Note — Feb 07, 2021

Worldbuilding Forever: Bold Ideas for Our Collective Futures

Wonderful piece at Strelka Mag, where Ryan Madson starts from his reading and notes on Hashim Sarkis’ book The World as an Architectural Project, “a compendium of fifty case studies in which ‘architects have imagined the future of the planet through world-scale projects.’” (Just that part is already a good read.)

Going further, he expands the scope for speculative worldbuilding to other disciplines, like cinema, fiction, gaming, and fine arts. Madson presents sci-fi prototyping, and then dives deeper into Miyazaki’s Valley of the Wind, Japanese wordbuilding (including world-settings, sekaikan), and then Black Panther’s Wakanda, especially in the Coogler movie but he also uses the opportunity to write about “iterative, narrative-based worldbuilding created by multiple contributors in dialogue over time.” In both cases he also unfolds some of the societal comments and possibles presented by those movies. He closes with notes on collaboration and experimental utopias, and the piece also includes a number of excellent visuals throughout.

Worldbuilding is perhaps most profoundly instrumental as a tool to create collective visions, designs, or strategies for addressing the future of our planet. Diverse teams of creator-participants can assimilate contributions from a broad range of disciplines and genres including architecture and urban planning but also the sciences, information technology and programming, science fiction, gaming, industrial design, critical theory, and more. […]

Not everyone is a futurist, designer, inventor, scientist, or science fiction novelist. But everyone can contribute to shaping a vision. Those who possess useful tools can help to empower others, to give contours and form to a shared vision, to connect the dots from future worlds back to our present reality via policies, prototypes, narratives, and representations. […]

“Worldmaking is different today,” concludes Sarkis. “The crucial challenge that stands before us is no longer the incomprehensibility of the scale, but rather the inhumanity of the global and how we need to imagine it otherwise, to question the boundaries that still divide it, and to reduce its pervasive inequalities.[...] Our optimism no longer needs to envision futuristic scenarios; it needs to intervene critically upon the futures that are being deployed in the present.” […]

[A] participatory, ground-up, solution-driven, and sometimes visionary approach to public policy and urban planning, in combination with more direct forms of democracy and accountable representation, has the potential to emancipate society from its control by technocrats and corporate elites.