Episode 12: Ann Pendleton-Jullian on world-building, architecture, and wicked problems

Ann Pendleton-Jullian is an architect by training but increasingly she is being hired as a world-builder, someone who can put into process a collaborative, multidisciplinary mode of thinking which approaches complex problems in a systemic way. Her professional and civic practice has been informed by ideas from speculative fiction and production design, including by Alex McDowell who we featured on our program last week. As we explore some of the implications of Ready Player One, we decided to dedicate these two programs to the ways world building has evolved from as a way of developing on-screen fictional worlds to a way of confronting challenging problems in our own world.

Alex and Ann teamed up for the RiLAo project, where students and experts around the world collaborated to imagine and document an imaginary floating city which contained aspects of Los Angeles and Rio De Janeiro. Ann has also developed a forthcoming book, Design Unbound, with John Seely Brown (formerly of Xerox PARC) which releases this fall. I had previously conducted an expansive interview with Ann for this blog about one segment from the book which introduced their concept of the Pragmatic Imagination.

For more on her thinking and design practice, check out this TED x video.

This discussion is high flying and rapid-fire: she was racing to the airport and we were happy to grab a few minutes with her. Afterwards, Colin and I discuss world-building more generally and explore some of our own thoughts on Ready Player One.

Next week, our exploration of this movie concludes with an interview about games-based education with Kurt Squire and Katie Salen, two old friends, educational researchers, and game designers who are both now based at University of California-Irvine.

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