April 15, 2013

USC | 5D World Building in Action

By Bill Desowitz

USC | 5D Institute's first live, interactive festival, "The Science of Fiction: World Building in Action," held April 13 at the Norris Theater and SCI building, brought together a wide range of professionals, students, and youngsters to create a near-future LA 2020 in a single day.

The World Building Seminar in 108

Experts from architecture, 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.

"The Science of Fiction" was spearheaded by Alex McDowell, production designer, USC associate professor, and co-founder of 5D."We are moving into a landscape where art and science, design and engineering are inseparable; at their intersection lies world building, the new creative laboratory for the future of immersive, narrative practice," McDowell explained. "A thread of logic evolves in a coherent and comprehensive way… offering new workflows, platforms, and paradigms of the future."

McDowell divides world building into Inception (in which the world is developed), Prototyping (in which it is tested and visualized), Manufacturing (in which it is produced and captured), and Finishing (in which it is completed in post and experienced).

However, the relationship between how and why we build these worlds is an important component, according to Brown, a futurist with Intel. "World building is the reality of the future. Build what you need as long as you use what you build. It becomes a way of being in an ontological way."

Meanwhile, LA 2020 was defined as a place where the Occupy Movement runs city government, the water level has risen four feet, and a green railway system provides transportation. World building was split into six categories: the Architecture of Fiction (possible spaces within which unpredictable events unfold), the Culture of Fiction (a world of play rife with its own rules, pleasures, dreams, and demons), the Reality of Fiction (the rise of virtual capabilities and the fragmentation of communities/population), the Design of Fiction (balancing utopia/dystopia), the Biology of Fiction (how to measure, test, visualize, and empirically validate methods and outcomes), and the Future of Fiction (a youth group closed to outside participants).

At the end of the day, they synchronized elements of each grouo: LA is a bi-polar city that is hyper mobile, predicated on a barter economy, and comprised of hoarders and communalists. There's a reverse gen culture in which youth have a better grasp of technology than their elders, and new technology includes wearable computers with HMD; a pulse wristband indicating the best routes to transit according to emotions; modified pets known as Petzillas; bioluminescent tattoos; clothes that harvest condensation removing the need to physically drink; and anti-hacking devices to thwart invasion of privacy.

Now LA 2020 will continue to evolve in transmedia projects at USC/5D, with an eye on the real world.

Bill Desowitz is owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com), featuring interviews with all six 007 actors, and a contributor to Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire.