Cyberpunk debate rages on. Meanwhile in Hong Kong 2…

I’ve been seeing more debate on what qualifies as cyberpunk and what does not but I have dealt with this in a previous blog, so I’m sticking with it.

Page 29 Commentary

This week we peek inside Techman’s workspace. A couple of story notes come through on this page. First there is the fact that Downtown is a several degrees cooler than TopCity, a phenomena caused by living in the shadow of the TopCity Spanner. This second level of the city covers huge portions of Downtown and the result is limited sunshine on Downtown residents. The next note is that Techman keeps his lair cold enough to see your breath. As he says it is to, “keep things fresh.” For now you can use your imagination.

In building this scene I had to collect a lot of public domain “props”; kind of like a set stylist does when they are out looking of accessories to make a room look lived in. I was part of this process for years as a set designer and creative director so the analogy is pretty solid. Of course, this is done in Hollywood, too using a prop manager. I have no qualms about using stock in these scenes since I am doing precisely what the prop manager would be doing on a movie set. Obviously, they’re not building every prop from scratch. As for the boxes, logos, and textures much of this was customized from the existing model image files or created fresh.

We’ve already determined that Techman is a bit of an outlaw who skirts under the proverbial radar and dodges the ubiquitous surveillance that permeates the world of Hong kong 2 in the year 2159. Back in my days as a designer working for Royal Dutch Philips here in the states, I would occasionally make my way down to the geek dome, the place where all the engineers would work on things like remote controls and televisions. They had these rooms that were entirely shielded in copper screen to keep signals in as well as to keep other signals out. As we move to page 30 you’ll see that I’ve built one of these rooms for Techman.

screenroom-m
Techman invites into his “shielded room”. Stay tuned for page 30.

 

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Cyberpunk decisions: to augment or not to augment

Page 28 comments

Introducing Techman: The Lightstream Chronicles‘ first real punk in this cyberpunk future. If you check out the character profile on Techman in the Cast section of the site you’ll see he’s an interesting dude. Back in the latter part of the 21st century, Techman was one of the first experiments in defying the aging gene — and one of the only survivors of that initial testing. He dropped off the grid rather than be a lab rat for the genetics companies. While Techman is chronologically 140 years old he opted out most of the rest of the typical trans-human augmentation, so he’s a bit overweight, prefers blue jeans, t-shirts and leather to bio-sensitive, morphing bodysuits. He still flies under the radar, is a bit paranoid, keeps a low profile and manages to make a living with collectors of antique technology and probably some contraband here and there. As you see on page 28, Techman is a bit of a throwback using such antiquated technology as biometric scanners. Also, in the final panel we see that he and Sean have some history as well as a strong friendship. Much more to come on that. Hope you like Techman’s hang out; lots of texture.

There's more about Techman on the Cast page.
There’s more about Techman on the Cast page.

Call for discussion. Have thoughts on the art, the story, or the flow of the book, cyberpunk, design fiction, cgi or anything else? I’d love to knead into a discussion. Feel free to comment.

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Design Fiction: More Ammunition

Design Fiction Rationale #24

There are a number of good reasons to practice design fiction. A few:

  • It’s the foresight side of design thinking.
  • It generates ideas free of constraints like, “How many can we sell?”
  • It helps foster an appreciation for the interdependency of things. 

And then there are provocations about the implications of creating any design, it’s affect on society, on behavior, on other things.

I have already written about this in my MFA thesis, When Designers Ask, “What If?”, and more or less predicted it, but as it has been widely reported over the last couple of weeks, a 3D printer has produced a gun that has been successfully printed and fired. In a web article, this quote fell out:

“An undetectable firearm constructed on your computer may sound like science fiction, but unfortunately, it’s already here and our laws have never contemplated this scenario,” D.C. City Council member Tommy Wells, who introduced the legislation, said in a press release. “These weapons create a significant and immediate threat to public safety.”

