This is an open innovation project originated by The Creative Science Foundation (CSf) that aims to produce an engaging tool (MyScifiStory.Com) which people of all ages, backgrounds and locations can use to collaborate in inventing future products and lifestyles which they would like to see come to fruition. The tool (a smart phone app) achieves this through inviting participants to collaborate in writing fragments of SciFi stories that both describe a future product or product or lifestyle and facilitate communication between the various stakeholders of these future innovations …. citizens, academia, companies, schoolchildren, politicians etc.
It is an ambitious project which takes its inspiration from three main sources; first, ‘science fiction-prototyping’ (a scheme for using SciFi writing to drive innovation); second, ‘the exquisite corpse’ (a means for facilitating collaboration between multiple individuals to produce a creative output gathered from a collage of story segments) and finally, crowdsourcing (an online production model enabling tasks, beyond the means of individuals, to be achieved through division and distribution of small portions to a community of people).
A useful description of these ideas was provided by Carrie Lane and Juliette Solis in their 2017 paper “A Study of Digital Science Fiction Prototyping in an Elementary School Setting” which we encourage you to read. In brief, Carrie Lane and Juliette Solis were students at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University who, as part of a Master of Education: Learning Design and Technology (and under the supervision of Prof Minjuan Wang), undertook a project that was specified and supported by the Creative Science Foundation which investigated how ‘science fiction-prototyping‘, ‘the exquisite corpse‘ and ‘crowdsourcing‘ could be combined to create a new approach to engaging elementary school children in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) by wrapping STEM in an imaginative story-telling format. They created a web-based mockup to prototype their ideas using gravity and the science focus. Later another master’s student, Crystal Monson, at the same San-Diego school extended the range of STEM topics. While these students were able to expertly set the ideas within formal educational theories and practices they were not technologists which limited their implementations to mock-ups. To take their effort beyond mock-ups the work was passed to two science and engineering postgraduate students at the University of Essex. The first student, Oluwadunsin S. Dabor (Dunsin) is constructing smart phone app as part of her PhD which will act as a platform to explore how SFP and the exquisite corpse methodologies can be combined to provide a means to hold creative online conversations (a form of brain-storming) to drive company or research innovation. The style of conversation is more open that of Lane and Solis since it needs to be usable by all types of people interested in using the SFP based Exquisite Corpse approach to innovation. To evaluate her work, Dunsin plans to work with the immersive learning (iLRN) and Intelligent Environment (IE) communities as part of their annual conferences (creating a competition to solicit users) plus an innovation hub at the University of Swaziland (other partners and evaluates would be welcomed – please use our contact form). In parallel with this work an Essex University masters student, Tassos Mousoulides, will use Dunsin’s platform to explore how AI can be employed to support the system.
By way of some additional background information on the topic, the seeds of Science Fiction Prototyping (SFP) arose from a conversation between Brian David Johnson, Michael Gardner, Simon Egerton and Vic Callaghan over a late night beer in a tavern in Ulm, Germany where the group had been attending Intelligent Environments 2007. Later Brian Johnson who, at the time, was a principal Engineer with Intel Labs in Portland, Oregon formalized the ideas, into what he described as Science Fiction-Prototyping (SFP). The method has been developed in several different directions, notable by Dr Ping Zheng who adapted the approach to use published fiction, a technique she refers to as Diegetic Innovation Templating (DiT). In essence, these methods concern escaping the straight-jacket of current science and engineering knowledge & theory, by allowing the mind the freedom to extrapolate possibilities of current (or past) science thinking into an imaginative world of fictional stories, where anything, especially inventive and disruptive ideas become possible. Wrapping the ideas into a semi-fictional story, with sufficient fidelity to real-life (eg believable environments and characters), creates a kind of prototype that can serve to evaluate or communicate the ideas. The ‘the exquisite corpse’ concept was drawn to the attention of the Science Fiction Prototyping community by a Harvard University graduate, Christine Cynn, a renowned documentary filmmaker who attended one an early Creative Science workshop (CS’11) and described an idea she called ‘The Forest of Stories’. Later she moved the idea forward through an online project about the life of a future woman called X, who she imagined would be born in 2045 (information on her project can be found at Vimeo, ScienceFuture, and XquisiteFuture. Christine Cynn’s ideas build on an earlier technique from the surrealists movement called the ‘exquisite cadaver’ (exquisite corpse) as a means of integrating collages created by multiple individuals into a single novel artifact. This technique was used to create a popular table-top game called ‘consequences’ (which is still marketed). The MyScifiStory.Com work draws directly on the ‘exquisite corpse’ as a model to support creative collaboration. A very useful literature survey of this is provided in the Carrie Lane and Juliette Solis paper. Finally the term ‘crowdsourcing‘ was coined in 2005 by Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson (editors at Wired) to describe how businesses were using the Internet to outsource work to the crowd (casual internet based workers). However, it quickly found itself being used in a broader sense, to describe an online production model enabling tasks, beyond the means of individuals, to be achieved through division and distribution of small portions to a large community of people. One of the most famous examples is Kickstarter, an online website that produces start-up funding by inviting numerous individuals to contribute small sums which, when combined can match that of banks or venture capitalist firms.
More information is available from:
- The 2017 publication from the San Diego team concerning MyScifiStory.com (2015 publication from San-Diego students about the use of SFP to counter the decline of student interest in STEM)
- A mock-up website created by the San Diego team members
- A Wikipedia description of the Exquisite Corpse
- A brief introduction to Creative Science (4 pages) or at Wikipedia
- Information about writing micro-SFPs
- More information on the Creative Science Foundation or at Wikipedia
- San Diego State University, California, USA
- The University of Essex, UK
- University of Swaziland
- Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, UK
- Salish Kootenai College, Montana, USA
- The Creative Science Foundation
- The Immersive Learning Network (iLRN)
- Association for the Advancement of Intelligent Environments (AAIE)