C2 Dernbach: The Plasticity of World Building

12.00-14.00 / 30.07. pre-register here.
Rafael Dernbach – The Plasticity of World Building

World building is the practice of constructing imaginary or fictional worlds or universes. As a narrative technique, it is a key element of many of today’s fictional practices beyond its classic domains of science fiction and fantasy literature. It can take many shapes, often combining the creation of fictional stories, documents, maps, ethnographies or even invented languages. Rather than focusing on a protagonist or set of fictional characters, fictional practices centering world building explore a fictional totality, with its history, ecology and physics. Instead of a subjective or objective account of a reality, such practices encourage a form of reality testing, framing certain aspects of a world as malleable while framing others as static.

The lecture will examine the practice of world building and its potential for speculating about far human technology futures. The hypothesis is that world building can be applied to reflect and introduce new plasticities in our relationship to different technological trajectories. How can world building help us to think about alternative parameters for technological creation and design, today? How can it be a means to engage in systemic thought and practice, rather than just solving existing problems? And how can scientific and artistic forms of speculation be synthesized in it?

The lecture performance will critically reflect contemporary discourses on world building and philosophical theories of plasticity (i.a. Catherine Malabou)  and propose different techniques of world building can be explored in practice and tested by the Cybioses community and everybody who is interested in the matter.


Rafael Dernbach researches social and medial constructions of futures. Most recently, he worked as research assistant at Futurium, House of Futures in Berlin. As a Gates Scholar, he received his doctorate on Anticipatory Realism at the University of Cambridge in 2019 and was a guest researcher at the Free University of Berlin and Princeton University. His essays and interviews have been published by German Life and Letters, Zeit Online, ZDFinfo and Teknokultura and have been shown at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin and the Art Printing House Vilnius.