Academic Stream Abstracts

Is Online Fan Fiction a Community?

Gemma Bothe

The word ‘community’ has become an all-encompassing expression. People talk of community building, communities of interest, and local communities. Community, or the search to create or belong to a community, appears to be an overarching preoccupation of individuals, and organisations. Businesses want their employees to feel like they are part of a ‘community’. Local councils talk of individuals who live there as belonging to a ‘community’, and build ‘community centres’ for residents to use. Local, small scale initiatives are often called ‘community projects’. Even universities talk of their employees and researchers engaging with the ‘academic community’. However, the word ‘community’ is often used with little explanation or definition of what a community is. BBenedict Anderson famously stated that ‘…all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined’(1983, p. 6).This suggests that communities are created by the individuals who occupy them (Anderson, 1983, p. 6). It is individual’s conceptualisation of belonging to a group or cause wider than themselves which results in the creation of a community. Communities are not an inherent, ‘natural’ object, rather they are socially constructed (Bartle, 2003) by those who see themselves as belonging to the collective. The human creation of community inevitably results in different parameters and aspects that are seen to be essential for the construction and maintenance of a community. Different definitions of community describe various intrinsic components that appear to be essential for a community to exist, yet still do not clearly convey what exactly a community is. Can online fan fiction be understood as a community? If so what parameters exist that make this space a community space? Is it important for online fan fiction to be a community? Does it matter that online fan fiction is, or is not a community? If online fan fiction is not a community how else can this collective of people be characterised and described?

Visualising Gender Fluidity

Jack Bridges, Will Knox

The Murdoch University ALLY Program aims to educate students and staff on issues related to sexuality and gender identity. In 2014, the ALLY training materials were updated to incorporate, amongst other things, a more contemporary understanding of an evolving range of gender identities. We found existing visual models of gender were static, focussing on rigid categories, and didn’t capture the fluidity of the lived experience of identity. Through research into the current models used within the gender variant communities, we designed an animated model of gender performance and identity for use in the ALLY Program. Introduction of the new model into the ALLY professional development program has generated strongly positive feedback from program participants. Jack Bridges and Will Knox, co-facilitators of the ALLY program at Murdoch, will demonstrate the animated gender fluidity model, and talk about their development process.

Personas – A tool for increasing diversity in SF

Cathy Cupitt

A persona is a fictional character or archetype who represents a target group which has distinct motivations and behaviours. They can be developed in various ways, but usually draw on qualitative and quantitative research. At the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, we developed a suite of personas to represent students from disadvantaged backgrounds. These personas are designed to be used as a tool for solving complex resourcing and policy issues, based on real demographic information and interconnected issues that real students engage with, without exposing confidential student data. In this presentation, I’ll cover the process of developing the personas, including the suite of personas from the NCSEHE, and then talk about how personas could also be used by writers as a tool for character development, and especially as a way of including nuanced characters from diverse and/or imagined backgrounds.

Theory and practice – How theory can be used to create imagined communities

Cathy Cupitt

In the academic world, theory and practice often seem to be two separate things. However, theory can inform practice in useful ways, especially by raising new possibilities that might otherwise not be considered. In this presentation, I discuss how theoretical models can be used to explain and predict human behaviour in the context of student equity, and how such theories could potentially be used to create similar models of behaviour for fictional civilizations.

A Change in the Weather – How New is Cli-Fi and is it Science Fiction?

Cat Sparks

Is the new genre of climate change fiction, Cli-Fi science fiction or not and does it matter? Across last November-December, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in France, with the aim of negotiating the Paris Agreement – a multi-national document intended to reaffirm the goal of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement marks a cementing in global government consciousness, a public acknowledgement that anthropogenic climate change is real and dangerous and, if left unchecked, is capable of rendering the Earth uninhabitable. Culturally, the issue has increasingly become a topic of significant interest, at least in some quarters. Widespread ecological devastation from a variety of causes has played out in post-apocalyptic literature and cinema since the postwar years, yet adult fiction dealing with anthropogenic climate change and its effects was thin on the ground at the turn of the millennium. Not so in the Young adult (YA) sphere: YA dystopian literature has been gaining traction since September 11, 2001, peaking with Suzanne Collins’s successful Hunger Games trilogy and films. In 2008 Taiwan blogger Dan Bloom coined the term ‘Cli-Fi’, purportedly a new classification for fiction dealing with catastrophic environmental concerns. Claims have been made that Science Fiction (SF) and Cli-Fi are separate entities rather than Cli-Fi being a subgenre of SF. Novels promoted as Cli-Fi include Margaret Atwood’s Maddadam trilogy, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, and James Bradley’s Clade. This paper will outline the ways in which science fiction has been exploring realistic ecocatastrophe scenarios for decades in tandem with social and political movements and concerns. In it I will suggest that Cli-Fi is being used as a method of artificially distancing fiction classified as “literary” from perceived genre taint. This paper will conclude that such quarantining procedures are more than just unnecessary; they may be potentially harmful. Science Fiction has a long and demonstrated history of influencing young readers into a love of science and science careers. As indicated by The Paris Agreement, the world has never needed big solutions to global problems more than it does now. By denying SF as its parent genre and corralling Cli-Fi within the cloisters of literary subgenre we risk disconnecting it from youth, science and the kind of action called for by author Neal Stephenson, who in 2011 as part of Project Hieroglyph, put out a call for writers to infuse science fiction with optimism that could inspire a new generation to, as he puts it, “get big stuff done.”