I hate break it to the D.C. City Council, but laws do not contemplate anything and more often than not, laws are created to fix problems that people never contemplated. So, now we have a new problem that city councils all over U.S. will have to create laws for and governments will have to regulate.

Roll your own. Source: The Sun
Roll your own. Source: ibitimes

But let’s face it, the cat is out of the bag. You can make it against the law to do anything, which works for the wide majority of people, except outlaws, terrorists, and loose-cannon regimes.

Did anyone think about potential ramifications of a home 3D printer in the hands of a bad person? Perhaps, but as is often the case these “black cloud” scenarios are usually brushed off with the positive outweighs the negative types of comments. There’s heavy pressure for progress and precautionary types are dismissed as “Debbie Downers.” I think we build things because we can, and then think about it later.

We like to think that technology will save us, save us from destruction, from cancer, from obesity, from boredom, from death. Some folks are holding out for it. But there is always a downside, like with Uranium gone missing, or texting while driving, bovine growth hormone. In the future it may be that our perfect selves along with a 24/7 virtual fantasy in our heads will become … boring. Then there’s that death thing. What could be wrong with scientists and artists and loving wonderful people that live forever? Except, of course, for the people that aren’t so wonderful or just plain evil.

And that’s one way we can use design fiction, with our diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change, so that people can look at the possible future with this new thing or that new thing and maybe take extra time to think about the downside. Like Bruce Sterling says, “It’s important to explicitly acknowledge the drawbacks of any technological transformation—to “think the underside first,” to think in a precautionary way” (Sterling, Shaping Things, 2006:12).

Maybe the bigger question is this: If we knew then what we know now, would anything have changed? Are we even capable of stopping ourselves from building, or injecting, or releasing the next big thing because of those few minor, potential mishaps? Should we? After all, surely we can find some technology to prevent the downside from even happening.

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Web Comic Comments on the Cyberpunk Future

As many a CG artist will tell you, finding something productive to do between renders can be a real challenge. I’ve manage to submit an article to a magazine and an abstract for a conference in Berlin this summer, but that seemed too go awfully fast. To make the time a bit more productive, I have been immersing myself in the world of cyberpunk, via Tumblr. I’ve managed to post and research quite a few images, and there seems to be no end to the creative visions of whoever my fellow Tumblr’s are. The hashtags are pretty consistent: #dystopia, #cyberpunk, #urban, #urban decay, #architecture, #futuristic, #transhuman, #sci-fi, #science fiction, #tech, #cyborg, #android, #crime thriller, #design fiction. But the well is very deep. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve compiled thus far stop on over to The Chrons.

Page 27

Need some cheap replacement retinas, a refurb on your artificial skin, a 50 finger massage, virtual, synthetic, or any other kind of sex you can imagine (or would rather not)? You’ve come to the right place: DownTown, Hong Kong 2, in the Mong Kok sector. Sean has arrived as of last week, his location logged by cyber-surveillance, and in panel 1, he has just crossed the street where he encounters throngs of people (using the term loosely) as well as all of the diversions DownTown has to offer. Sometimes I wish this really was a movie instead of still images, because in panel 1 the woman to the left of Sean has programmable skin that shows live action video of… whatever.

The 50 Fingers Massage Parlor. Therapeutic.

But Sean is on a mission and in panel 2, “A few minutes later” he has walked to a less crowded alleyway. Sean is a bit of a fish out of water here and the locals know it. A street urchin goads his friend to hit on the guy who looks like he’s from TopCity. Maybe the boots are a dead giveaway; too clean.

In panel 3, Sean has arrived a his destination, an antique electronics store that looks like it has all the most popular antique brand names from the 20th century (zoom opportunity).

What or who awaits him?

