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Episode 0: Introduction

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Hello! And welcome to the audio part of the parallel worlds course.My name is Ollie Palmer.

This is a course that I, Ollie Palmer, run at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures at AKV St Joost. But it’s also a podcast that’s available for everyone to download and listen to, supplemented by the course website at parallel.olliepalmer.com – there’s a link in the podcast description.

What’s this course about? Well, perhaps I can read you the synopsis:

World-building is a valuable tool in art and design. The ability to immerse an audience in a complete world is crucial to the framing of countless TV shows and movies. But it’s not just for fun: corporations, nations, political parties, theatrical productions, and futurists all engage in ‘world-building’ too. What can artists and designers learn from world-building to enhance and augment their own practice?

This elective module enables students to explore the worlds of world-building through a structured series of individual and group activities. The course encourages students to build on skills they already have, enhancing their current practice and projects by creating worlds to embed them in.

So that’s the course! This podcast is here to present the ideas we’ll be thinking about each week, as well as exercises that you can do at home.

With each part of the course, we will be thinking in parallel between the real world – your daily practice – and a fictional world. This means we’ll be spending about half the time on real world activities, and half the time on imagined-world activities.

There are two types of podcast, long ones and short ones. The long ones are the equivalent of a lecture in class, an audio introduction to the topics we’ll be thinking about in class. I’ll use them to get across as much information as I can, so that you can use the ideas as a starting point to produce your own work. If you’re not in the school, please use them too!

The short podcasts are daily activities for you to do. I want this course to fit around your life and daily routine, not to intrude upon it. I’ve modelled parts of this course on a podcast I enjoyed myself, the writer Tim Clare’s ‘Couch to 80k Bootcamp’ on the podcast ‘Death of 1000 Cuts’. Tim is a fantastic writing teacher, and I highly recommend his podcast if you have any inclination towards writing.

One of the things Tim talks about is the idea of being ‘match-fit’. If you were, say, a boxer, you wouldn’t just jump in the ring for a big fight without practice. Or if you hadn’t run for a while, you’d be a fool to pop on some trainers and run a marathon. Instead, you’d train every day, bit bby nit improving your skills, dexterity, coordination, stamina, so that when the time came for the big push, you were ready.

We’ll be doing the same thing, testing and refining your creativity every day with structured and themed exercises that take you through elements of world-building.

In each podcast description, there will be a link to send me a voice message. I’d like to hear how the exercise went for you - if it took you somewhere new or unexpected, if it was frustrating or exciting or anything else. I might also integrate your messages into future podcasts, so that you can share how you’re getting on with the course.

Finally, I want to talk about the context of this course. I’m launching this podcast in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Our school is based in the Netherlands, and we are currently, like many other places around the world, in a lockdown. We’re all stuck at home. This course was originally meant to ask students to create parallel stories and worlds between real places in the real world – city centres – and fictional worlds. Since the start of this crisis, the course has had to change rapidly, switching to online learning. The exercises which were city-based are now going to be bedroom-based, and our fictional worlds are going to be created inside and around the rooms we’re confined to.

This presents a strange paradox. Whilst our work is not taking place in public spaces, we will be distributing it online for the whole world to see, or at least hear.

Which reminds me – there is one more type of podcast episode you’ll hear here: our students’ work. We’re going to publish the final projects students make for anyone to hear. These will be audio journeys that anyone can listen to from the comfort of their own room, which transport you to another place or a different perspective.

This whole course is quite an experiment. I’ve not done this before, and neither have our students. If you’re listening to this, welcome, please do participate, and let’s see what we can create!

Before I go, I have one final thing to say, and that is that everything on this podcast is supplemented by the course website at parallel.olliepalmer.com. There’s a link in the show notes, the show description, and on every episode. All of the transcripts of these episodes, the exercises we do, and further reading can be found there.

Welcome to Parallel Worlds.

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