Let’s talk about boobs, baby.

Anna Hepworth

A rambling discussion of the biology and chemistry of human lactaion, not limited to looking at cells in human milk, gene expression, micro RNA and other funky things.

Encoded- genetics and DNA realities

Jessica Davey

DNA is the stuff of life, as we know it. Deoxyribonucleic acids arranged in a double helix generate a code that represents every gene in the body the sum total of which is our genetics. The questions of mutation, recoding, manipulation and evolution are often represented in science fiction. Given what we know about the way that DNA and genetics work how much of this is speculation and how much is purely in the realm of fiction? What is possible within the realms of current technologies and techniques?

Undead dilemmas

Jessica Davey

Death ultimately comes to us all and what happens afterwards is a topic for much debate at least if you want to talk souls or rebirths. The body however, we know a great deal about what happens to a body after death- assuming you aren’t cremated. Fiction has a long history though of talking about undeath, or the notion of a body being reanimated. The vampires, zombies, ghouls and Frankenstein monsters have caught imaginations throughout history. However what challenges would these fictional beings have to contend with? The human body isn’t designed to continue beyond expiration, there are environmental challenges specific to regions of the globe. What affects the Australia corpses? How do the undead share their conditions- disease, virus and virulence for the unlife and its behavior.

Big Weather: Predicting a future climate

Chris Creagh, Cat Sparks, Jack Bridges

Within the next century runaway climate change will radically change the nature of the planet Earth. Temperatures will increase, oceans will acidify, sea levels will rise, cities will flood and food and water supplies will diminish. What will the Earth of 2115 look like? What effects will it have on speculative fiction attempting to accurately portray the future? A panel of specialists explore the very grave risks that humanity faces – and suggest ways in which human civilizations may evolve and adjust in the coming decades. Can SF authors find a way through the chaos even if governments can not.

User’s Guide to Time Travel

Samuel Baron

Suppose you travel into the past. In a fit of homicidal rage, you attempt to kill your grandfather before he conceived your mother. What happens? Well suppose you succeed, and your grandfather dies at your hand. Then you will never be born and you will never travel back in time to kill your grandfather. So your grandfather both lives and dies. Paradox! Suppose, then, that you fail. Why do you fail? What is it that stops you from taking your grandfather’s life? Since Einstein developed the general theory of relativity the paradoxes of time travel have been extensively discussed by philosophers and physicists. The standard paradoxes have been extended in new ways, and new challenges have arisen. For instance, if one is unable to kill one’s grandfather, do the paradoxes of time travel therefore threaten one’s free will? Can the paradoxes be avoided by introducing higher temporal dimensions in which grandfathers can be freely killed without consequence? And are we forced to posit a mysterious ‘logical guardian’, hell bent on ironing out paradoxes wherever they arise? This talk will consider such questions as you are taken on a multi-dimensional tour of the philosophy of time.

Crime Fighting Flies: How the great Australian pest is an important resource in crime investigation.

Ellora Ker

The first documented use of entomology (the study of insects) in a forensic setting was in China in the 13th century, when farmers were instructed to lay down their scythes, revealing a murderer by the attraction of flies to their bloodied blade. In the last few decades forensic entomology has developed into an important tool in crime scene analysis. Applications range from the determination of the time since death (Post Mortem Interval/PMI), to detecting the movement of the body after death, to an analysis of chemicals in a body (entomotoxicology). Forensic entomology is also applied in cases of food contamination, and in animal or human abuse or neglect situations. Our pesky fellow Aussies can be more helpful than hindrance.

Published: 13:04 on Feb 19, 2016
Last Updated: 13:14 on Feb 19, 2016