The question of how scientists can communicate their research differently is the focus of the workshop "Science Almighty", which was initiated by the Hybrid Platform together with Prof. Timothée Ingen-Housz. During the winter semester 2020/21, new narrative forms will be tried out and developed with the participants – a report of the kick-off.
The goal of the workshop is to detach oneself from the usual scientific environment, to immerse in stories and in the best case, to distill from this fiction approaches to solutions that can be applied in real life. To get there, Timothee Ingen-Housz broke down the process in this first meeting into separate steps that provided the focus for each session. First, participants were asked to define their science and consider for whom and why they were doing research. This laid the foundation for the core of the story, which was further developed via mindmapping or clustering.
The next task was to create a fictional world including characters, conflicts and dramaturgy. These were then to be embedded in a narrative, aestheticized and published to response to the feedback from the other participants. As an utopian vision this tied to the seminar's guiding question of how one would change the world with one's own research if one could, many exciting brainstorms emerged in the very first session, providing new perspectives on the respective research fields.
Topics that were touched upon included urban diversity, which deals with the question of which and how many animals could live comfortably and undisturbed in the city, the obsolescence of electronic devices and how to establish a sustainable circular economy model instead and individual and societal optimization through communication electronics. For example, traffic jams could be avoided and traffic could be made more efficient if the infrastructure of the street was connected to the alarm clock of the respective households. At this point, the first storytelling aspects also became clear, as the desired state is still far from the present and these antagonistic forces could be the basis for a narrative development.
After a variety of interesting conversations, the participants were able to sit back towards the end of the day and listen to the lecture "Beware of Scientific Futures" by Isabella Hermann, who is a political scientist and holds a PhD in international relations. Her general research interest is on how discourses on new technologies shape global power structures. A particular focus is on the science fiction genre in the context of discussions about new technologies, (political) value systems and global politics.
Using short video clips from e.g. Star Trek or Blade Runner 2049, the science fiction enthusiast showed us how dystopian and utopian visions of the future can be perceived as a critique of the present and how carefully one has to deal with them. Even if there is usually a technologically plausible derivation of the problems, they are often normalized or overdramatized in the cinematic context.
The cast of the Star Trek fleet can be seen, as a positive example and pioneer for inclusion, which compared to other films and series presents a high diversity of genders and nationalities and even during the Cold War, for example, did not shy away from welcoming Soviet members in the spaceship.
Due to the enthusiasm of the participants and Prof. Timothée Ingen-Housz, the event extended into the late hours of the evening and inspired by the presentation, the participants delved deep into the worlds of science and fiction.
Since the kick-off event, the participants have been working on their stories and meeting for feedback rounds in the virtual space. We are looking forward to the final results, which we will surely be present here.