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:


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

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