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The Science Of Fiction Festival, hosted by the 5D Institute, University of Southern California

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Saturday 25th October 2014 – The Science Of Fiction Festival

Learning, Working, Creating

As I quoted from the 5D Institute’s own statement, the Science Of Fiction Festival was NOT a conference. Saturday was the day we all got down to work and it was an extraordinary, quite unforgettable day for everyone involved. This blog will be short because there is no way I could set out everything that happened in this format of daily blogging. Instead I will try to summarise my experiences in an article for CGSociety in the next couple of weeks or so.

So briefly, we met to register for the day’s proceedings at 8.00am on another gorgeous Los Angeles day. If we had one day like that in Ireland we’d think we’d had the summer of the century! I want to live here! But even this short visit has been a thrill of sights and sounds and passing contacts with colleagues, friends and strangers.


THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL CABARET – Introduction to the Island City of Rilao

After a short and very amusing introductory session in the Eileen Norris Cinema Theater we were sent to our various rooms to start our work on the tasks of the day. As I say, you will have to wait for my article to hear the detail of what was asked of us. For now, we were set to work interpreting and adding to the story of Rilao, that island city state in the Pacific, a place undiscovered except for a few intrepid explorers, adventurers and shipwreck survivors. Actually, I made that last bit up, but that was the freedom granted to us, to invent, or should I say discover, the history, the future and the lives lived on Rilao. There must have been wrecks from time to time, right?

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District 8 gets down to work

It is hard to explain how this all worked, but by the time we sat down to begin work at around 9.30am, with our instructions, information and task material, meticulously prepared and assembled by 5D Institute, under the organisational skills of Jeff Watson and the guidance and creative genius of Alex McDowell, we were fully engaged.



I’ve been in plenty of brainstorms in my time, but never have I seen upwards of 200 people hold focus so tenaciously as I saw yesterday. I was just a cog in the machine, one crew member on the craft of exploration which was the District 8 task force to which I had been assigned. By the end of the morning our group had generated about 20 possible concepts to be developed by other teams after lunch. There were ten such groups working around the study rooms the Festival occupied.


Lunch on the lawn at USC

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The morning had been dedicated to generating ideas, the afternoon to realising them.

In the closing ceremony we were shown the results of the day’s output, though there was so much to show we could only be a brief glimpse. We saw a stream of photographs, collages, pencil and pen sketches, artifacts, stories, images and descriptive ideas in a presentation ceremony that went on for longer than most of the exhausted audience, us Rilao Workers, could reasonably be expected to stand, but equally would not have wanted to miss. They told us the day had produced over a thousand new concepts to add to the burgeoning assembly of information and speculation about this hitherto unknown and unexplored island.

The images and videos displayed included a vast and varied assembly of illustrations and constructions from District 10, a group comprised entirely of people under the age of 16. You may have read me saying before, if you want to know where the future of technology is headed, ask someone aged somewhere between 8 and 16 and this group’s work was the proof of that statement. The results were quite simply overwhelming. They made even the richly diverse and imaginative work of the adults seems almost prosaic in comparison.

That’s it for now. I will expand on all of this, and try to describe and probably fail to give you the full picture of the day’s events in the article I will write for I’ll put a link here when it is published.

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 I’ve had a fantastic and all too brief time here in Los Angeles. I haven’t seen enough, experienced enough. At the end of the day we were invited to a party at the home of the 5D Institute’s Director and inspirational leader, Alex McDowell. The cab I was travelling in from USC up to Alex’s house got lost and we wandered for ages through districts even the cab driver was unfamiliar with. This city goes on for miles and miles and miles, in all directions, twelve million people living their busy, often noisy lives in an essentially low lying city (only downtown has any serious skyscrapers, and they stand out as you circle through the hills and valleys of greater L.A. like a mesa in the desert of lights).  I’ll have to find some way to get myself to work here, at least for a few months or even weeks, just so I can get to see as much as I can of this sprawling, strange, exotic, intriguing metropolis.


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