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.

episode 2 is now live!

The Deletion team is pleased to announce the release of Episode 2, available here:

Including

Editorial: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/episode-two/

Rhian Sheehan, Future Mughal Empire: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/doves-fly/

Kevin Fisher, Forces of Gravity: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/forces-gravity/

Brent Bellamy, U.S. Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Tragedy or Farce?: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/u-s-post-apocalyptic-fiction/

Carl Abbott, Science fiction Cities: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/science-fiction-cities/

Andrew Frost, Gregory Crewdson: Narrative, Time & SF Photography: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/gregory-crewdson-narrative-time-sf-photography/

Alex Funke, Looking Back: On Shooting Miniatures for Science Fiction Movies: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/looking-back-shooting-miniatures-feature-films/

Sophia Davidson Gluyas,¬†It’s Timey Wimey for a Female Doctor:¬†http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/timey-wimey-female-doctor/

Marleen S. Barr, Oy It’s the Cosmetics, Stupid: Or How Estée Lauder Changed the Post 9/11 World: http://www.deletionscifi.org/episodes/episode-2/oy-cosmetics/

The Science Fiction Research Group Presents

Andrew Milner – The Sea and Summer: Utopia as Futurology

October 31, Building B, Room 2.20,¬†Deakin University, Burwood, ¬†4‚ÄĒ6pm

Esteemed cultural theorist and literary critic, Andrew will be presenting The Sea and Summer: Utopia as Futurology, which looks at one of the earliest Australian science fiction novels to address climate change.

The “SF Masterworks” series, launched by Millennium in 1999 and currently¬†published by Gollancz, had reached 111 titles by the end of 2012. The vast majority¬†of these were either American or British in origin, but the list also included isolated¬†instances of translations of Eastern European science fiction. Early in 2013 George¬†Turner’s The Sea and Summer became the first Australian novel to be added to the¬†list. First published in 1987, it is one of the earliest science fiction novels to devote ¬†serious attention to the politics of climate change. In 1988 it won both the¬†Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science¬†fiction novel published in Britain. The novel is organised into a core narrative,¬†comprising two parts set in the mid twenty-first century, and a frame narrative,¬†comprising three shorter parts set a thousand years later, amongst “the Autumn¬†People” of the “New City”. The dystopian core narrative deals with the immediate¬†future of our “Greenhouse Culture”, the utopian frame narrative with the¬†retrospective reactions to it of a slowly cooling world. Turner had intended his¬†novel as futurology and this paper will assess its adequacy as such.

Join us…

Mhairi Mcintyre

Sean Redmond

Leon Marvell

Christopher Moore

Elizabeth Braithwaite

Trent Griffiths

Rosemary Woodcock

RSVP October 25: mmcintyr@deakin.edu.au

Deletion: the Open Access Online Forum in Science Fiction Studies

Deletion: the Open Access Online Forum in Science Fiction Studies

¬†‚ÄúIndividual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction — its essence — has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.‚ÄĚ ¬†Isaac Asimov

¬†Deletion¬†the open access online forum in science fiction studies will publish original ‘think pieces’ every month of approximately 1200-1500 words. Committed to writing about science fiction in all its forms and modes of operation,¬†Deletion¬†will invite contributions from those writing about science fiction from a literary, philosophical, artistic, scientific, aural, televisual, games, and cinematic context.

Deletion¬†will also solicit papers from the leading scholars in science fiction studies, organise and be open to regular ‚Äėspecial editions‚Äô, and will accept and encourage non-standard submissions such as creative pieces. Submissions can also take the form of 2-3 minute podcasts or video blogs.

Deletion’s work will be framed around the following questions; what is science fiction today; what are its social, cultural and political functions; what forms does it take and what are the relationships in and between those forms; and how does creative practice best interpret contemporary science fiction?

Deletion¬†will be led by scholars from Deakin University, Melbourne, who will form its ‚Äėinner‚Äô editorial board, alongside an international advisory board, comprising leading scholars in the field.

The first edition of Deletion will be a special invitation edition, where its key questions will be explored from an inter and cross-disciplinary perspective by renowned science fiction scholars and practitioners.

An open call for papers and creative pieces for publication in Deletion is now open. Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Children in contemporary science fiction;

Environmentalism;

Scientific understanding and science fiction;

Haptic science fiction;

Robotics;

Literary dystopia;

The suburban artwork of Gregory Crewdson;

Independent science fiction cinema;

Fictions of science in games;

Surveillance;

4-D science fiction cinema;

Philosophy and science fiction;

The Alien messiah;

Case studies: authors and auteurs;

Costume and design in science fiction;

Transhumanism;

Science fiction installation art;

Ethics and morals;

Whiteness in science fiction;

Music video and futurism;

Cult science fiction;

Science fiction poetry;

Special affect;

Eugenics;

Armageddon;

Romance in science fiction;

Science fiction music;

Sounding science fiction;

Time travel;

The urban, the rural;

Sex in science fiction;

Papers (of 1200-1500 words in length) should be emailed as a word attachment to the following addresses:  Sean Redmond: s.redmond@deakin.edu.au and Chris Moore: c.moore@deakin.edu.au

Submissions for creative work will be dealt with on a case by case basis; please contact Sean Redmond: s.redmond@deakin.edu.au and Chris Moore:c.moore@deakin.edu.au with your initial expression of interest.

Deletion will go live at 1 minute past 1am on the 1st October 2013 (EST). Details of its URL will follow in September.

Sean Redmond

Leon Marvell

Chris Moore

Elizabeth Braithwaite

Trent Griffiths