Changing the world through (fan-)fiction

Presented by Paul '@pjf' Fenwick
Monday 1:40 p.m.–2:10 p.m. in Medium Lecture Theatre CB11.00.401
Target audience: Community


Fiction exists to entertain its audience, but it is also fundamental to shaping the evolution of society itself. Much fiction is based around the concept of new ideas; movies like The Matrix had us consider whether our world was a simulation, and the contemporary Westworld has sparked many a discussion about consciousness and personhood. Yet fiction gives us something even more compelling, and more powerful, than merely exploring new ideas; it gives us stories about how to live our lives. Popular fiction provides society with scripts on what to expect, how to act, what's important in life, how to form relationships, what to aspire to, and commentary and scaffolding on almost every other part of our lives. Intertwined with this has been the long, long tradition of writing fan-fiction; using an existing story or world to expand, explore, or re-invent. Disney solidly highlighted the power of fan-fiction by creating animated films that re-interpret fairy tales that were already familiar to audiences. Modern fan-fiction—while sometimes occupying a niche role—has taken this even further; and is now a powerful vehicle for the exploration of new concepts and ways of living our lives. The creation of fan content also provides an important entry-point for many people—especially young women—into technical skills including programming, front-end development, media editing, and content management. We'll examine how current attitudes towards fan-content are directly damaging to diversity in the tech industry, and society as a whole. A reading list and further resources will be provided for those wishing to learn more.

Presented by

Paul '@pjf' Fenwick

Paul Fenwick is an internationally acclaimed public speaker, developer, and science educator. Paul is well known for presenting on a diverse range of topics including privacy, neuroscience and neuroethics, Klingon programming, open source, depression and mental health, advancements in science, diversity, autonomous agents, and minesweeper automation. His dynamic presentation style and quirky humour has delighted audiences worldwide. Paul was awarded the 2013 O'Reilly Open Source award, and the 2010 White Camel award, both for outstanding contributions to the open source community. As a Freedom Loving Scientist, Paul's goal is to learn everything he can, do amazing things with that knowledge, and give them away for free.