This week is a conversation with Jackie Higgins. Jackie is a television documentary director and writer, who read zoology at Oxford University, as a student of Richard Dawkins. She made wildlife films for a decade, for BBC as well as for Channel 4, National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. She then joined the BBC's science department, researching and writing, directing and producing programs such as Tomorrow’s World and Horizon. Today we’re talking about her book ‘Sentient’.
Music samples used.
Richard Devine, 'Etch n Sketch'
Cinematic Laboratory, 'Eurotrack Starter Kits ep. 01
'Rehearsing our Feelings'
When it comes to trying to plan for the future, various tools are used to help us with the process. If you have a series of appointments to attend in the coming months, you'll likely use a calendar to schedule time and place. If you plan on building a structure or a landscape, you'll likely turn to drawings to define shapes and qualities. But you could lump these two examples together (the scheduling of time and the representation of a shape) as tools that help you deliver something you know you already want. In many ways, they are both instructions to manage something you already know. We're of course aware that this isn't exactly the case. The tools we use for design have proclivities embedded within them that inform the decisions we make while using them.
But maybe we're missing the whole point here when discussing how to represent the future for people. Instead of showing them examples of how it might look, (one form or shape being better than the other) we instead need to allow people to experience a future that doesn't yet exist. There are various reasons why this could be of importance. It's possible that pressures like climate change, new forms of communication, social dynamics and an evolving human body are going to be delivering a near future so different from what we know today that there is a need to rehearse potential futures now. As my guest today, Aubrey Anable has said, 'rehearsing our feelings'.
Video games are a medium that allow the player to experience environments and social scenarios in ways that other representation can't. This is in part because they can often be played many times with different outcomes each time. And these varied experiences within games give players an active interaction that is spatial, has aesthetics and often social, moral contracts embedded within. This concept of 'rehearsing our feelings' is a way for people to be embedded in unknown realities that could very well help prepare us for a future that is uncertain. A future that might require difficult choices in how we live in a changing climate, how we engage ecological anxiety, or even how we might live together (wink wink). Rehearsing our feelings, our expectations and our imaginations for what the future might hold is likely going to include the strengths that video games can offer.
Aubrey Anable is assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University, Canada. Anable’s research is broadly concerned with film and media aesthetics in North America after 1945 with an emphasis on the ways digital computers have changed visual culture. Her book Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) provides an account of how video games compel us to play and why they constitute a contemporary structure of feeling emerging alongside the last sixty years of computerized living. Her articles have appeared in the journals Feminist Media Histories, Afterimage, Television & New Media, and Ada. She is currently co-editing The Concise Companion to Visual Culture (Forthcoming from Wiley Blackwell).
Also try...Ep. 065 _ Dr Lisa Feldman Barrett _ ‘How Emotions are Made’
There is probably no bigger name in science fiction in the last 50 years than Kim Stanley Robinson. Robert Markley (who I’m speaking with today) wrote a book with that very title, 'Kim Stanley Robinson' that looks at his work. The book looks at the works including the alternate histories of The Days of Rice and Salt, the future through the Mars Trilogy, as well as books like Shaman that take place 30,000 year in the past before written language. Ultimately, the work looks at how we as a species and civilization might move forward as we come to grasp the pressures facing us today.
Robert Markley is Trowbridge Professor and Head of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His recent books include The Far East and the English Imagination, 1600-1730 and Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination.
What does it mean for architecture to have character?
Stewart and Allison are co-founders of Design With Company, who's work is interested in concepts that are shared between architecture and literature, including: narrative fictions, type, and character. The work has earned awards such as the Architecture Record Design Vanguard Award and the Young Architect’s Forum Award and has been featured in exhibitions such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial and Design Miami, as well as at the V&A Museum and Tate Modern in London.
Allison has lectured at institutions like MoMA in New York, the Vancouver Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Graham Foundation, and universities across the country and abroad. Stewart is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an Associate Dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts.
Mas Context 'Character' Issue