FUTURE FORUM — Imagining Berlin's Future Museums

Creation of a future Berlin for an audio walk around the Kulturforum's cultural institutions
10 Feb 2021
Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, museum4punkt0
In Collaboration With
Worldbuilding, collaborative fiction workshop, story concept, narrative design, initial interactive scriptwriting, character development, diegetic artifacts, experience prototyping
MAR 2020 — FEB 2021
Berlin, DE

The 'Future Forum' is a future incarnation of the Kulturforum, one of Berlin's essential museum districts. This is a rich work of fiction that serves as the basis for an immersive audioguide inviting visitors to interact with future staff and collections.

Background: Co-creating a Future Berlin and its Future Culture

"What might be the role of muse­ums in the future" was the ini­tial ques­tion sub­mit­ted to us by the Berlin Kul­tur­fo­rum, one of Berlin's main muse­um dis­tricts. Our task would be to sup­port the institution’s cura­to­r­i­al team in envi­sion­ing pos­si­ble answers and devel­op a future world from the out­comes. Extend­ing the world­build­ing, we script­ed ways for muse­um vis­i­tors to inter­act with both fic­tion­al, future con­tent, as well as cur­rent col­lec­tions. In turn, this formed the basis of nar­ra­tive design work for an inter­ac­tive audio walk.

The first part was done dur­ing a two-day work­shop devised to gath­er insights from the Kulturforum's cura­tors and direc­tors by dig­ging out hid­den assump­tions, hopes, and con­cerns regard­ing the role of muse­ums in the future. After mul­ti­ple iter­a­tions of col­lec­tive world­build­ing, role-play, and spec­u­la­tive writ­ing exer­cis­es, three visions took shape: the future muse­um should be "a social forum for debate," "a place for com­men­tary on envi­ron­men­tal issues," and "a fun place for good times."

What uni­fies these visions is a con­cep­tion of the muse­um that looks beyond its tra­di­tion­al role as a col­lec­tor, research insti­tu­tion, and pre­sen­ter of cul­tur­al her­itage. The muse­um of the future is a place that takes an active role in social life and dis­course. It’s a place where the con­tem­po­rary is nego­ti­at­ed with regard to the past and the future. And it’s a place for life and com­mu­ni­ty, ful­ly tak­en over by the cit­i­zens of Berlin. This idea of an open muse­um that faces con­tem­po­rary devel­op­ments — that debates, digests, and con­se­quen­tial­ly inte­grates them — has been at the core of design­ing the Future Forum dur­ing the world­build­ing process.

'Carv­er' type DUDboard

EduComp ver­sion 0.3.1
Antitele­phone by Lab ANF

Bot­ti­cel­li But­tons (Agar­i­cus Botticellus)

Designing the Elements of Fiction

To envi­sion the muse­um from the inside, we had to imag­ine its out­side, beyond the muse­um in iso­la­tion, where pos­si­ble evo­lu­tions of the world took place on dif­fer­ent scales. Ele­ments pro­duced dur­ing the work­shop drove the nar­ra­tion towards a world of dig­i­tal scarci­ty, urban exo­dus, and not-yet-main­stream bio­com­put­ing. It is a world were the inter­net has col­lapsed, and to which the city of Berlin has adapt­ed with the sup­port of the Future Forum, host and guardian to a cen­tral repos­i­to­ry of knowl­edge, where pub­lic speak­ers col­lect and ver­i­fy infor­ma­tion — one of the few places still con­nect­ed to a glob­al net­work. Muse­um con­ser­va­tors have turned gar­den­ers and lov­ing­ly cul­ti­vate 'data gar­dens,' last repos­i­to­ries of bare­ly-sal­vaged knowl­edge; a group of 'Degen­er­atists' chal­lenges cur­rent artis­tic can­nons by decon­struct­ing any­thing they can lay their hands on, while fol­low­ers of the 'Authen­tist' church counter any attempt at restor­ing artworks.

In addi­tion to the cen­tral news­room where infor­ma­tion can be retrieved, the Future Forum is split into dif­fer­ent expert units in charge of fact-check­ing and archiv­ing infor­ma­tion, as well as devel­op­ing and main­tain­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools. It also fea­tures a series of green­hous­es ded­i­cat­ed to cul­ti­vat­ing species of plants and fun­gi adapt­ed to the needs of DNA stor­age, which are man­aged by spe­cial­ized data gar­den­ers and con­tribute to Berlin inher­it­ing the moniker of 'Chloro­phyl Val­ley.' The Future Forum is also home to a ques­tion­able pri­vate-pub­lic ven­ture dubbed by many the ‘Google­heim’, and a mys­te­ri­ous den of 'blank artists' trained like method actors on artis­tic fig­ures of the past so they can per­fect­ly recre­ate their works — includ­ing the emo­tions they contain.

This world is con­ceived as a stage for a spe­cial quest — the audio walk — dur­ing which muse­um vis­i­tors are 'acci­den­tal­ly' con­tact­ed by an employ­ee through a device for com­mu­ni­cat­ing across time (but not space). This 'antitele­phone,' as it is called, is rudi­men­ta­ry at best, and can only con­nect two peo­ple stand­ing at the exact same loca­tion on earth. Incor­po­rat­ing such a trade­off into the fic­tion­al premise helped make the expe­ri­ence more believ­able, where try­ing to ‘stay togeth­er’ is an excuse to move, and fol­low the script. 

The final expe­ri­ence was pro­duced by NEEEU for the museum4punkt0 ini­tia­tive. It is acces­si­ble through an appli­ca­tion that can be used in lieu of an audio­gu­ide for vis­i­tors of the Berlin Kulturforum.

Future Forum — Complete Worldbuilding Publication

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