Stories are a starting point, a feedback mechanism that can help us to build better cities. Imagineers, both professionals and ordinary citizens, are the citymakers of tomorrow.
In a world of fake news, separating fact from fiction has become such an enormous task that it has created an industry of fact-checkers, content moderators and reputation management consultants. As well as a shadow industry of covert influencers using the same technologies to subvert those processes. So, it’s easy to forget how important stories — the process of making things up — are to our history, our present and our future as sci-fi citymakers.
In the next few weeks Think City will be launching an initiative linked to its Kuala Lumpur Creative & Cultural District (KLCCD) programme which asks citymakers to reimagine the role, purpose and layout of KL’s downtown districts, some of which are likely to be based on realistic and actionable principles, and some of which may be more theoretical and speculative.
In the same way, the recent Think City created KISAH Futures competition described itself as a disruptive storytelling competition. In fiction, ideas don’t have to make sense. They aren’t governed by the laws of physics, or the rules of society. They allow the reader, or the viewer, a window into the mind and motivations of the writer as they enable those writers to share their private hopes and fears.
Those same ideas could find a home on social media, but shorn of context and a greater ecosystem, is social media the place share an existential but unformed dread of the power of the surveillance state or a flight of fancy about a cork-screwing office building reaching through our atmosphere into space? Stories are a place where we can — well — take those ideas out of storage and see what the world thinks about them.
Starting with Star Trek
The science fiction and fantasy genres are obvious starting points. There’s an entire generation of scientists committed to bringing the ideas of screen icons like Star Trek and Bladerunner to life. One of my own favourites from the show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the replicator, is gradually becoming a reality. A device that synthesizes and creates any food, drink or small item a user requests, many of the…