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.
It is an ambitious project which takes its main inspiration from ‘science fiction-prototyping’ a methodology that employs fictional stories, written by anyone who has an interest in influence the future, as a means of nurturing imagination, generating innovative ideas and communicating and sharing them them across society. It takes secondary inspiration from a surrealists technique called ‘the exquisite corpse‘ also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis), whereby a collection of words (or story fragments) is collectively assembled through each participant adding to a story in sequence, either by following a rule (where rule variations feed the innovation process, such as only allowing a contributor to see the last story fragment). The teams of writers may take any form ranging from pre-assembled groups of in-class students, to open crowds of Internet users (thus, being a form of crowdsourcing).
The tool works by inviting participants to collaborate in writing fragments of SciFi stories that describe a vision for a future they would like (a useful product, an attractive lifestyle, etc) and, when combined to form a complete story, facilitate communication between the diverse stakeholders of these future innovations …. citizens, academia, scientists, companies, schoolchildren, politicians etc.
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 as the science focus. Later another master’s student, Crystal Monson, at the same San-Diego school extended the range of STEM topics. In parallel with this work, Dr Shumei Zhang of Shijiazhuang University, China developed a methodology for using SFP as an instrument to teach Science and Engineering students English (Computer English) along with technology innovation, a model that proved to be extremely motivating to science and engineering students, significantly improving class attendance and performance. This work is described in detail in her book “Learning Computer English Using a Creative Science Approach“, her papers “Using Science-fiction Prototyping as a Means to Motivate Learning of STEM Topics and Foreign Languages“ & “Improving English as a Foreign Language Education in China with Creative-Science” and her webpage. Later, in Mexico, Dr Victor Zamudio of the Instituto Tecnológico de León experimented with introducing the same scheme for Spanish speaking students which he described in his paper “Using A Creative Science Approach for Teaching English As A Foreign Language to Postgraduate Students”. More recently, at the University of Essex an M.Sc student, Mona Almalki created a simple (alpha) online version of MySciFiStory collaborative writing website (the details of which were published in her 2019 master’s thesis entitled “Innovating the future through a collaborative story-telling website“). This provided a simple platform which she used to explore the value of this tool in inspiring pre-university children to study STEM (and acquire creative thinking skills, story-writing skills and an understanding of ideation techniques, such as brain-storming). Beyond the current version of this tool, Dr Faiyaz Doctor is aiming 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, notably 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 the possibilities for current (or past) science through the use 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 artefact. 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.
Papers that provide pedagogical and technical models, plus accounts of practical usage
- Mona Almalki, “Innovating the future through a collaborative story-telling website“, MSc Thesis, The University of Essex, August 2019 (this describes the current alpha prototype platform of MySciFiStory)
- Carrie Lane and Juliette Solis, “Study of Digital Science Fiction Prototyping in an Elementary School Setting“, Technology, Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Education 2017’ (TIE’17), Canterbury Christchurch University, 11th–12th September, 2017 (this explored SFP pedagogical models for learning, proposing the model referred to as MySciFiStory)
- Víctor Zamudio, María del PilarPérez Mata, Vic Callaghan, Shumei Zhang and Carlos Lino “Using A Creative Science Approach for Teaching English As A Foreign Language to Postgraduate Students“, ‘Technology, Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Education 2017’ (TIE’17), Canterbury Christchurch University, 11th–12th September, 2017 (this implemented Shumei Zhang’s ‘SFP Computer English’ pedagogical model)
- Shumei Zhang, Victor Callaghan and Hongmei Wang “Improving English as a Foreign Language Education in China with Creative-Science“, SOFIEE’16, London, 12th-13th September 2016 (A paper reporting later work by Shumei Zhang with her ‘SFP Computer English’ model)
- Shumei Zhang (张书梅), Vic Callaghan (维克多·卡拉汉), Hongmei Wang (王红梅), Bin Hedong (何东彬) “Computer English Teaching Using a Creative Science Approach” (创新思维的计算机英语教程), Tsinghua University Press, 2016, ISBN 9787302422730 (the textbook written by Shumei Zhang and used with her students to teach the ‘SFP Computer English’ method).
- Vic Callaghan, Marc Davies, Shumei Zhang “An Online Immersive Reality Innovation-Lab” (presentation), iLRN’16, Santa Barbra, California 27 June -1 July 2016 (this paper was the first to exam the possibility of creating an online immersive reality environment for collaborative innovation activities, including the use of SFP).
- Mary DE LEPE, William OLMSTEAD, Connor RUSSELL, Lizbeth CAZAREZ and Lloyd AUSTIN “Using Science Fiction Prototyping to Decrease the Decline of Interest in STEM Topics at the High School Level“, Workshop Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Intelligent Environments, Prague, Czech Republic, 15-17 July, 2015 (this paper investigated the potential of SFP to motivate pre-university students to pursue STEM education and careers).
- Shumei Zhang, Vic Callaghan “Using Science-fiction Prototyping as a Means to Motivate Learning of STEM Topics and Foreign Languages“, Intelligent Environments 2014, Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, 2-4 July 2014 (this describes the original work that proposed the ‘SFP Computer English’ pedagogical model as a means for motivating students to learn English as part of innovation and science and engineering studies).
Other Useful Information
- 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
- Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, UK
- The Creative Science Foundation
Other partners and evaluates would be welcomed – please use our contact form to enquire.