Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

fc 2019 syllabus – updated!

GS/FILM 6245, GS/HUMA 6245, GS/CMCT 6507
Future Cinema 1

CLASS TIME: Wednesday 5:30-8:30 p.m.
COURSE DIRECTOR: Prof. Caitlin Fisher
OFFICE: 204 CFT office hours
OFFICE HOURS: Wednesdays 2:30-3:30 p.m.
E-MAIL: caitlin@yorku.ca
PHONE NUMBER: 416-736-2100, ext. 22199 – but email is best

Classes start Sept. 4th

Last date to drop this course without receiving a grade Nov. 8th

Fall reading days (no classes, University open) Oct. 12-18th

End of Fall term Dec. 4th (*nb: if necessary, make-up class scheduled for this class Dec 5th)
Last day to submit Fall term work Dec. 4th

“We stand now at the intersection of lure and blur. The future beckons, but we’re only partway through inventing it. We can see the outlines of a new art form, but its grammar is as tenuous and elusive as the grammar of cinema a century ago.” – Frank Rose

Course Description
This course examines the shift from traditional cinematic spectacles to works probing the frontiers of interactive, performative, and networked media. Drawing upon a broad range of scholarship, including film theory, communication studies, cultural studies and new media theory, the course will consider how digital technologies are transforming the semiotic fabric of contemporary visual cultures. The great realist film theorist André Bazin predicted that the future of cinema would be a holographic form without boundaries. In this moment Bazin’s vision is begining to be realized, but co-exists with its opposite: frames within frames that foreground the materiality of the screen. The course will begin with the phenomenon Gene Youngblood described four decades ago as ‘expanded cinema’, i.e., an explosion of the frame outward towards immersive, interactive and interconnected forms of culture. With an emphasis on immersion, connectivity and mobility, we will consider the new models and metaphors that theorists from Marshall McLuhan to Gilles Deleuze have used to address the changed status of the moving image and concomitant transformations in screen technology. Our trajectory will be framed by a series of questions that are both ontological and epistemological in nature: what constitutes the ‘new’ in new media? How are digital aesthetics different from film aesthetics? What new forms of spectatorship and storytelling, political community and commodity production are being enabled? While the course is concerned with recent
developments in cinema technology and digital poetics, these are framed by an understanding of the digital not simply as a technology but also as an experience of space and time tied to capitalism (Bauman 2000). A range of popular and experimental media will allow us to situate these questions across different contexts of convergent and unstable media cultures. Students will be encouraged to explore these questions through both theoretical reflection and practical experiments using old and new media technologies.

to be finalized second class, after I have found out who you are and why you are here.

Required Texts

Jaron Lanier Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality 2018
Helen Papagiannis Augmented Human O’Reilley 2017
Anna Anthropy Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form Seven Stories Press 2012
Katherine Ibister How games move us – emotion by design 2016
Mary Flanagan Critical Play: Radical Game Design 2009
Scott Lucas The Immersive Worlds Handbook: Designing Theme Parks and Consumer Spaces 2013

In recent years required texts have also included:
Monika Kin Gagnon and Janine Marchessault (eds) Reimagining Cinema Film at Expo 67 2016
Farman, Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media 2012
Sean Cubbitt, The Cinema Effect, 2004
Murray, Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds, 2008
Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel, Future Cinemas: The Cinematic Imaginary After Film, MIT (out of print, but if you can find one, grab it – but note that the articles we read have been scanned and uploaded)
Ladley and Beezly eds Mobile Nation. Riverside Press
Public 40: Screens: http://public.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/public/issue/view/2058/showToc
Frank Rose The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories
Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media MIT 1994 (1964) (any edition is fine. widely available second-hand and in library)
Lev Manovich, Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database and associated website
Ian Bogost How to talk about Video Games 2015
Jane McGonnigal Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and her website http://realityisbroken.org/
Callahan and Kuhn, Future Texts: Subversive Performance and feminist Bodies 2016

Online Reading kit (available through the archival course website: www.yorku.ca/caitlin/futurecinemas ). The course website has been used for over a dozen years (and looks it – sorry ;) for both Future Cinema 1 and 2. In addition to housing many of the required readings for this course, the site is searchable and you can have access to a rich variety of posts that students have offered over the years – artist works, reading summaries, a record of conferences and exhibitions in the field and discussions of emerging technologies. Please consider the site to be an important resource for your work. Nb – some assigned readings may not have been uploaded to the site – but you can find most of these assigned texts via a google search. If you find a good source for a reading, please post and tag.


