Future of the Word Forum: the future of language and literature in the digital era

On 2-4 June 2016 the British Council, in partnership with the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, will hold a 3-day Future of the Word Forum, devoted to new perspectives on reading culture, the publishing industry and creative literary process in the UK and Russia.

The core of the festival will be a wide-ranging Language and Literature think tank where UK and Russian professionals in digital technologies, publishing, media, design, software programming and artists, writers, journalists, literature critics, and linguists will work together to explore the phenomenon of the word and its evolution in the 21 century from various perspectives. Alongside the think tank, which is an industry-oriented event, there will be an extensive public programme with talks, round tables and discussions with key speakers, live-streamed sessions, and evening film screening and meet-up activities. The Future of the Word Forum is part of the wider programme for the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature 2016.

The entrance to all the events is free of charge. Registration is required.

 About the Forum

When the word processor first arrived in the hands of writers in the 1980s, Science Fiction author Bruce Sterling wrote excitedly to his colleague William Gibson: "This machine changes everything… you can chop it up, move bits around, you can airbrush the joints… and you can file the serial numbers off anything." Gibson himself would go on to coin the term “cyberspace”, giving us the first glimpse of the intensely networked world we all find ourselves in today. That world is a strange and often disorienting blend of the future and the past, one where the phones in our pockets talk to satellites in orbit and words shoot beneath the ocean on beams of light, but we still need the stories we’ve been telling throughout history to make sense of it. This is what Warren Ellis calls “the Science Fiction Condition”, and we had better start getting used to it.

In fact, the history of technology and the word is much older than our latest gadgets. The novel is only four hundred years old and its development was closely related to the development of the printing press - but it’s once again being changed by the development of ebooks and ereaders. Publishing models are challenged by new distribution models just as they were long before copyright was invented. And alongside the book, many other kinds of story-telling emerge and flourish, from digital film, to computer games, to virtual reality. 

Language itself is a technology, and a highly unstable one. While twenty-five languages disappear from the world every year, new dialects emerge constantly online as humans move around the network and the world, telling and sharing stories as they go. And that’s only the humans: in research labs and on social media, the machines are starting to speak to, to have conversations, and to write. As we change our words, we also change our minds, and the way we see and interact with the world around us.

At Future of the Word Forum a wide range of professional experts, writers, publishers and critics will share their ideas on how language will continue to change and how our cognitive and creative abilities will react.  A London-based artist, Erica Scourti, will present a selection of her recent works which draw on performance and autobiography to engage with expanded notions of writing, language, and broadcasting in the networked era. Laurence Scott, the winner of the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction in 2014, will talk about his recent book The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World.

Beat Film Festival will prepare a special film programme at the forum – Bitter Lake presented in person by well-known documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis and Innocence of Memories, a film about the Nobel prizewinner Orhan Pamuk by Grant Gee.

The Forum as a whole is curated by James Bridle, a British writer, artist, publisher, technologist whose work covers the intersections of literature, culture and technology and who was listed as one of the 100 biggest tech influencers in Europe by WIRED Magazine in 2015.

About Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design

Strelka Institute is an international educational project, founded in 2009. Strelka incorporates an education programme on urbanism and urban development for international students, provides consulting services and hosts a public summer programme which is open to the public and free of charge. Moreover, Strelka launched online school Vector and collaborative international Masters programme ‘Advanced Urban Design’ with HSE Graduate School of  Urbanism. The Institute has its own publishing programme — Strelka Press, which publishes works on contemporary architectural, design and city development issues in English and Russian. The Institute has its own publishing programme — Strelka Press, which publishes works on contemporary architectural, design and city development issues in English and Russian. The programme has set the new trend of publishing industry in Russia — books on city development and urbanism.

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