Lunder Institute Senior Fellow Oscar Santillán has recently completed teaching a Jan Plan course for Colby students seeking to learn more about how we relate to technology. Jan Plan, a month-long exploratory term before the Spring semester, gives Colby students the opportunity to explore special topics that are not ordinarily offered during traditional academic semesters. Often, these classes break the mold of the standard college course—Santillán’s offering was no exception.
Santillán’s course was titled “Antimundo,” reflecting the name of his studio and the conceptual framework that shapes his practice. ‘Antimundo’ accepts science, fiction, and non-human perspectives all at once, a way of embracing realities that do not fit in our current world. The course syllabus gives more detail:
This course is about the future; the future here is understood as the potential for other configurations of the world which have been forgotten, repressed, or poorly understood, such as indigenous technologies. The course departs from two main ideas; the first one is ‘Antimundo’, which is a conceptual approach towards diverse forms of human knowing beyond modern Western ways of organizing life on Earth (i.e. humans not as unique creatures, as all creatures are unique, but rather humans as exceptional beings). The second idea guiding this course is the ‘IVM’ (the Interspecies Virtual Machine), which is a hypothesis for how to create connections between the diverse participants of planet Earth, those of organic and artificial origin.
The goal of Santillán’s research is to connect biological and artificial, physical and virtual systems. How can these relationships be made tangible? Students joined in the process of conceptualizing ‘Antimundo.’ Over the course of the month, they created original audiovisual essays that addressed the ‘IVM.’ The final videos, prompted by the student’s own curiosity, lend diverse perspectives towards imagining what this radical future could look like.
Santillán’s course pulled in students interested in topics such as land art, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, neurobiology, and more. What students learned over the course of the month weaved these concepts into a much larger hypothesis: that we, as humans, have critical symbiotic relationships with both the natural and artificial systems inhabiting our planet. What do we owe them, and what do they owe us?
Students in “Antimundo” watch a draft of a peer’s final audiovisual essay.