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Cyberpunk Web Comic New Post Page 26

Page 26 commentary

This is another one of my favorite pages. Sean has just emerged from the MagShuttle that descended the more than 300 floors to DownTown Mong Kok. There’s lots going on with this page but I have not spelled it out hoping that you will download and zoom in to the high resolution image. I’ve discussed the mesh in previous commentaries, so you already know that the New Asia government prides itself on knowing where everyone and what they are doing at any moment. In the year 2159 just say, “Goodbye privacy.” The only consolation is that most of the visual record of your life is monitored by dispassionate synthetics or biocomputers that aren’t voyeurs and they don’t make personal judgements. That is, unless they determine that you are breaking one of the laws of the New Asia Protocols. Risky business.

In panel 1 Sean is being scanned by a Hong Kong Police surveillance drone TS-1. If you don’t speak Chinese, these signs highlight the fact that this section of town specializes in buying and selling experiences – some legal, some not.

The TS-1 surveillance drone.
The TS-1 surveillance drone.

The drone in panel 2 captures both a visual of Sean and his identity data stored on the chipset that you are implanted with at birth that lives at the base of your cerebellum. This chipset is continually updated throughout your life with memories, emotions and experiences. The resulting readout gives a complete dossier on young Sean, but there is some data missing.

Even computers in the 22nd century have glitches.

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Design Fiction Thesis Published – MFA Earned – webcomic continues

Now that I have secured the Master of Fine Arts diploma in Design Development, and successfully submitted my thesis to the Graduate School at The Ohio State University, I can officially close that chapter on my ongoing adventure. Choosing the word chapter is appropriate since this book is anything but over and I’m not just talking about the graphic novel that continues to be a central focus of my research. This chapter that I reference is the beginning of a new career after 30+ years as a professional designer to that of Assistant Professor of Design Foundations at OSU. As a professional designer I also managed a bit of mastery across the design spectrum in everything from product design, visual communications, interior, set, brand and experience design along with creative direction and running three companies.

The professorship will begin in August after an appointment this summer as lecturer. My summer will be focused on generating more chapters for the graphic novel/web comic, and preparing curriculum for fall semester. Once I settle into the summer groove I hope to have Chapter 2 completed in the next few weeks and Chapter 3 by summer’s end.

That’s the update.

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Welcome to Cyberpunk Hong Kong-Year 2159

This week’s web comic artist’s commentary. Page 25

Welcome to The Lightstream Chronicles web comic and graphic novel. Today, the cyberpunk, crime thriller takes us to a dangerous part of town. Dr. Sean Colbert has descended the 300 + floors to street level in the Mong Kong district.

Background

Unfortunately it is not as charming as Mong Kok district is today. In 2159, despite the fact that it is home to millions of people, as the city has continued to grow upward, DownTown is the result of decades of neglect by the New Asian government. Crime is tolerated within reason and here you will find the nefarious, the aberrant and the deviant. The New Asian social order is predicated on consent, first and foremost. Therefore, some crimes such as non-consensual rape or murder are considered capital crimes. If the visitor to DownTown is looking for illegal experiences such as those stolen from victims of assault crimes this is the place. These are usually obtained from human victims who are “headjacked” to extract the experience. Headjacking is accomplished through a small device that is attached at the back of the head where humans have their implanted “chipset.”  The device extracts the experience and all of the victim’s sensations. Even in these bizarre situations some persons consent to being “jacked” for a share in the profits when the experience is sold.  If the subject survives the crime, headjacking can result in partial or total memory erasure, and in some cases, death. The experience trade flourishes in DownTown and has made it’s way to TopCity as well.

Page 25

A scene from DownTown in the Mong Kok Sector, Hong Kong 2. Year 2159. Click to Enlarge.
Another scene from DownTown. The Mong Kok Sector, Hong Kong 2. Year 2159. Click to Enlarge.

As Sean arrives at street level, the pristine cleanliness of TopCity is replaced by a dank and decaying darkness. It is not unusual to see transgens, (human/animal genetic creations), more primitive versions of synthetics, and the ever-present security synths. DownTown has a curfew each night at 2300 hours, when everyone is supposed to be off the street. Many of the local establishments are open around the clock to accommodate the patron who is not ready to go home. We will be staying awhile.

 

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