Science fictionality

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SoftGrid in association with AESOP and IFHP
What is science fictionality? It is not science fiction, not an envelope for literary or aesthetic artefact, however economical or extravagant. Science fictionality is the way in which we narrativise possibilities, whereby the experienced reality of our lives as individual and as species is temporally directed towards the future and conditionally bound to technoscientific change. Take for example the narrative of ‘planetary boundaries’, perhaps the quintessential science fictional narrative of our times in the dystopian vein. In 2009, Johan Rockström from Stockholm University and colleagues in a small article in Nature wrote about these ‘nine boundaries that define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system and are associated with the planet’s biophysical subsystems or processes’. This was followed by the usual apocalyptic rhetoric: ‘If these thresholds are crossed, then important subsystems, such as the monsoon system, could shift into a new state, often with deleterious or potentially even disastrous consequences for humans.’ (Rockström et al., 2009) There were the terms that have in contemporary time become media watchwords: phosphorus, ozone depletion, climate change. There was also the usual cluster of allied associations: sustainability, conservation. Et cetera. In the humanities, GayatriSpivak, half a decade before, with her usual boldness, had proposed the acceptance of a new concept: ‘planetarity’: the recognition that we existed as a species, on a planet loaned to us. (Spivak 2003) 207 The same vocabulary, with the humanities inflection, watered the plant of her interdisciplinarity. We are running short of essentials, and time is running out. This narrative of planetary boundaries, itself an amalgam of ideas that have their origins in the industrial revolution, and even in their present sense since at least the first atomic weapon, transforms the future from an infinite field of mysteries to a dimly lit blind alley. A general alarmism maintains the industries of despair, and rightly so, and ensures continued funding for concerned activity: some of us need to fix the lamps on that blind alley.
Architecture & Planning in Times of Scarcity : Reclaiming the Possibility of Making. 3rd AESOP European Urban Summer School 2012, Manchester
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