BCM 325: Future Cultures – Reflecting on Commentary

Previously, I posted my online Digital Artefact Pitch for BCM 325: Future Cultures. However, the point of a pitch is to receive feedback on what others think. To help with this, a comments schedule was created so that everyone in the class could receive peer feedback on their work and also have the opportunity to give critical commentary.

For me this was an interesting experience. Whilst I am used to providing workshopping commentary in the context of creative writing, I have never had to deliver critical commentary and suggestions for a Digital Artefact in this manner. What follows, is a summary of my bumbling navigation of critical commentary on some Digital Artefacts.

Trying to be Helpful

The first pitch I looked at was a blog post series titled the ‘Future of Freelance Film Making’, by Jake Keighran. This series of three posts would explore the future of freelance filmmaking, home filmmaking, and the evolving technology that is enabling more and more people to create high quality video content.

Jake’s Digital Artefact is simple, but very timely, and engages specifically with his personal future. He is using a variety of research methods, sourcing research from credible sources, and reaching out to freelance filmmakers through Reddit. Overall, I found this a difficult pitch to comment on immediately, as it looked like a solid project. After some time reflecting on one of the Future Cultures lectures, I remembered a discussion on how futurists plotted the future based on what they saw in history and the present day, to project possible futures. I suggested to Jake that he might do the same by looking at industries which had already undergone a similar pattern, such as web design. Drawing from my own experience, I also suggested that he use this project to expand his portfolio, potentially recording an interview with a freelancer he knows. 

I realised when commenting on Jake’s project that, although it was a subject I could engage with, because it was so compactly designed, I had underestimated how hard it would be to provide useful commentary. In the end, I think I provided something helpful, but this reflection also prompted me to examine what I know about the future of the industry I am in.

Learning Something New

Tammy’s pitch, ‘Robots are Friends, not Food’, was the next presentation I looked at, and the one where I learnt the most. Tammy’s plan is to create a short series of blog posts and podcasts examining the future of robotics and artificial intelligence in both the short term and the long term – and if she has time, create an A.I. influencer on Instagram.

I felt quite out of my depth after leaning – through the pitch – that A.I. influencers were already present on Instagram. So, I had to do some extra research to find resources that I thought could be helpful, and in the end suggested some articles that could provide helpful side readings. One of these was an article I read a while ago from The Conversation about how machine learning could support law enforcement combat illegal wildlife trade (something I know a little more about). 

I think my best contribution in this commentary came not from my newfound knowledge of A.I. influencers, but more my suggestions on project focus and scope. Tammy’s project is interesting, and she shows a passion for the subject, but her area of research is huge. I suggested she use A.I. influencers as a case study of how we might live alongside robots and A.I. in the short, medium, and long term, and share these findings not only through her blog and podcast, but also through the A.I. influencer she was hoping to create.

I Think I know What I’m Doing

The last pitch I commented on critically was Drew’s. In his pitch, ‘The Pythia Project’, Drew proposed to build off of an older Digital Artefact, focusing on futurology to address the specific needs of BCM 325: Future Cultures. The project, an exploration of role-playing games, will consist of two parts: a series of introductory videos explaining the basics of role-playing games to help newcomers get set up, and a predictive timeline of role-playing games assembled from research and interviews. 

Although I have very limited knowledge of role-playing games, I felt more at ease commenting on this pitch as a significant portion of it revolved around creating world and character building tutorials – something I am a little more familiar with given I am studying creative writing and film.

For the research component, I was able to provide two resources I had previously discovered: one was an interactive mystery game that is played in the real world, and the other was a paper on the gamification of education. 

However, I think my contribution to the starter-pack video side of the Digital Artefact, was probably far more helpful. I suggested two texts (‘Story’ by Robert McKee, and ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell), which I have found to be very influential in my writing and film work, and think would be helpful to Drew when exploring the ‘how tos’ of character and world creation.

Perhaps it was the more familiar subject matter or reflecting on the focus of BCM 325: Future Cultures, but as I reflected on Drew’s pitch, I started to think about approaching the future through the games themselves. This led to quite a few questions on how role-playing games could and did handle the future, and I had to cut myself off in my commentary for fear of rambling on – I hope Drew does touch on this subject however, as I think it would be an interesting exploration.

Reflecting on Commentary on Pitches

Overall, I found the process interesting. Within creative writing workshops, the focus of commentary is on structure, language, and other technicalities. The same was true in this commentary – I looked at scope, delivery method, and focus – and generally found I had something to say that would be useful. The other aspect of this commentary was on the subject itself. This part of the commentary was more challenging, as I came across subject areas that I had a vague knowledge of but could not provide specific resources or suggestions without doing research first. Overall though, although this took more time, it forced me to do some reading outside of my usual focus areas and it was nice to learn about, and in some cases be shocked by, the most recent developments in technology.

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