Multi-disciplinary Workshop on Scientific Creativity and Societal Responsibility
April 28-30, 2014
Arizona State University, Tempe campus
Part of ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project
The Frankenstein Bicentennial Project – a global, interdisciplinary network of people and institutions headquartered at Arizona State University – will celebrate the bicentennial of the writing and publication of Frankenstein from 2016-2018 with exhibits, performances, scientific demonstrations, writing contests, film screenings, installations, public conversations and educational experiences that use the Frankenstein myth as a touchstone for science education, ethics and artistry.
This “Multi-Disciplinary Workshop On Scientific Creativity And Societal Responsibility” will bring together informal learning and scholarship on science and society to begin building a community across a wide variety of fields to collaborate on the project by designing and planning public programs, intellectual endeavors and tangible outcomes like journal issues, books or performances as part of the Bicentennial celebration.
Resources for attendees:
Exhibits and Installations: Frankenstein and the Creation of Life
This working group will create plans for engaging, creative and interactive public exhibits that fuse STEM content with various forms of cultural and artistic expression. The group will consider how the themes and lessons of Frankenstein can be represented materially in science museums, art museums, libraries and other informal learning settings like intellectual salons. One such idea is to construct a set of arenas for discussing science, art, and horror in sitting rooms and laboratories modeled after those of 1818, 2018 and 2118.
Frankenstein: A Critical Edition for Scientists and Engineers
This group will create a plan for an annotated edition of Frankenstein to engage the historical, ethical, and societal aspects of science and engineering. Instead of producing another critical edition of Frankenstein that focuses on aspects like literary antecedents, biographical details, and direct influences on the novel’s text, this edition will inform readers about larger issues in science and engineering ethics as well as responsible research and innovation. Using Shelley’s original 1818 text as a grounding intellectual structure, the edition will sketch a picture of the broader societal forces that animate Frankenstein and continue to make it a cornerstone of global popular and intellectual culture.
“It’s Alive!”: Frankenstein on Film
Wikipedia lists more than 250 films derived from or inspired by Frankenstein, making the story, characters and themes a fundamental part of world cinema and the culture surrounding it. This working group will identify innovative ways to use film to communicate with the public about Frankenstein and increase the public’s exposure to and literacy with issues of science and engineering ethics and responsible research and innovation. Potential projects include: a traveling global film festival that pairs film screenings with discussions featuring engineers, scientists, humanists and artists; film competitions including feature-length films, short films, and science documentaries about topics like synthetic life; “mash-up” or “remix” competitions that encourage participants to use new media technologies for informal education and storytelling using film and video; and new works of history and criticism that connect the cinematic history of Frankenstein to issues of scientific research, ethics, public attitudes about science and the representation of scientists on film.[/toggle_item][toggle_item title=”Monsters on Stage: Frankenstein in Theater and Performance”]Important works of contemporary theater such as Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen have demonstrated the dramatic potential of stories that engage deeply with STEM concepts. Frankenstein has a theatrical history dating back to 1823, when the success of the play Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein led to the unveiling of Mary Shelley as the book’s author after its anonymous publication – as well as its classical antecedents in the dramatic versions of the Prometheus myth authored by Aeschylus. The Royal National Theatre in London had great success in 2011 with a high-budget adaptation of the novel. This working group will make plans to assemble revivals and new theatrical pieces inspired by Frankenstein that foreground the narrative’s implications for STEM and function as educational pieces while still retaining their dramatic integrity. The group will also explore innovative programming around competitions for full-length and short theatrical pieces, e.g., a “one-monster show” for performance in science centers, as well as new works of history and criticism that consider how theatrical productions have depicted and inflected the novel’s inherent STEM issues, and how live theater has been part of the continually vital cultural life of the Frankenstein myth.
“MOOCenstein”: Frankenstein Goes Global
This working group will discuss the development of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to be produced by an interdisciplinary group of scholars across a range of institutions, and to be offered during the 2016-2018 bicentennial celebration and beyond. The MOOC will use the novel Frankenstein as a gateway for connecting STEM content with humanities, social sciences and arts, and it will create an international community of thinkers critically engaged with the ethical, legal and societal issues raised by Frankenstein beyond traditional college and university environments. The group will also advance efforts to establish Frankenstein as a “One Book” that is simultaneously enjoyed and discussed around the world during the two-year bicentennial celebration. This collective reading experiment will invite a diverse public into a dialogue that models the freewheeling intellectual discourse of Shelley’s day, mixing chemistry, poetry, biology and other subjects with the urgent ethical concerns of a world where artificial life is not a dream but, increasingly, a reality.
Engineering Life: Distributed Demonstrations
This working group will use Frankenstein as a starting point for research, reflection and constructive endeavors in science and engineering communities in the areas of creating life. This group will begin by designing demonstrations, digital resources and other small-scale, low-cost products and activities inspired by Frankenstein to promote direct engagement between researchers involved in such areas as synthetic biology and artificial intelligence and lay citizens in informal education settings. Just as Mary Shelley witnessed public demonstrations of voltaic activity, today’s lay publics will witness demonstrations of contemporary, cutting-edge science and consider both its creativity and its societal and ethical ramifications. We imagine, for example, developing “Frankenstein’s footlocker” – an educational kit that communicates fun, basic scientific and technical information and also includes material to explore the aesthetic, cultural and historical aspects of the novel and the quest to create synthetic life.
Reinventing the Dare: Frankenstein, Science Fiction and the Culture of Science
This working group will explore the intersections between storytelling, scientific research, debates about ethics and responsibility and the culture of scientific research and discovery. Frankenstein arguably inaugurated the genre of science fiction and it has had a powerful influence on the culture of science and the public perception of scientists. This working group will create physical and digital exhibits that explore the importance of storytelling for building momentum and consensus behind scientific research and discovery. Frankenstein was conceived on a dare in 1816, so this group will also create a series of fiction, poetry and transmedia writing competitions using the “dare” structure. Using the physical and digital exhibits as an intellectual launchpad for framing vital questions, the new dares will generate modern myths about the promise and peril of scientific exploration and creativity for the era of artificial life, autonomous software and rapidly advancing bioengineering. The group will also explore the role of women and people of color in science fiction and develop programming to excavate an alternative history that fairly weights the contributions of non-white, non-male authors to the genre.
Bringing Nonfiction to Life: Frankenstein and Science Writing
This working group is charged with developing a set of dares – contests, workshops and other activities – parallel to the science fiction group but instead involving nonfiction writing. The centerpiece will be planning nonfiction writing contests and special issues of magazines and journals that bring together social, cultural, artistic and historical work on Frankenstein with STEM research and exploration inspired by or connected to the novel. The group will also explore how to leverage Frankenstein and the bicentennial to communicate with the public via print and online journalism. It will consider how science writing programs at colleges and universities can integrate literature, history and culture into their curricula and training to help expand and engage the scope of science journalism and make it a more effective instrument for increasing literacy about science, emerging technologies and their societal ramifications.
This workshop is funded by the US National Science Foundation (#1354287). Any findings, observations or opinions expressed are those of the principal investigators and participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.