Michael Burnam-Fink’s Emerge2013 Retrospective

by: Michael Burnam-Fink

The past weekend saw EMERGE 2013 at ASU.  The theme was “The Future of Truth”, and there was a level of carnival creativity rarely seen in the rather stolid world of academia; there were dancers, full body 3D scanners, philosophy in public, and similar insanity.

A full accounting of the speeches and events that went on at EMERGE is beyond me, but I’d like to note a few highlights. Brad Allenby remains eminently quotable and provocative, playing clips from 2001: A Space Odyssey and advising us not to make out with strange monoliths. Claire Evans of YACHT gave a dangerously smart talk on how rock and roll is a post-modern cult for the 21st century. In a panel on “The Myth of the Future”, Bruce Sterling declined to found a sci-fi cult (dammit! I’d bring the Kool-Aid), while Betty Sue Flowersdiscussed global myths and Brian David Johnson mediated between the two, advising us to take control of our own future stories.

My part of EMERGE was a workshop called “Truth and Atrocities: What is the Future of Investigating Human Rights Violation in the Age of Facebook?” which Dan Rothenberg, a legitimate human rights lawyer and expert on truth commissions, was kind enough to let me help out with. Truth commissions are part of what is called ‘transitional governance”, the process of taking a country from a period of dictatorship or civil war (and associated atrocities) and building civic society and robust democratic institutions. They aren’t war crimes tribunals, as people are rarely charged with a crime, but they are instead intended to lay a common factual truth of what happened, to give voice to victims, and allow forgiveness of perpetrators so that the culture can heal and move forward.

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