ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination debuts latest series to explore community, collaboration and collective imagination in times of transformative change
Group jam sessions on balconies, banging pots and pans out open windows, drive-by parades, online gatherings on every platform imaginable — across the globe, people have found ways to show appreciation, make connections and keep spirits light, despite a frightening pandemic and the sometimes demoralizing social distancing it requires.
Arizona State University again is contributing to that effort with the launch of Us in Flux, a new series presented by the Center for Science and the Imagination that features stories and virtual discussions about community, collaboration and collective imagination in times of transformative change. Each Thursday, the center publishes an original piece of flash fictionFlash fiction is a type of fiction that is extremely short, generally less than 1,500 words but often just a few hundred words long., and the following Monday at 1 p.m., it hosts an online Zoom conversation between the author and an expert in a field related to the work. The stories are free to read and share, and the events are free and open to everyone.
“Our series, Us in Flux, is interested in the ways that people adapt to transformative events,” said Bob Beard, public engagement strategist for the center. “Whether it’s becoming more self-reliant, building novel solutions to challenges, or finding community in unexpected places, we hope these stories and events help people think about how they might emerge from this crisis as better citizens of a better world.”
In author Kij Johnson’s flash fiction piece for the series, “An Attempt at Exhausting My Deck,” the main character, Linna, finds community in an unexpected place when she begins observing the animal life on the wooden deck of her apartment, where she lives alone. In the discussion that took place Monday, April 20, University of Arizona ecologist Jessie Rack praised the piece for how it demonstrates the foundations of observational science.
“I wasn’t sure when (I was first invited) to be part of this conversation how I fit in, and then I read Kij’s story and was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is what I do, this is science,’” said Rack, who works with UArizona’s Community and School Garden Program to teach environmental science to K-12 students.
Rack described a lesson she uses to teach kids the scientific method in which she takes them outside and asks them to first write a sentence that begins with “I notice,” in which they describe as many sights, sounds and smells around them as possible. Then they write a second sentence that begins with, “I wonder.”
“That’s it! That’s the scientific method,” Johnson said.
“Yeah, exactly!” Rack replied.
Discussion moderator Joey Eschrich, who is the program manager for the Center for Science and the Imagination, pointed out how one of the center’s goals with its myriad public outreach projects is to help people see their connection with scientific systems through the lens of sci-fi, and that Johnson’s story in particular has the power to “sensitize us to our embeddedness as a species with the natural world” in a time of climate crisis.