SFIS revitalizes Frankenstein at First Friday

ASU's School for the Future of Innovation and Society brought Frankenstein to life

ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation and Society celebrated the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" at First Friday on Oct. 6 with professional actors and hands-on experiments. 

People from around the Valley visited faculty and students from the SFIS at First Friday to construct and illuminate clay moldings with small bulbs and mini fans and enjoy a reenactment of Shelley’s iconic tale with two professional actors, Jon Spelman and Anika Taylor

David Guston, the director of the school, created this event with several other colleagues to educate the public about how the story of Frankenstein relates to SFIS through innovation and creation. 

The evening's event was a continuation of SFIS's Frankenstein bicentennial project.

“One of the ideas that came out of that workshop was to try to create a traveling museum exhibition on Frankenstein and the creation of life,” said Guston. “But instead we asked the National Science Foundation for money and proposed a project in what we would call a transmedia experience around Frankenstein.”

Guston as well as other faculty used the money to build a foundation for the School for the Future of Innovation and Society, which made it possible to host the First Friday event.

Other "transmedia“ projects include an alternate reality game where "we are inviting people into that world of the ARG experiences in hopes that they are going to learn something through the metaphor of Frankenstein about the relationship between scientific creativity and responsibility,” Guston said.

The Frankenstein bicentennial project is part of a broader SFIS initiative called the Future of X.

“The Future of X invites different researchers and faculty in our school, and each month is a different theme," said Jeannie Colton, a program coordinator for the school.  "It highlights various research projects and research centers within our school,” Colton said.

Colton said the program provides a space for starting conversations about the ethics behind new technology and science. 

“It’s just such a different field, really being open to conversations and just really looking at new technologies and responsible innovation," Colton said. "It’s been really fulfilling to work with a group of people that think about these things and how new innovations and technology are going to impact as a society.” 

Gregg Zachary, a professor of practice at SFIS, was one of the early adapters of this mission.

“When I joined ASU in 2010, I joined this small group of people that David Guston was a part of who were all invested in this mission," he said. "Trying to on the one hand educate the public to be more sophisticated about science and technology and on the other hand sneak in a new way to scientists and engineers.”

Zachary said he believes educating the public through events like the Frankenstein celebration is a challenge because people have different preferences and modes of learning — but that ASU is up to the test.

“They have so much to learn, but personally the community is intimate enough to really move people," Zachary said.  "I feel both as an individual teacher and as a part of a school that we are able to move people, that we are able to encourage them.”

There are educational tools at ASU that can help the public both personally and professionally, Zachary said.

“All my dreams came true at ASU, that’s how I feel,” Zachary said. “This (event) is one of them but the team of people that (ASU President) Dr. Michael Crow has assembled… he deserves tremendous credit for what we are doing.”

Reach the reporter at quindrea.yazzie@asu.edu and follow @quindreayazzie on Twitter. 

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