Attending this event?
To view sessions, please select the Grid view below or use the Session Title filter.

After registering for the conference, you can log in here to save sessions to your personalized itinerary, sign up for workshops and performances with limited capacity, edit your profile, and edit your session description. For help using Sched, please see support.

For full details about the conference, please visit hastac2023.org
Back To Schedule
Friday, June 9 • 1:50pm - 2:10pm
The Precarity of Images: Sci-fi Worldbuilding and its Uses in Agitprop

Log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

“The Precarity of Images” examines how theories of worldbuilding common to the science fiction genre are applied to the making of agitational propaganda for liberation movements. In doing so, it questions how both explicit and implicit political images—posters, games, comics, illustrations, social media posts—either light a pathway for making a more just world or limit our ability to imagine alternate futures.

Following the ethos of Steven Jackson’s essay “Rethinking Repair,” the paper takes the “breakdown, erosion, and decay” of images as a starting point. Images change meaning over time as our cultural connections to them shift. Strategies of decoding and recoding our visual world — through discursive questioning, drawing, and acts of “political looking” — are used to understand how these broken images are maintained or repaired. Further, self-reflections from the author’s teaching and illustration practice provide concrete examples of how the theories in this paper have been applied.

Worldbuilding offers image-makers a sandbox in which these strategies can be tested and questioned. Drawing from speculative design practices, the paper looks at how illustration and design build on literature’s capabilities for making other futures or realities plausible enough that an audience can critically engage them. The paper unpacks worldbuilding tactics from activist and design communities. Frameworks include the contemporary prison abolition movement in the United States, collectives including Critical Resistance and Interrupting Criminalization, and the "visionary fiction" championed by the Octavia’s Brood anthology.

Applications of the techniques explored come from moments of political and social upheaval, when visual meanings become decoded or recoded. In this paper, those moments include the Black Lives Matter movement, the contemporary rise of fascism, the Black Panther movement, Constructivism after the Russian Revolution, and the coups of mid-20th-century Latin America — each chosen for their legible examples and their relevance to the author’s practice.

Pitfalls are inevitable in worldbuilding, ranging from uneasy truces between author and audience to the economic realities of working as a commercial artist. The paper ends by using these pitfalls as fertile ground for questions that unearth emergent processes of change. Successful processes are those that lead an audience to re-engage their political imaginations.

avatar for Noah Patrick Jodice

Noah Patrick Jodice

Lecturer, Washington University in St. Louis

Friday June 9, 2023 1:50pm - 2:10pm EDT
PS 401 (Design Center)