In Future Cinema 1 I have often used a contract grading system rather than engage in traditional grading exercises. You can find some of the rationale for my motivation here:
I am considering contract grading for at least the final paper/project for this class (if not the entire class) and we will discuss this at the first meeting.

Here is the standard /traditional evaluation rubric for this class:

Participation: Ongoing evaluation, 20%
Being part of an intellectual community means attending class regularly and punctually, reading thoughtfully in advance and involving yourself in class discussions in a way that enables you and other students to learn. Participation also includes a pass/fail show and tell. As the name suggests – at the beginning of each class at least one of you is invited to share a work that resonates with the course – a film or game that you admire, an installation you saw, technology in the news that we should all see – discussing your own future cinema-related work is definitely encouraged! Also, in addition to being responsible for making a larger effort at least once, and committing to a day to do so, please feel free to share this kind information at any time!

Assignment 1: Short screens paper, 10%
Produce a quick conceptual model of a screen for future cinema– this should take you no more than a couple of days to prepare. You can produce a page of writing, a sketch, or a model OR pick an existing screen for cinema beyond a screen for single-channel cinema that you are interested in exploring creatively (Oculus Rift? Mobile phone?) . (How) does the screen itself affect audience? Would it support different kinds of narratives/experiments? (in other words, what would this new screen enable?). What kind of story does it inspire you to tell? Be prepared to discuss your work. Due week 2, September 11th

Assignment 2: Research Proposal, 10%.
Students are required to submit a research proposal with bibliography for both traditional papers and creative projects – tell me about the context in which you are working and thinking and who is there isnpiting you, challenging you and thinking alongside you. This will be presented orally in class on Week 7, October 9 (pass/fail). Final written proposal due Week 7 October 23rd.

Assignment 3: Oral presentation of one of the assigned readings and written summary due at least two days before oral presentation, posted to class blog 10%.
You will be required to summarize the major points or themes of the text, compare and contrast the viewpoints expressed in the piece with those of other authors and critically assess the article and its relationships to the broader themes, issues and practices considered in the course. You are asked to prepare three to four questions from the reading to facilitate class discussion and extend the ideas expressed in the article with at least one future cinema example. Students are evaluated on the quality of ideas and material presented and the ability to generate stimulating conversation. Consider a novel presentation form.

Each student must summarize the above in written form and distribute it to the class in advance of the discussion, via the website. The contents of the written summary should not be more than four double-spaced pages. You are encouraged to upload images and video, as appropriate. The oral presentation of your text should not exceed 15-20 minutes in length, followed by 20 minutes of discussion.

Assignment 5: AI Frankenstein Immersive dinner party assignment 10%
Late October, in time for Hallowe’een – in collaboration with the Digital Stoytelling Lab at
Columbia University. Details to follow. More here: http://frankenstein.ai/

Assignment 6: Paper or Research-Creation Project 40%.
Students undertake a research essay or an individual or collaborative research-creation project directly pertaining to the theoretical and creative work discussed in this class. An artist statement and bibliography must accompany creative work. Please note that while many kinds of creative projects might be acceptable, equipment and lab time and instruction in the use of specific technologies is not provided part of this studies course – so maquettes, paper prototypes, online multi-modal works etc. might be good choices (though of course if you have access to equipment or would like the challenge of learning new skills, go for it!). Final projects and paper topics must be approved by the professor. I Ready to present Week 12, November 27th – last day of class, with formal deadline the following week (so you can tweak based on feedback, if desired). Students should also be prepared to present their final papers or projects to the class. I generally like to run the last day as a mini-conference/party, with a formal schedule/exhibition so you have an opportunity to share your work with a larger audience.

Ethics Reminder
If your final project will involve human participants (e.g. conducting interviews with anyone outside of the class; videotaping people for a hypermedia project), you will need to demonstrate familiarity with the ethics requirements of the university when you submit your proposal. You can find the university policy regarding ethics here:

Attendance Policy
Please see participation requirements, above. It will be impossible to do well in this course if you do not attend regularly.

Seminar Schedule (provisional)
I will make every effort to follow the syllabus as outlined, but reserve the right to make scheduling changes when further discussion of a given topic is required or to take advantage of unforeseen events and opportunities. Web resources will be added throughout the term for enrichment and to reflect students’ interests. Please check the class blog for up-to-date scheduling information and last minute changes.

