Emerge Day 2: Workshops
The second day of Emerge saw the culmination of intense collaborative workshops that asked all participants to create tangible visions, performances and artifacts of the future.
Making Up the Future of Truth
Truth is in the eyes of the beholder. Fact and accuracy can be debated, and manipulated by performance–the art of writing or telling in a convincing manner. Participants in this workshop will be challenged to untangle truth from distortions and lies in stories that they are told by a panel of “Truth Talkers.” They will learn about a variety of techniques that writers use for pursuing truth and accuracy, and organize into “truth teams” to apply what they have learned. They will then prepare a presentation for all of the Emerge participants about the future of truth–based upon their experiences in this workshop. Some of what they tell the audience in relation to what they have discovered during the workshop will, of course, not be true, thus presenting to all of Emerge an uncomfortable truth: that definitive truth has no future–only selective truths.
The Nature of Engineering/The Engineering of Nature
Natalie Jeremijenko will lead an Emerge Workshop exploring the future of truths about nature, engineering, and design. Her Environmental Health Clinic at New York University approaches health from an understanding of its dependence on external local environments, rather than on the internal biology and genetic predispositions of an individual. At Emerge she and workshop participants will extend this concept to include technology and design. The workshop will start with an assessment of the local ecosystem especially in terms of threatened or vulnerable species or communities. The group will then work to design and produce an artifact that brings aesthetics, advanced engineering and materials, attention to shared public space, and awareness of the local environmental context, into alignment in the creation of a tangible product, an “iconic shared public thing,” such as an outdoor bench that spatially conforms to the constraints of immediate environment, but also is made from materials whose life cycle augments, rather than degrades, local ecosystem function. The workshop thus confronts fundamental assumptions about design, engineering and technology, time and durability, and the things we should or could make in the future.
Workshop Leader: NATALIE JEREMIJENKO
Truth and Atrocities
Truth commissions are investigative bodies typically created in the wake of violent conflict and brutal rule. They document and analyze past atrocities with the goal of building the foundations for a better social order. The core principle of a truth commission is that systematic human rights violations are an assault on truth because they hide reprehensible misuse of power, and silence victims. Historically, truth commissions have done their work by investigating the files of the secret police and interviewing thousands of victims – a notoriously difficult, expensive and time-consuming process. Increasingly, however, the truth that truth commissions seek to uncover is being stored in the cloud. That means entirely new methodologies – like data-mining – may be transformative. This workshop will determine how formal commissions that seek the truth of repression and atrocities will operate in the age of Google, Facebook, and YouTube.
Creating a Big Story That Makes Sense of the Human Condition
We need a New Story. A big one. One that humans can agree on, that addresses no less than our place in the universe, and what constitutes right action in our rapidly accelerating future. Right now, religions of various stripes have the only significant claim to overarching Stories. Nonbelievers have pointed out the flaws in religious claims, but they have no counter Stories to offer. It is not enough to reject outmoded Stories; what we really need are better and even more compelling Stories. We urgently need a new Story about the origin of life and mind that explains why we exist, what our lives mean, why suffering happens, and where we’re headed as a species. It has to be grounded in observation and reason rather than superstition and dogma, and it has to be one that can be widely accepted as a guide to meaning and action. We’re going to take a big swipe at creating that Story in this workshop.
The Future of Making: Craft + Rapid Prototyping?
This workshop brings skilled traditional craft workers who make authentic, one-off goods together with designers who use rapid prototyping technologies to imagine a new sort of creative process for the way we might makes things in the future. The two forms of making—craft and rapid prototyping—bespeak profoundly different worlds and realities and approaches to the authentic and the truthful. In this workshop, participants will use craft techniques that have been unchanged for centuries as well as more recently available 3D printing machines to create new hybrid objects in an attempt to imagine how we will shape our material world in the future.
How do our lives reflect and shape the truths we live with? Epicenter stories insists that there is evidence of all the disciplines that we need to know – history, math, physics, music, dance, poetry – surrounding every individual in her life or in his life, wherever that life is lived. These stories live in the jailhouse as well as in the university as well as in the museums as well as in homeless shelters. In this workshop participants will create a group epic that serves as a foundation for multidisciplinary connections between literary art, science, math, and the dramatic, performing and visual arts. This collective epic will explore the future of truth and our relationships with knowledge—the words we carry with us throughout our lives.
Is the Truth Out There? Hunting for Habitable Worlds
In modern mythology, the galaxy is teeming with alien beings. Whether they are wise and welcoming or hostile and dangerous, THEY are out there, waiting to be found… if they haven’t found us already. But are such stories true? The scientific search for life beyond our own world is advancing rapidly, and may put the lie to such tales. In this workshop, participants will explore the limits to life in the cosmos using interactive simulators, and consider the stories we will tell ourselves when science fiction confronts the science facts of tomorrow.
Green Pages: A Design Fiction Workshop
Green Pages is a quarterly trade journal for the film and television entertainment industry. Each issue provides some of the top creative and production talent in Hollywood with a large, expertly curated selection of scientific and technological concepts, principles, devices, designs and idioms suitable for bolstering the believability and tangibility of any storyline. Need a new device for your next computer “hacker” character? We’ll provide you with the last principles, practices — and dialog — to make that character and his tech believable and based on real, actual black hat hacker concepts. A post-apocalyptic world needs a backstory: Green Pages provide you with all the latest doom-and-gloom scenarios, and not just the usual climate change and routine global pandemic. Participants in this workshop will bring Green Pages to life, developing short narrative concepts, potential props, MacGuffins, production design and sample dialog — ready for publishing in the next issue of Green Pages.
Workshop Leaders: JULIAN BLEECKER and NICK FOSTER of Near Future Laboratory
The Future of Play: Communal Songs and Children’s Games
We make stories about everything. A scientific experiment is a narrative. Sex is a narrative. Putting your shoes on in the morning — if you have shoes — is a narrative. Certainly, politics and religion are narratives. Some of our oldest narratives/histories are carried/buried/alluded to in work songs and historical children’s games. Communally created, culturally specific, mutable, not owned by any one person; they are open source truths. What will the children’s games of the future be? In a world where children’s games are brightly colored things made of molded plastic that you buy in a store, many people’s work no longer involves hard physical labor, and social communication means Twitter or Tumblr, what communal stories will our primal need for narrative create? In this workshop, participants will use social media and digital tools to create their own communal play songs and games of the future.
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Acknowledgements & Credits
Emerge was the product of a major collaboration at Arizona State University and beyond. We are grateful to our sponsors and the many hours put in by planners, workshop leaders, volunteers and our collaborators.
Photo Credit: Jose Gonzalez