The pleasure in instantaneous moments and its effect on developing a utopian society are not ordinary subjects of conversation. But they captivated Visions & Voices' audience on February 9, 2017, at Doheny Library for a panel, "500 Years of Utopia: Utopian Representation," about Utopia seen through the context of architecture.
Panelists included renowned librarians Megan Prelinger and Geoff Manaugh, who talked about the city of tomorrow. They began the panel by introducing the film archives and print library as further means of exploring the topic being discussed, and then transitioned into an array of movie clips focused on Confucianism's vision of utopia. Subsequently, Confucianism believes perfection cannot be reached until society considers themselves the root problem.
During the panel, a movie portrayed speeding on highways as a way to fulfill the "id" and ended with a fatal car accident. In terms of Confucianism, the individuals driving the car were at fault since they acted irresponsibly and potentially placed others in danger. While many in the audience found the clip funny, the subsequent connection to utopia was not immediately evident. After much thought, utopia's interdependence on architecture suggests that the highway system contributes to our need for impulsive actions like racing, speeding, and road rage. Since highways are man made constructions, Confucianism would suggest it as society's way of failing to contribute to a perfect society. Additionally, highways facilitate the crime that plagues our society because it allows society to believe the action will only last for that instantaneous moment. Such actions distract from developing a perfect society where each individual contributes to the development of a city.
The panelists slowly deviated away from Confucianism's vision of utopia and began sharing their own personal views. Prelinger believes that viewing society in terms of science can help develop long-term thinking. For example, in a hygiene fixated society, prevention of disease transmission can ensure that members have access to a variety of resources to support their need for a healthy and clean environment. Prelinger also briefly discussed that viewing a city as a science fiction project can force discussions of what society values and prioritizes on a daily basis. While no examples of such society were provided, the audience especially science fans, strongly agreed with the panelist.
An interesting example brought up during the discussion, which piqued my curiosity, was elevators. We subconsciously use or come into contact with them more often than we hope, and it exemplifies technology as of utmost importance. In our technology-fixated society, each member believes the progress of technology as revolutionary for the decade. Such thinking can be impulsive, as technology has caused society to deviate from its simplistic roots where we once strived for perfection without complexity. Additionally, technology often satisfies our instantaneous desires and leaves us feeling empty to the point where we become addicted and dependent on such gadgets for everything.
The panel piqued interest in the beginning and then slowly lost focus causing some of the audience members to use the question and answer potion of the panel to re-focus. Some of the topics brought up during discussion were how contemporary society seeks instant gratification and contrasting it with a utopian society, which utilizes gratification for progress. Manaugh expanded on this during the Q & A by comparing "enough" and "plenty", simple words we often take for granted. The conversation could have been improved if the concepts were more seamlessly fused. Each panelist contributed prior knowledge about utopia; however, there was limited discussion between the two panelists. In its entirety, however, the Visions & Voices event provided an excellent opportunity to learn about utopia through a different lens and engage in insightful dialogue about the interdependence of science and utopia.