Week 1 September 4th, Introduction to the course/Expanded Cinema
To screen/read:

The Evolution of Cinema and the Birth of a New Art Form: Tom Perlmutter (FoST 2013)
shaw Future Cinema – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJo6xZYq1rk
Josef Svoboda “Polyvision” (FC)
Peter Weibel “Expanded Cinema” (FC)
Randall Packer “Pepsi Pavillion” (FC)

Suggested supplementary reading: Monika Kin Gagnon and Janine Marchessault (eds) Reimagining Cinema Film at Expo 67 2016
Andre Bazin “Myth of Total Cinema”

CLASS EVENT FIVARS September 14-16

. fivars.net/

Week 2, September 11th Virtual reality 1
Due: Short screens reflection paper

Case study: FIVARS
Case study : VR storyteller and filmmmaker Illya Szilak, NYC

Vive/Oculus demo – hopefully including Szilak’s recent VR work,Queerskins
Queeerskins at Inside Out/TIFF: https://www.tiff.net/events/tiff-x-inside-out-present-queerskins-vr/

Required reading/screening : Jaron Lanier, Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and

‘Play, don’t show’: How VR storytelling compares to movies
Virtual Reality
Unlocking VR’s Potential
Template for VR script https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcavVlXDe3Y

Week 3, September 18th Virtual reality 2: From Panoramas to Cinematic Worldbuilding

Required reading : Jaron Lanier, Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality (continued)
The Vatican to Vegas: A History of special effects Norman M. Klein
8 classic films to learn from now that virtual reality is real
Collaborative show + tell: Fivars

Week 4, September 25th Indie Games and twine histories
guest lecturer: Keram Malicki-Sanchez
Required: Anna Anthropy Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form
Patrick Jagoda “Fabulously Procedural: Braid, Historical Processing, and the Videogame Sensorium”

Week 5, October 2nd, Augmented reality
Required reading: Helen Papagiannis, Augmented Human OR Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space
Magic Leap – Tonadi : https://vimeo.com/284474657

Lev Manovich “poetics of augmented space”
Beau Lotto: Understanding Perception – http://futureofstorytelling.org/video/beau-lotto-understanding-perception/
Gaia Dempsey: Knowledge Transfer – http://futureofstorytelling.org/video/gaia-dempsey-knowledge-transfer/

Week 6 October 9th Interactivity
Vanevar Bush “As We may Think” (online)
Espen Aarseth “Ergodic texts” (online)
Martha Kinder “Designing a Database Cinema” (FC)

Screen in class:
Tracy Fullerton, Game Designer, Interactive Media Division, USC School of Cinematic Arts http://worldbuilding.institute/videos/building-worlds-pt-3-tracy-fullerton
Chris Marker “Immemory” (FC)
Interactive Video 101 – http://futureofstorytelling.org/video/interactive-video-101/
Possibilia (2014)
By DANIELS (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Presented by Xbox Entertainment Studios. Produced by PRETTYBIRD in collaboration with Interlude In Possibilia, a man and a woman are having a fight directed by you. This interactive short film, starring Alex Karpovsky (Girls) and Zoe Jarman (The Mindy Project), lets you determine the tone and actions of a couple breaking up.
Lev Manovich “Soft Cinema (FC)

Supplementary: Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Lumiere festival of interactive film and storytelling www.hyperbole.com/lumiere/entries.html
Facebook group to eplore: Cefima – exploring the future of narratives

***Fall Reading Week***

Week 7, October 23rd Filmmaking and artificial intelligence – AI-generated dreams, machine learning and films

“Artificial Intelligence Is Automating Hollywood. Now, Art Can Thrive”
Microsoft’s Japanese schoolgirl AI has fallen into a deep, creepy depression
Artist Matt Adams’s work playfully explores the storytelling potential of new technologies. His present fascination is big data. How will stories be influenced by our ability to learn personal details about our audiences? What are the limits of personalization?
“This app is trying to replicate you “https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1675902159110146
“Bias in the Algorithm” https://www.mtu.edu/magazine/2019-1/stories/algorithm-bias/?fbclid=IwAR3VXc2kbITBiYxscQpsmONp3IvExaWhLu6AR0h4mViXbZZOyr5HrWdDqUc

“AI is reinventing the way we invent”

Deepfake videos:

