Thinking About the Future Through Fiction | Medea Vox

Fiction holds the ability of imagining alternative futures. Through comics, novels and videogames, we can explore social and technical “What If’s.” In this Medea Vox episode, we discuss how fiction can contribute to our thinking about the future in ways which other schools of thought – such as the scientific – cannot.

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Alicia Smedberg, PhD candidate in participatory design, hosts this conversation around speculative fiction and politics. Guests are Per Linde, senior lecturer in interaction design, and Magnus Nilsson, professor of comparative literature. All three are members of the Alternative Future Making researcher network, Malmö University.

Show Notes

These are authors, works, concepts etc. that are discussed or mentioned in the podcast. Quoted text is from the podcast.

  • Berthold Brecht | “From a political perspective, Brecht was deeply unhappy with how fiction was used. He accused existing literature of being interested in the world ‘as it is’. He was himself more interested in what the world ‘could be’.”
  • Da Vinci; Jules Verne; Plato (Republic) | “These people are examples of how, historically, fiction and science can come together in a constructive way.”
  • George Orwell (Animal Farm) | “We often assume that fiction – made up things – are not real in the same way as other texts. But a story like Animal Farm, which is about horses and pigs, says a lot about the world in which the author and the audience lived. Works of fiction can be very much about the real world. Whereas science can have much more distance to the world in which we live than do many works of fiction.”
  • William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) | “Through fiction, we have the possibility to review specific political statements or institutions from a variety of perspectives. We are able to twist it, turn it around and scrutinize it. While doing so, we can make these positions extreme, ‘taking things to the naked lunch’ as Burroughs puts it; to see how things could be in their worst or best shape.”
  • Jessica Jones, a fictional superhero
  • Medea Vox #15, Restoring Lost Voices of History | A discussion on the role of fiction in the research of history
  • Papers Please | “A serious game that discusses issues of migration where you are put into the shoes of a migration officer at the border, where you have to make hard decisions.”
  • This War of Mine | “A serious game where you’re part of a gang of scavengers and you have to supply for yourself. But in doing so, you hurt other people.”
  • Karl Marx comics
  • Ayn Rand. “If you ask leading politicians in Europe, ‘Which book has influenced you the most?’ many of them will answer the works of Ayn Rand.”
  • Margaret Atwood; Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Kristian Lundberg, Malmö-based writer
  • Design fiction | “Trying to build or materialize technological objects, in which lie policies, laws, institutional thinking etc.”
  • Critical design | “Where one not tries to fix things but rather to design objects that pose severe questions about everyday life, politics, etc.”
  • Dadaism | “Who according to some historians wanted to do away with the distinction between art and life.”
  • Utopian Studies/Dystopian Studies
  • HG Wells’ imagination of the nuclear bomb

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