Future, Fiction and Cultural Design


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In this presentation, we analyse some of the aspect of media experimentation, taking the example of a laboratory for media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After examining how media research consists in creating new imaginaries (visual or experiental depictions, situations) a.k.a the "future", we then examine how these created facts (fictum, narratives) are usually presented as new and believable (plausible) celebrating things to come and in the same time carry out themes or topics that are in fact part of a bigger, mythical techno-cosmogony.

We conclude by synthetising both our future arguments and fictive counter-arguments in the context of media response abilities when it comes to amplify story-bits in media systems (memetic resonance). We propose in particular to add contextual elements to the repetition of narrative arguments made by story professionnals and also to encourage creative reconfiguration of both memes and their context in a pragmatic, and free attitude, where narratives are not only embodied as stories-objects but also as tools for action, recreation and playful reconfiguration of socio-material practices.

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Future, Fiction and Cultural Design

  1. 1. a Media laboratory at MIT <ul><li>Future(s), Fiction and Cultural Design </li></ul>
  2. 2. Outline of this talk <ul><li>A. Imagining the future(s) </li></ul><ul><li>B. Are these futures yet to come ? </li></ul><ul><li>C. Experimental media and other modern forms of storytelling </li></ul>
  3. 4. A. Imagining the future <ul><li>Interdisciplinary, multicultural teams, brainstorming with artists, designers, creative people from industry, academia, engineering, media to create </li></ul><ul><ul><li>unseen representation of technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>extreme and radically new scenarios of technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes a debate around its implication for society, culture </li></ul></ul>
  4. 6. A. Creating an unbounded vision <ul><li>Compared to traditional MIT research, few boundaries in terms of topics, assessment... </li></ul><ul><li>Exploring scenarios is more important than doing real development or products. </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of demos, physical objects or social experience that transport the audience into an hypothetical context and frame the narrative. </li></ul>
  5. 7. Case Study 1 - Display of the future
  6. 8. Case Study 2 - Car of the future
  7. 9. Case Study 3 - Clock of the future
  8. 10. Case Study 4 - Brain of the future
  9. 11. Case Study 5 - Robot of the future
  10. 13. B. Are these futures yet to come ? <ul><li>A central question for futurologists since their production is fictive therefore contingent (fictum - pure creation - from the verb “fingo” meaning “to touch, form, create, contrive.”) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nick Negroponte TED talk in 1984 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc8Ks6KOySg&feature=channel </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Persuasion, retorics vs Plausible deniability. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually the future is better, augmented, with some sort of meliorative contribution that makes it different from the past. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A Media Laboratory, like a Think-Tank or any Institute or organization that predicts (tell in advance pre-dictum) or invent (pro-grammare create the rules in advance) is in a situation similar to an author, a storyteller, but with the difference that its discourse should be “ new ” and “ believable ”. </li></ul>
  11. 14. B. Maybe they already happened ? <ul><li>Memex, Vannevar Bush, 1945 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Atlantic Monthly article and illustration as a medium </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Memex is the vision of the Augmented Web ( web 4.0 ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Itself an illustration of the research of Paul Otlet, Emmanuel Goldberg and others </li></ul></ul><ul><li>From Sensorama, Myron Krueger, SHRDLU to Put-That-There, G-Speak, Sixth Sense </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gestural Interaction Paradigm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“Intuitive” interfaces such as touch, pen, actually standard before the mouse (cf Sage lightgun, RAND pen tablet, Sutherland Sketchpad). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Augmented Reality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ivan Sutherland vs Steve Mann </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doug Engelbart and the ARC ( Augmentation Research Center) in the 60’s </li></ul></ul>
  12. 15. 1945 2009
  13. 17. 1974 2000 2010
  14. 18. 1968 2008
  15. 20. B. Maybe some are not linked with reality <ul><li>Engineering, Mass Production might be impossible, does it matter ? </li></ul><ul><li>Prototyping scenarios closer to design fiction, sometimes sci-fi, can create fertile debate and controversies around ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>Exemples </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Holography, Rapid Solidification (from TED 1984 to today) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CNC machines to Food Printers, Organ Printers, Universal Fabricators </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Biomechatronics and the “augmented body” </li></ul></ul>
  16. 24. C. Contemporary Storytelling <ul><li>Evolution of Public Opinion Crafting, Shaping (Cultural Design) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E. Bernays vs H.G.Wells (unconscious vs dystopian) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spin-Pharmacist vs Spin-Doctors (predicting vs explaining) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grassroots vs Astroturfing (natural sciences vs artificial sciences) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ethics, responsability of media makers and relays vs charm, fascination for fiction, especially when narratives and stories are intriguing, charming, and better than this, plausible. </li></ul>
  17. 25. C. Anthropological Narratives <ul><li>Like play or creativity, storytelling is constitutive of human culture (Huinzinga, Caillois, Bateson). </li></ul><ul><li>Stories are vehicles to gather attention and allow collective goals to be achieved using rhetoric, persuasive techniques and now technologies: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Network effect: from word of mouth to memes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Top-down Cosmogony, myths vs Bottom-up complex narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Control/Creation of story systems determine the discourse (for instance in the techno-social sphere, Mondo2000, Wired, Edge, O’Reilly Media and now Seeds for transhumanist dissemination) and also establishes social order. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 27. C. Collective Response Abilities <ul><li>Memetic machines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Amplification of story-bits and other high-impact sentences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economy of attention, Aesthetics of these fictive bits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Necessity of awareness of media construction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Celebrating the importance of stories and critical thinking </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Transformation machines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deconstruction, Parody, Re-composition (Latour) and Re-mix </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Open Forum (forae), public discussions, perspective taking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beyond open-source towards Free Culture (Lessig, Hill) and Free Media </li></ul></ul>
  19. 28. Appendix: Inventing the Present <ul><li>Open-Source or Public Domain Projects that are released now. Inspiring people to do by giving tools for creation, debate or learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Many domains from citizen participation to education to new multitouch interfaces. </li></ul><ul><li>Community making and participation is as encouraged than discourse making </li></ul><ul><ul><li>participation is a currency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>emphasis on adapting to different cultures and communities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>tension usually between integrity of the project and forking, diverging </li></ul></ul>
  20. 29. Grassroots Mapping
  21. 30. Fablabs, How to make (almost) anything
  22. 31. Appendix: Scratch
  23. 32. Trackmate
  24. 33. Center for Future Civic Media