Catastrophic Futures and Applied Fictions: Inaugural Lecture
4 February 2014
Asteroid impact, pandemic, earthquake, resource depletion, nuclear war, toxic waste, bioterrorism: the list of potential global catastrophes is long and seemingly unlimited. The scale of such threats is so immense that the possibility of grasping their implications is often beyond everyday comprehension. Yet there are experts and organisations around the world grappling with plausible catastrophic scenarios, from asteroid tracking facilities and geo-engineering enterprises to space colonisation projects and repositories for genetic information and long-term nuclear waste sequestration. Each of these projects requires the extraordinary task of linking the quotidian to the unimaginable, of moving from fact to fiction. How are these links made? How is the fantastic grounded in the material world of real places and people? How does the kind of thinking more commonly found in the arts and humanities contribute to projects involved in catastrophe prediction and management? Writers, artists, and architects are often an integral part of projects dealing with long-term solutions to catastrophic threats. This involvement goes beyond the functional role of illustrating or articulating scientific and engineering proposals, and is intrinsic to the epistemological challenges faced when attempting to imagine and shape notionally unthinkable scenarios.
This lecture will consider a range of ‘applied fictions’ in order to explore how arts and humanities methodologies are embedded in any critical engagement with the prospect and prevention of future catastrophe.
About the University of Westminster:
The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.
We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 175-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.
Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.
Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.