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Ep. #032

Christopher Schaberg _ ‘Worlds World Worlds



‘Worlds World Worlds’

The byline for ‘Night White Skies’ is that it’s ‘a podcast about our futures as both the environment and our human bodies are now open for design’. The idea that there are answers or (far worse) solutions has never been on the table here. But as the podcast has continued it has become increasingly clear just how many avenues exist for at least posing a question. Maybe to say that a little differently, just how many techniques exist to even formulate the questions we want to begin with and then continue to refine. If on one end of the spectrum are the fictional stories that take place in the future, than on the other end might very well be the so-called ‘hard sciences’ – the scientific studies and analysis of our past and present that project on graphs an inevitable future trend.

The knee jerk reaction here is to say that within today’s conversation we discuss a third option, that of literature (both nonfiction as well as fiction) as a means to speculate, nurture and engage the realities we live within. But instead, the conversation with Christopher Schaberg about the works of Donna Haraway & Gertrude Stein highlighted for me just how limited my own set of techniques and strategies are for engaging such complex discourse today. I have grown comfortable in seeing the so-called ‘hard sciences’ of data, simulation models and design prototypes as antithetical to fictional storytelling. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I found it difficult to identify or pinpoint an individual or team that did the two simultaneously. Or – I wasn’t giving enough credit to the works of authors I respect that were doing this, and I didn’t think I could translate a literary model onto an architectural model, specifically one that is focused on design architecture.

Reading and discussing Donna Haraway’s ‘Staying with the Trouble’ I found important not only for the subject matter as it relates to the environment but also for the techniques she deploys to enter into the conversation and reformulate it. As Haraway says, ‘It matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with.

I have no doubt that many of you are currently saying “Sean, come on! There are dozens of other examples, including X, Y & Z. that do this” And I have no doubt you are right, and I would love to hear about them.

And so I hope I’m not putting too fine of a point on this distinction. That Haraway’s techniques of ‘tentacles, making kin or string figures’ (which we’ll discuss further in our conversation) aren’t fictions, but something closer to a layer that is capable of being turned on. A layer or reality we were previously unaware we could choose to occupy. Moving forward from that vantage point through our design, discourse or policy, we open the potential for alternate futures. Ones that couldn’t exist if we stayed within our previous starting points. And therefore, the most difficult or important part of such an exercise isn’t the journey ahead but the reorientation in the beginning that sets us in that direction.

‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’ by Donna J. Haraway & ‘Tender Buttons’ by Gertrude Stein



Christopher Schaberg received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, where he specialized in twentieth-century American literature and critical theory. At Loyola, Dr. Schaberg teaches courses on contemporary literature and nonfiction, cultural studies, and environmental theory. He also teaches a first-year seminar on airports in American literature and culture. He is the author of three books on airports: The Textual Life of Airports: Reading the Culture of Flight (2012), The End of Airports (2015), and Airportness: The Nature of Flight (2017). He has co-edited two essay collections: Deconstructing Brad Pitt (2014, with Robert Bennett) and Airplane Reading (2016, with Mark Yakich). He is currently completing a book called The Work of Literature In An Age of Post-Truth, which is about teaching, reading, and writing in the early twenty-first century. Dr. Schaberg is founding co-editor (with Ian Bogost) of an essay and book series called Object Lessons which explores the hidden lives of ordinary things. This series offers hands-on opportunities for Loyola students who are interested in nonfiction writing as well as working in editing and publishing.

‘The Work of Literature In an Age of Post-Truth’, ‘Airportness: The Nature of Flight’ & ‘The End of Airports’ by Christopher Schaberg

Books by Christopher Schaberg

‘The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth:

Amazon Author Page

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