SF's Most Popular Alternative Reality Game

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Jejune A subtle message that leads to the Jejune Institute.

In a nondescript building at the corner of California and Kearny, lies the office of the Jejune Institute. Enter their office and watch a short induction video and you will be immediately thrown in to a city-wide alternative reality, scavenger hunt that has participants hunt around the city for clues and objects that build upon a larger, mysterious narrative.

You may have heard of the Jejune Institute already. The city is full of flyers and signs that promote "socio re-engineering" courses and products that the Institute purportedly offers. They encourage you to visit they're offices or call to learn more:

jejune flyer

The Institute, which might look like a cult from the outside, is the creation of the hybrid arts and advertising consultancy, Nonchalance. Jeff Hull, the founder and creative director of Nonchalance, spoke a couple weeks ago at the Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) on situational design and use of public space. He described the core of Jejune (and Nonchalance) as bringing together three main concepts: narrative, multimedia and space. Together, they create the world of Jejune and are a model for creating excellent experiences in situational design.

While Jejune is a privately funded project, Nonchalance works with corporate clients to creative narrative driven marketing campaign.

Having visited the Jejune Institute, I can say it's one of the funnest and most intriguing experiences I've ever had. The city suddenly takes on a different form, as you begin to look for clues and subtext in everything you see. It has been a delightful experience in situational design that can turn a regular weekend afternoon into something entirely magical. With the exception of having to purchase a few token items along the way (all less than $5), it is completely free.

As to giving you any clues about what you'll experience at Jejune, I'm staying mum. You'll just have to go and visit for yourself.

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Laura Khalil

About the Author ()

Laura is a marketer by day and nerd by night. She's the Chief Nerd Herder for Dorkbyte, a blog devoted to art, technology and science. She's been named one of the most engaging women to speak about technology and has been featured on The Setup. A member of Noisebridge, she is working on two robotics challenges, leading a puzzle team that competes in a variety of puzzle challenges throughout the US and monkeys around on ham amateur radio. She loves astronomy, Making and hardware hacking. She was most recently involved in teaching hardware circuitry at Maker Faire.Laura has executed marketing strategies and campaigns for tech startups in the Bay Area. Her work with social media has been inducted into the Viral Marketing Hall of Fame.
  • mark

    you should really be less descriptive of the jejune and what it is, part of its success is the element of surprise and you are basically ruining that for people that are trying to find information on it.

  • Laura Khalil

    Having gone through the Jejune Institute myself for the last year, I am fairly confident that my article does not give away any of the mystery behind the event, rather serving to wet the appetite of prospective players. As you may be aware, the flyers are only one very small part of Jejune. And entire alternate world of wonder opens up to players once the game actually begins.

    If I had wanted to divulge the details of the event itself, I believe that would certainly dampen one's experience, however for those walking down the street, noticing an oddball flyer or plaque, perhaps now there eyes will perk up, knowing something mysterious and fun lays ahead.