Future Fictions Texts: Works Emerging from a Recent Workshop Imagining the Future of the University

As a result of a recent workshop on Future Fictions for Near Future Teaching, we have been fortunate enough to receive some of the work emerging from that event by several of the participants. We present these here, four works imagining, in their own way, the future of the University of Edinburgh. Many thanks to Daphne Loads, JL Williams, David Creighton-Offord, and Anon for contributing their work here.

I’m a Beautician

I’m a beautician.
I studied language beauty for seven years at Edinburgh
I knew as soon as my dissertation sac started to grow
When it was just a little bluish pimple on my forehead, on the left side.
I knew then what I wanted to do.

I suppose I was about 8 when the words started to appear.
Pieces of declensions floating in the blue liquid.
If people came up close they could hear scraps of lamentations.

When I got to that awkward stage, when it was just dangling there,
I kept thinking it was going to burst or drop off.
But if I used a mirror, I could see the strange fragments
Of a bigger picture,
The whole sound.

People always say, it will happen when its’s ready.
But I thought it would never crystallise.

Then three days before I was due to graduate,
It started to change.
It went cloudy, then clear, then as hard as glass
And it came off in my hand.

And then, at graduation
When all the dissertations were piled up,
And they fused together
That sound, the Music of the Spheres
Wow.

Daphne Loads

there was no time and time itself

don’t we always swallow a little more when the breath massages the spine

here in this classroom there is a notion that the nation exists

grasping toward the past it was the future held the coral chalice up to the light (poor coral whitened as the sea waves unto death)

what you will teach is

you broke that notion with your greedful mining time it was always and anyway

that golden classroom when the light pierced the beaker her glass a trembling concatenation of quantum realities as when the first burning torch was raised as now the first equation which makes light possible always always always is

a whole nation’s notion exists the gulf was crystal when we were kids diving to kiss on the banks of this nymph grotto weighted with tyres now floating polystyrene the green bottles blue bottles clear bottles holding my breath

what you will teach is what you believe

waving flinging the keyboard popping the button on your shirt shining desk pounding wet heads with first person second person third person south against north against east against man against woman against computer against robot i want to lift up without needing any tools

what you will teach is a dream no reality a notion no a nation

holding my breath forever is the same as breathing into the endless utopia of space

you will open your hand and (gold wire diamond glass plastic silver laser)

data is water time is light

JL Williams

Examinability

The wikitech access lockdown field clicked in as I strolled into the McEwan-examspace™ for my final exam for the Humanidata Googlebasics Bachelors programme. I started to feel the ‘exam pill’ surge, a burning, brain-swelling, actioning sensation and an opening up of memory – a creativity blast designed to optimise exam performance but also – and this cost me a fortune – to bypass the drug checker scan routinely implemented now at the entrance to the McEwan-examspace™.

At the exam consoles it was notable that many students – or their parents – had forked out on the CTD headwear which the Stangoogle analytics team had uncontestably demonstrated, in a paper published the previous month, were effective in boosting exam performance by 32%. This kit costs thousands. The University Enhancement Tribunal just can’t stay ahead of the advances Stangoogle are making in the enhancement space.

Justice, poetry, philosophy and history personificationsclustered on ceiling of the McEwan-examspace™, interspersed by the Googlebasics Centaur logo, as though we – the examinees – needed to remember and respect the privilege associated with being a member of the elite Centaur group of Googlebasic City-Universities. If I can kill this exam, my future as a Humanidata researcher and academic is pretty much in the bag. I click open the exam console and begin to address the question.

Anon

Empty Halls:

The room echoed, its emptiness expressed as resonance
The lines of chairs caked in dust and soft sibilance
The hiss of the lone mature student sitting down, the rustle of their bag
As they unpack, connect, buffer, and adjust for lag
They slide their glasses on, insert their ear pieces delicately
As the dark lecture hall now fills with ghosts awakened electronically
Connected now, the space is more illusion than reality
The students flicker in and out, avatars without integrity
False identities configured from vanity
Amalgams of fashion, celebrity, monstrosity
As the loading bar spins they watch the lecturer refresh
“Was she ever human?” They gossip. “Has she ever known flesh?”
Information is imparted, man’s input still audio visual
But with API and SQL this became residual
A habit from a time before we became maths, a time of individuals
As our dying bodies were left behind, our children became virtual
Leaving empty lecture halls and one joker’s faded desk inscription
“Transhumanism.
New man is new algorithm.”

David Creighton-Offord

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