Artificial Intelligence Identifies the Six Main Arcs in Storytelling: Welcome to the Brave New World of Literary Criticism: http://www.openculture.com/2019/03/artificial-intelligence-identifies-the-six-main-arcs-in-storytelling-welcome-to-the-brave-new-world-of-literary-criticism.html?fbclid=IwAR2hQXbW3tzwl9xVKmTAxV0vApvm1aSnNnkY9gpLtwwu8TfQvnuRvfyxSHQ
Sunspring: A Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch

fun AI-inspired films to screen –
Blade Runner (Final Cut)
War Games
Ex Machina

Week 8 October 30th
Experience Design, and emotion – work on the Immersive dinner party as part of the global Frankenstein AI project
Required reading: Katherine Ibister How games move us – emotion by design 2016
Lifting the curtain on Sundance — Frankenstein AI: a monster made by many
Supplementary reading: Frankenstein

Week 9 November 6th Spatial Storytelling: Immersive design, user experience and collaborative structures
Scott Lucas The Immersive Worlds Handbook: Designing Theme Parks and Consumer Spaces 2013
The 5D Institute http://worldbuilding.usc.edu/
Immersive Environments Lab http://gears.aset.psu.edu/viz/projects/vr/iel/
20 Immersive Things — Blockchain books, Neo-Noir adventures, Multi-player AR & more…
Explore online and we’ll discuss:
Environmental Theatre: Sleep No More
theatre and VR: War of the Worlds

Week 10 November 13th Transmedia – cross-platform stories
Required reading: Jagoda, Patrick. Network Aesthetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016
(alternate: Henry Jenkins Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide 2007)
WHY SO SERIOUS: HOW ‘THE DARK KNIGHT’ ALTERNATE REALITY GAME CHANGED FANDOM FOREVER https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/dark-knight-arg-why-so-serious-alternate-reality-game

Week 11 November 20th, Alternate reality gaming
Alternate Reality Games and the Cusp of Digital Gameplay, Bloomsbury 2017

Screen in class: https://www.theinstitutemovie.com/
Game or Cult? The Alternate Reality of the Jejune Institute
Explore: Alternate Reality Games: Majestic,Yellow Arrow, I Love Bees
Works on the Alternate Reality Gaming Network http://www.argn.com/
“Storytelling in New Media: The case of alternate reality gaming, 2001-2009” (Jeffrey Kim, et. al.)
Mary Flanagan Critical Play: Radical Game Design 2009

Week 12 November 27th Party and mini conference
Final projects and papers ready to present (final iterations due December 5th)

Parting words
From my colleague Ramona Pringle, sharing the words of the late, great Red Burns who used them to welcome her graduate students to NYU’s ITP program:

What I hope for you:
That you combine that edgy mixture of self-confidence and doubt.
That you have enough self-confidence to try new things.
That you have enough self doubt to question.j
That you think of technology as a verb, not a noun; it is subtle but important difference.
That you remember the issues are usually not technical.
That you create opportunities to improvise.
That you provoke it. That you expect it.
That you make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.
That you communicate emotion.
That you create images that might take a writer ten pages to write.
That you observe, imagine and create.
That you look for the question, not the solution.
That you are not seduced by speed and power.
That you don’t see the world as a market, but rather a place that people live in — you are designing for people, not machines.
That you have a stake in magic and mystery and art.
That sometimes we fall back on Rousseau and separate mind from body.
That you understand the value of pictures, words, and critical thinking.
That poetry drives you, not hardware.
That you are willing to risk, make mistakes, and learn from failure.
That you develop a practice founded in critical reflection.
That you build a bridge between theory and practice.
That you embrace the unexpected.
That you value serendipity.
That you reinvent and re-imagine.
That you listen. That you ask questions. That you speculate and experiment.
That you play. That you are spontaneous. That you collaborate.
That you welcome students from other parts of the world and understand we don’t live in a monolithic world.
That each day is magic for you.
That you turn your thinking upside down.
That you make whole pieces out of disparate parts.
That you find what makes the difference.
That your curiosity knows no bounds.
That you understand what looks easy is hard.
That you imagine and re-imagine.
That you develop a moral compass.
That you welcome loners, cellists, and poets.
That you are flexible. That you are open.
That you can laugh at yourself.
That you are kind.
That you consider why natural phenomena seduce us.
That you engage and have a wonderful time.
That this will be a time for you to expand — take advantage of it

Wed, October 2 2019 » Future Cinema