Progress update: webcomic and graphic novel.

p65

In this scene nobody seems too talkative about the case at hand. Perhaps they are just trying to process everything that has just transpired — but it is late —and Detective Guren is still stewing over the comment from Col. Chen back on page 58.

On a side note, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I redesigned the elevator that our characters are standing in front of. Finally, I opted for a sleek, silent and fast shuttle that could bound multiple stories in short order.

Progress update

After completing multiple pages of prologue material — similar to the approach I took prior to Chapter 2 — I have begun work on Chapter 3. The rationale for the prologues is to present what I believe to be rich, and important, backstory. If you are a regular follower of the web comic/graphic novel, then the backstory and nuances of what is going on in society as well as history, help to immerse you a bit more in the characters and their lives. At times, it feels as though there is so much backstory that I wish I had written a conventional novel. But then I think we would have been hard pressed to consider this as a work of design fiction.  It is, of course, the diegetic prototypes that are so woven into people’s lives that we can look at and contemplate their affect on the culture and the behaviors of the characters.

Chapter 2 will wrap up on page 84, in case you were wondering.

 

Bookmark and Share

Futurist glossary for the year 2159. Part 2.

p64

A few weeks ago, I posted Part 1 of a cyberpunk, futurists’, design fiction glossary for the year 2159. This week I’m adding Part 2. There will probably be more to come. Now you are really in the know.

Accretion (brain) – brain accretion is quantum storage of all mental, cognitive and experiential data from a living brain for transference to a progenated being or synthetic. Essentially, quantum storage of your brain and its contents. (see also progenation)

Agers – humans that choose death over an unlimited lifespan. They may take advantage of replacement organs, or other enhancements but avoid genetic alterations to stop the aging process. Average life expectancy of an ager is 148 years. Despite enhancements, agers often find themselves unemployed after age 60.

Brain accretion – see accretion (aka bacc-up – slang)

Brain port – a port is inserted behind the ear just below the occipital bone and laterally to just above the C1 vertebra. The port resembles a small patch about 20mm square. It blends in with the skin and becomes visible only when touched by the owner. This reveals a slender 5mm slot in the center. The port connects through a microscopic tube to the base of the Pons, a key feature of the brainstem that connects the medulla to the thalamus. The Pons is considered white matter as opposed to the grey variety and is used to conduct signals from the forebrain and midbrain. It helps a number of autonomic functions like sleep, respiration, swallowing, bladder control, hearing, taste, and equilibrium among others. It also helps you dream. (See also chipset)

Chipset – a brain augmentation. The first chipset is installed in humans at an early age, usually when a child reaches 3 or 4 years old. The first implantation sends a stream of nano particles that are programmed to find the Pons and set up a grid, basically a set of microscopic slots that will accept updates and other programmable nodes that interface with luminous implants accessing everything from the Lightstream (see Lightstream), to infusion learning, internal body chemistry, and the V. These implants are what allow the person to receive voice and telepathic transmissions as well as to “see” who is calling or immerse themselves in the world of the V. The Pons’ midbrain pathway also provides access to the hippocampus, the brains memory center. The placement of the chipset is both strategic and precarious. As long as the port is used for medical purposes only such as software updates (so to speak), all is well. With the relatively new diversion of exchanging experiences, however, memories—complete with their accompanying sensory experiences are recorded and extracted directly via the port to an external device called a swig and then can be transferred to another person. (See also swig, headjacking)

DownTown – (aka DT – slang) is a general referent to the portions of the Hong Kong 2 below 50 stories. More specifically, it refers to the area below the TopCity Spanner. Because of the massive scale of the spanner, portions of the city below were blocked from the sun and rain and hence abandoned. Other areas were flooded from drainage miscalculations from spanner run-off. Criminal elements moved into the shadowy world below and certain areas became known for illegal activities and deviant behavior. Not all parts of the city have taken this route. Hong Kong Island, for example, is not considered to have a DownTown in the same sense of the word. The area considered the highest risk extends in a 2000-meter radius from what is currently the Mong Kok district. It includes portions of Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po and Yau Tsim Mong.

ESS – abbreviation for Expert Systems Synthetic. ES Synths are specialists in a myriad of areas from psychoanalysis to parenting, sexual dysfunction, anger management, human behavior, and the list goes on. ES Synths can be hired by the hour as consultants or therapists in  person or via the Lightstream. They are a service of the New Asia government and you can pay in credits or cash.

HK2abbreviation for Hong Kong 2, the global capital of New Asia.

Infusion – is the process by which knowledge or experiences are uploaded into the human brain. Low level infusions can be tactile via luminous implants or more robust uploads via the

Invisible City – a section of DownTown that was flooded by spanner run-off. Largely abandoned in the flood of 2155, the area was originally an air shuttle-warehousing complex consisting of approximately 20 city blocks. Occupancy is disputed but the area does maintain some businesses, infusion bars, and Synth brothels.

