BU Students Imagine "Things from the Future"
Routinely, I try to bring closure to the semester by giving students a narrative of the major strands in the studied material over the term. In "Intro to Civ." at BU Madrid, this means we review 1,000 years of cultural history in case studies of art, architecture, and literature from medieval Iberia to Spain today -- a monolithic overview by epoch -- in preparation for the final exam. I wanted to rethink this kind of conclusion by asking students to consider the material studied in class, not as a final destination in the semester, but as some kind of bridge to their professional, academic, and personal lives beyond this semester abroad -- that is, to ask them to imagine cultural artifacts from the future.
Students were asked to invent, describe, and sketch artifacts from the future in three different scenarios conditioned by specific determinants, listed below. In preparation for the activity, I asked them to consider the vast span of 1,000 years of cultural history studied over the term --for example, that the modern "nation-state" is a relatively recent invention from this perspective-- as the very basis for imagining different futures. The results were submitted anonymously and discussed in small groups, and then as a class; these Things from the Future are visceral, introspective, wildly creative, and sometimes wonderfully humorous -- in all, a reflection of the diverse, inspiring talents of this great bunch of students who were a pleasure to have in class every Monday and Wednesday. Here's a small selection below. I hope you enjoy them as I have!
This activity was inspired by creative, engaging webinars at the Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA), co-founded by professors Stephen Duncomb and Steve Lambert, and has been adapted from game "The Thing from the Future."
SCENARIO 1: Imagine a monument that evokes a sense of dignity and comes from a future in which society as we know it has collapsed. Its context? Cities.
1,700 years in the future, a pool of souls called "the brooder" sits at the center of the city from which new members of society are born by recycling the souls of those who have died. Reproduction and gender no longer exist, but groups interested in raising a member of future generations may band together and draw a soul from the brooder to "raise" as their child. "Groups" raising souls cannot be romantically / sexually involved with each other but may have unlimited consensual romantic or sexual relations outside the "family" bond.
SCENARIO 2: Imagine a comic book that provokes amusement and comes from a future in which social order must be coordinated or imposed. Its context? Oceans.
SCENARIO 3: Imagine a souvenir that provokes fascination and comes from a future in which "progress" has continued. Its context? Agriculture.
This gun is a toy gun version of the instantaneous crop creation gun to feed the 20 billion people now occupying Earth. It trains kids to create food for themselves.
Cacao plants have been engineered so that they can be programmed to give the person who consumes it hallucinations. These hallucinations allow for people to visit a country or place without going, or you can get them for family and friends who couldn't make it on the trip. Found in your local souvenir shop.