“Knife through the vast underwater realms of beauty and adventure. Use your sonar, dive deep, flip above the waves. Explore, solve puzzles, unlock the secrets of crystal glyphs. The fate of the world rests on your wits and fins.”
With this enticing description, adapted from the back cover of the 1992 SEGA game Ecco the Dolphin, a vivid narrator in the audio fiction piece ‘Liquid Dream’ welcomes the listener to a district-wide urban neverland for full-time gamers called Dolphin Waves. The playful and carefree tone reflects the ludic atmosphere of life in this place. Dolphin Waves is one of the three speculative near-future worlds of Zhōuwéi Network, a critical worldbuilding research project focusing on the relationship between embodiment, datafication and power. Through imagining three types of datafied societies in 2041 and bringing them to life cinematically, the research explores how different ideological underpinnings produce affordances for distinct affective undertones.
The study of ‘affective atmospheres’ appears increasingly relevant – not only because of the recent ‘affective turn’ in academic discourse,1 but also because the ability to apply this knowledge could bring immense political and economic power.
Crucially, this power seems less and less bound to qualitative interpretation of human behaviour; recent technological developments promise to render our affective lives transparent through the use of sensors, real time data processing, pattern recognition and rapid feedback loops.2 What makes broad public discourse challenging is the ubiquity and complexity of these data-driven systems, further amplified by intentional rhetorics which can be at the same time enchanting, opaque, contradicting, and even misleading. As an attempt to unpack different motivational mindsets giving rise to newlyemerging societal paradigms, we propose to harness and subvert the power of affective atmospheres through the practices of worldbuilding and cinema.Read full article