NACabbreviation for New Asia Corporation. Most corporations are government owned.

New Asia – Most of the world belongs to New Asia. Countries that sold to the New Asia government (formerly China) retained their identities and are referred to as French New Asia, German New Asia, British New Asia, The United States of New Asia, etc. Some smaller countries such as Switzerland never sold their countries. A small selection of states, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana seceded from the Union prior to the sale of the United States to New Asia. The territory is known as the United Colonies of America.

Progenation – (aka genning – slang) This is the counterpart of replication in inanimate objects though the process is very different. This is under strict government control to insure that only fully enhanced, and socially beneficial humans or endangered species are progenated and to insure that population planning limits are enforced. Progenation involves “replicating” an individual’s life forms in the lab through using duplicated DNA  and then transferring their brain accretion. Gifted surgeons, scientists and other “social contributors” can be genned and leased to other parts of the world where their specific skills can be utilized for maximum affect. Due to high demand, territories throughout New Asia bid on such individuals. The government has begun to designate certain promising births as potential “progens.” These children are given special governmental benefits and opportunities to help insure that they will be able to be genned upon reaching maturity.

Pure-stuffs – (aka puffies-slang) usually refers to naturally made or grown food, beverages or other organic, inanimate objects, that some believe to be superior to molecularly configured replications. Since these generally require antiquated forms of agriculture, they are rare and quite expensive.

Replication – replication of inanimate objects is widespread for food beverages and hard goods. Many insist that there is a difference between a real and replicated apple, thus, “pure-stuffs” are still sold. Replication is based on duplicating molecular “fingerprints” of actual objects.

Tapping, taps – a tactile communication system that utilizes implanted sensors just below the skin on the users fingertips. Touching the fingertips together in specific sequence can be used to access information that is lightstreamed directly to the users brain, adjust programs for internal chemistry, receive telepathic communications, or transfer data to active surfaces. Specialized programs and receptors allow users to transmit feelings and emotions via touch to the sensors of another individual.

TopCity – the area of Hong Kong 2 that refers to everything above 50 floors including the Top City Spanner.

TopCity Spanner – an architectural wonder that took 10 years to construct. It connects Hong Kong Island with the North Bay, Kowloon and through to the Mong Kok area. The spanner uses programmable architecture that enables engineers to expand, add new partitions or floors.

Twisting – the illegal tampering and reprogramming of a synthetic for committing crimes.

V (The) – street slang for virtual immersions. (aka virtual reality)

V chair – a home lounging device that enables users to have extended Immersions in the V. Usually reserved for the privileged and wealthy the chairs reduce skin compression, maintain body chemistry, monitor immersion time and can be hooked up to intravenous and body waste disposal accessories.

V palace – capsule hotels where patrons can hook up to the V, hourly daily or weekly. Longer-term guests are fed intravenously and catheterized to dispose of body waste. V palaces exist in both TopCity and DownTown, though accommodations vary significantly. The government is trying to discourage extended time in the V, as it has been shown to have debilitating behavioral side effects.

 

Comments welcome!

 

Bookmark and Share

How important is realism and what makes it real?

 p63

This week, the governor flashes a rosary and crucifix, and while our team may be trying to conceal their surprise, we can see that they are more than a bit shocked. If you haven’t read the backstory on the government’s stand on religion, you can find it here, early in chapter 1, and in the chapter 2 prologues. I’m going to let you sort that out for now.

Kristin Broulliard's silent commentary.
Kristin Broulliard’s silent commentary.

Today I thought I would center the discussion on realism. 

The future of The Lightstream Chronicles is built with “artifacts” that, by virtue of the narrative, become infused with meaning. At the same time, they are intended to provide a sense of realism and increase engagement, as well as foster discussion and debate. Because design permeates culture, and is an inextricable part of daily life. Design and technology quickly blend in, and the people living in, and with it, don’t particularly take notice of it.

There has been a document floating about that I came across while stalking the pages of Carnegie Mellon’s Design Fiction and Imaginary Futures blog, called the Critical Engineering Manifesto which appears to be co-written by a group from Berlin in 2011. The team, Julian Oliver, Gordan Savičić, and  Danja Vasiliev, have put together a rather ominous truism of the power of engineering and design in our culture today and especially in the future.

If we assume that the critical engineer shares at least some definition, in principle, with critical design popularized by Dunne & Raby, then its purpose, is a critique on engineering and perhaps technology and their affect on culture. As Dunne & Raby help to define critical design, it “uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life.”

The Critical Engineering Working Group and their manifesto share a similar spirit. Number 5 of the 10-point manifesto reads:

     “5. The Critical Engineer recognises that each work of engineering engineers its user, proportional to that user’s dependency upon it.”

