World Building and the Science of Fiction

On Saturday, I participated in a very unique live and interactive festival at USC: “The Science of Fiction: World Building in Action,” sponsored by USC | 5D Institute. The brainchild of production designer and 5D co-founder Alex McDowell (Man of Steel), I collaborated with professionals and students in creating a futuristic LA 2020 and learned more about how and why we build worlds for a more immersive narrative experience. It was “a giant circus trick” creating a new world in a day.

Experts and theorists from science, transmedia, technology, and academia included John Seely Brown, Ann Pendleton-Jullian, Brian David Johnson,  John Underkoffler, Holly Willis, Henry Jenkins, Jenova Chen, Scott Fisher, Cornelia Funke, Steve Anderson, Daniel Suarez, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Julian Bleeker, Mauricio Mota, Nathan Shedroff, Michael Backes, Candace Reckinger, Michael Patterson, Neil Leach, Nonny de la Pena, Richard Lemarchand, Rob Landis, Tali Krakowsky, Sergei Gepshtein, Sarah Jane Pell, Lynn Hershman Leeson, David Morin, and Chris Defaria.

Thanks to the democratization of digital technology, story and world are conceived together in a non-linear and more dynamic fashion. “A thread of logic evolves in a coherent and comprehensive way,” according to McDowell. It is a narrative process “that is both left and right brain, offering new workflows, platforms, and paradigms of the future.”

McDowell has worked out a new mandala for world building that is perfect for virtual production: “An experiential, collaborative and interdisciplinary philosophy that integrates imagination and technology, creating story space from inception through iteration and prototyping into manufacture and delivery.”

Thus, world building offers a new symbiotic relationship between writer, director, designer, and the narrative environment, “releasing the potential for narratives to stimulate and develop transmedia storytelling.”

Our task was to collaborate in the building of LA 2.0:  In the year 2020, the Occupy Movement controls the city government, the water level has risen four feet, and a green railway system traverses the city. We were divided into five groups: The Architecture of Fiction (Habitat: structure, shelter, and ecology), the Culture of Fiction (Reverse Gen Culture & Cyber Organic Youth), the Reality of Fiction (Unfiction: the Triumph of the Quoditian), the Design of Fiction (Artifacts of the Bespoke Economy), and the Biology of Fiction (Bio Punk, Science, and Information). A sixth group comprised of youngsters, the Future of Fiction, was closed to outside participants.

I participated in two groups: Biology and Culture, and it was fascinating to figure out the rules and behavior. In Biology, we came up with bio-hack technology, heat maps, and bioluminescent tattoos and discussed how people react differently as individuals and in groups under such a technology-controlled society. How are they risk averse? How do they try to break the system? How does humanity reveal itself under such circumstances?

In Culture, we came up with LED-enhanced trains for entertainment consumption, on demand platforms, pop-up theaters for small groups, and larger venues for virtual reality event programming. Free train transportation was offered in exchange for religious participation; more organic food was envisioned for the wealthy; education was strictly an online social media activity; a reverse Gen culture exists in which youth have a better grasp of technology than their elders.

This unprecedented event will launch a unique and persistent world that will continue to evolve in transmedia projects at USC and 5D Institute, and in the real world.  Stay tuned.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Education, Events, Festivals, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

Add a Comment