George Orwell’s 1984 described a dystopic future where privacy and individual thought had been stifled by the ever-watchful eye of Big Brother – but what might 2084 look like? Fears of dystopia – the loss of privacy, agency, and subjugation to a totalitarian regime—proliferate in popular culture still. From the recent success of The Hunger Games and Divergent to films like Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, our fears of a dystopic world are still very present. Where do these fears come from and what explains their recent boom in popularity? How might we understand the allure of these worlds? How are they created across popular media? Might we harness the power of world-building for less frightening ends?
Alex McDowell is one of the most influential designers working in narrative media today, with the impact of his ideas extending far beyond his background in cinema. Since moving to Los Angeles from London in 1986, McDowell has designed for directors including Tim Burton (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory), David Fincher (Fight Club), Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) and Steven Spielberg (Minority Report, The Terminal). Currently, McDowell is a Professor of Media Arts + Practice at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and director of the World Building Media Lab and World Building Institute. McDowell sits on Technicolor’s Scientific Advisory Board, Autodesk’s IDEAS Board, and the FMX Advisory Board; he is a Getty Research Institute scholar and an executive board member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Design Branch. McDowell is Founder and Creative Director of 5D Global Studio, which is a multi-platform, cross-discipline design studio that uses World Building in service of real-world problems and real-world impact.