As I have written many times our smart phone, is a prime example: a designed technology that brings with it new efficiencies, and at the same time, engenders new behaviors. It has undeniably engineered us as well.

Therein lies the role of the diegetic prototype for design fiction. iPads, smart phones, vibrating reminders, 160 character thoughts exchanged with total strangers are likely just the beginning. But, to fully absorb the impact of our creations that have begun to create on their own, we need to think. Somehow, our speculative design needs to break through and become real enough to provoke us to think about the future and become more engaged in it.

Realism, I believe plays a significant role in this breakthrough objective. Realism, however, can be achieved in many ways beyond the most obvious, material fabrication. Indeed, the realism that made 2001 A Space Odyssey, Minority Report, or even Her so memorable, was not real at all, it just seemed that way. Yes, these artifacts from the future — the devices and technologies made scientifically plausible and logically designed — were so believable that they blended in, but what made them seem most real was how commonplace they were to their users. It was the way the characters interacted and behaved with these devices.

The Lightstream Chronicles quite obviously stops short of material fabrication, and leans heavily on the realism that can be conveyed through CG. But though the digital forms of these artifacts have dimension and virtual physicality, the emphasis is on how they can go unnoticed. Just as with our present-day artifacts like smart phones and laptops, they blend into the scheme of everyday. They are ubiquitous in the culture, yet they serve to influence social interaction and individual behavior.

The use of diegetic prototypes can suspend disbelief about the future scenarios, and through an examination of culture and context, individuals can contemplate present-day decisions that will affect the future on an individual basis.

Indeed, I believe that realism is key. It is important to examine what makes it real to us and ask how real it needs to be to actually provoke us to think and encourage us to engage in our future.

Bookmark and Share

Profound change: Perfect bodies, adjustable hormones, and nakedness almost passé.

p62

There is a  rather significant discrepancy between the thousands of visitors to the “webcomic” every month, and those that visit my blog. As bereft of technological prowess as I am, I have not been able to find an effective way of combining image an blog together on one site, though I know there a million webcomics that do it. Part of my challenge is finding the time for the overhaul. Possibly this summer. Anyway, there is lots of good stuff here. But then again, if you are here, you are not part of the problem. However, if you are here, let’s get some dialog going. I would love to get more feedback on the story, or the themes, or design fiction, or any of the above. I would be happy to discuss the finer points of rendering or 3D modeling. Just throw something out there. Keeing within the discourse of reasonable minds,  I’m willing to entertain it. Just sayin’.

So, here we are on page 62 as Kristin confronts Governor Nakamura on why Sean was hanging out on the especially nasty part of town. Last week I went in to considerable detail on what one might find in a trip to the Mong Kok district of DownTown, but the Governor doesn’t seem to have a clue why Sean was there. According to the Governor, “I know that it is unusual these days, but Sean was raised with strong moral convictions”. Kristin does, indeed, find this unusual — perhaps unbelievable. I see this as a bit of a commentary on the morality of the 22nd century and I’ve written about this before. In a previous post I wrote:

“Andrew Curry (2010) examines this idea in The 1910 Time Traveler, asking what a 1910 Edwardian might think of 21st century London. He thinks many of the technologies may well be conceivable. The bigger changes may be in the quality and realism of content, the disappearance of industry and cleaner air. ‘The bigger changes, though, would almost certainly be about values.’ The society is more international, more politically civil, the role of women has changed dramatically, and then there is: ‘Casualness of dress and social etiquette generally: both Edwardian men and women tended to travel well covered up, even at the beach. In contrast, our informality of clothing, and the casualness of our language – even rudeness – along with the end of most visible signs of etiquette, would be a profound change… But there’s perhaps an underlying story here. When we think about long-term change with the benefit of hindsight, the things we think are unfathomable are usually the technology – planes, cars, computers. But it is at least as likely that the things that time travelers would most struggle with are the shifts in social values, which are almost invisible to us because we swim in them constantly and adapt ourselves to them as they change.'”1

One could surmise that so goes morality. Yet, the bigger question is whether we, in our 2159 skins, even notice? Bodies are perfect, you can manipulate your hormones and body chemistry, illness is history, and nakedness is almost passé. Pornography has gone from something you look at, to a visceral experience in the V. With a constant redefinition of morality based on our social change at what point will we no longer recognize it?

I think not.
I think not.

The Governor’s comment is not something that we would find uncommon for a parent to say today, many of whom are unaware of what their kids real moral life looks like. Sean is a prodigy. He is a highly regarded and influential scientist, and synthetics designer and he’s been living on his own for a while. How would the Governor really know if Sean has retained his moral upbringing? Lots of interesting questions as the saga continues.

1. Curry, Andrew. http://thenextwavefutures.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/the-1910-time-traveller/

Bookmark and Share