BCM325 Future Cultures: Why Science Fiction?

BCM325 Future Cultures is a third-year subject in the major of Digital and Social Media, which is one of five majors in the Bachelor of Communication and Media. Previously the subject was called ‘Cyberculture’ and had a very techno-social focus, with an emphasis on regulation and policy. My revisions for the subject have responded to the attention that digital, social and emergent media already receives in earlier subjects in the major and even subjects in the core subjects of degree, after all these are ‘the’ media that graduates will be working, in, with and around. Future Cultures has been refocussed around the primary goal of challenging students to think about the future across three time scales: the short-term, the medium-term and the long-term. The subject has a student blog, which students contribute to here.

As the major is going to be offered across multiple campuses including Wollongong, Hong Kong, South West Sydney and Dubai over the next few years, I have transitioned to a blended learning approach, which provides the lecture material in a series of online videos. My approach to the three-hour face-to-face seminar time mixes a little of the old and a little of the new. One of my favourite experiences as an undergraduate was the screenings of movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to or had the opportunity to view. Student’s today have more access to this type of content but don’t often choose to watch it. Similarly, classroom discussion in traditional tutorial mode is often hampered by an increased level of student anxiety, and less available time to prepare and do the background readings and research that would help them to speak from an informed position. Our students, however, are encouraged to use Twitter during their first-year lectures, deploying the hashtags #BCM112 and #BCM110 to develop their sense of a cohort and engage with the content, using memes, gifs and the obligatory shitposting.

Enter live Tweeting. One of my favourite experiences at academic conferences is the ‘backchannel’ conversations and coverage that comes from the rapid live tweeting of speakers and presentations. Similarly, some of the most interesting Twitter threads emerge from the live tweeting of events and especially from fans participating in the coverage of their favourite shows. Live tweeting is not an easy skill to develop, it requires advanced practices in note taking, listening and the ability to distil information rapidly, and in such a way that it contributes to the understanding of those not physically present. Even if students don’t go on to continue using Twitter, and many don’t, it is a valuable process that supports student learning, and confidence in engaging in real-time analysis, research and critical conversation that will be useful to their future careers in the media and communication industries.

This brings me to science fiction. Over the course of the session, students engage in the live tweeting of science fiction movies from the previous one hundred years. Beginning with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, moving through Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, both Blade Runners, the original animated Ghost in the Shell, and ending with Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime. The point is to consider the way the future has been represented in the past and to contemplate the tension between the representation of the future and its reality. Students must tweet during the screening, using the #BCM325 hashtag and are assessed on their ability to engage with each other and outsiders, who often comment on the live tweeting stream, and make sense of the films for a public audience.

In the above video, I explain why we are using Science Fiction to think about the future in more detail, drawing very briefly on the work of two SF scholars, Istvan Cicsery-Ronay and Darko Suvin.

#Deletion launch today with two speakers on SF and Robotics

Deletion – the open access online forum in science fiction studies is now live and we are launching this week with two speakers on robotics, the remarkable Angela Ndalianis with ‘Tomorrowland’, and robotics thinker, Matthew Joordens on ‘The Science and Fiction of Robotics.’ today at the  Phoenix Gallery, Deakin Burwood 4-6pm.  Join us!


Science Fiction: Future fact? 

Dr. Matthew Joordens – School of Engineering, Deakin University

Is science fiction the harbinger of doom, an idle story or future fact? Science fiction has enthralled its audience since Mary Shelly animated a monster, Jules Verne put a man on the moon and H. G. Well invaded the earth with Martians. This presentation will look at the link between science fiction and science fact, particularly in robotics. Will robots be able to replace mankind? Will they be smarter than us? Will robots be independent or have a hive mentality?  Find out about robots today and the possibilities of tomorrow.


Angela Ndalianis – Associate Professor in Screen and Cultural Studies, Melbourne University

Tomorrowland at Disneyland embodied for Walt Disney a demonstration of the world of tomorrow that could be experienced today. In constructing Tomorrowland and Disneyland, Disney drew upon a range of influences: science fiction and utopianist writings; urban theory and visions of futuristic city living & world expositions from the past and present which had also envisioned the world of tomorrow through technological advancement. These resulted in a complex evocation of a retro-futurist vision.This paper focuses on what Brooks Landon calls “science fiction thinking”. Like a science fiction time traveller Disney drew upon the past and present to construct a present that would envision the future.

Science Fiction Seminar @Deakin Thursday September 26, 2013

The SF Research Group Presents: Sounding Science Fiction with Peter Miller

Sound Design in SF Film 

Peter Miller is a professional composer, musician, sound designer and visual artist with a career that spans more than 30 years. He is recognised both in Australia and internationally, and his feature film credits include Ray Lawrence’s Jindabyne, Jane Campion’s In the Cut, and Gore Verbinski’s The Ring and Rango. He has recently completed his science and mathematically-based visual art project Watching Europa, a speculative contemplation on alien life.

Thursday 26 Sept. 4-6pm. Phoenix Gallery, Deakin University

SF Seminar – Peter Miller

Sounding Science Fiction with Peter Miller

Sounding Science Fiction with Peter Miller


Science Fiction Seminar @Deakin Thursday August 22, 2013

The Science Fiction Research Group @Deakin University Presents:
The Inauguration of the SF Seminar Series, Thursday, 22nd August 4-6pm at the Phoenix Gallery (Building B), Deakin University Burwood.

‘Scientia, Scientia Ficta et Arte: SF Arts’

Dr. Paul Thomas (Associate Professor at COFA) will be presenting his research into nanotechnology through his artworks Midas and Nanoessence. The focus will be on nanotechnology and the exploration of materiality and immateriality in the expanding area of art and science practice. Nanotechnologies have created new ways of thinking about materials and processes that construct different social realities. The presentation draws on contemporary science and art practice to confront traditional understandings of materiality, exploring key issues that define possible shifts in our conscious understanding of matter. The talk will explore his current research into Richard Feynman’s famous diagrams, parallel universes and quantum theories.

Tracy Sarroff will be presenting a talk on science fiction in relationship to her visual arts practice. Ecology and concerns about art and science underlie the majority of her projects. What prevails is an interest in the relationship between ecology and science and the creative boundaries of what is both imaginary and real. Frequently using ideas that are allied to science fiction and science fact, Sarroff’s work manifest an ambiguity in relation to natural and artificial engagement. Transgenics, biotechnology, microscopy, and science fiction have been some major themes fuelling her explorations to date. Often these themes relate to contemporary society and movements in scientific research. These topics will be discussed and analyses in relation to creative practice and the zeitgeist.

Journey with us!

Leon Marvell
Sean Redmond
Elizabeth Braithwaite
Christopher Moore
Trent Griffiths

RSVP: leon@deakin.edu.au