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Adventures in world building: Welcome to Rilao

The fictional city — brainchild of scientists, artists and poets — is a way to examine the near-future of our own real-life cities.

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To create a world, it takes a village — of scientists, artists and more.

As in the film Minority Report, where the “precogs” predict the probable future, designing narrative world building is precognitive. USC School of Cinematic Arts Professor Alex McDowell, the award-winning production designer who created the movie’s futuristic world, invited a renowned collective of scientists, artists and poets from around the globe to join him in the act and art of this discovery.

During the 2014 Science of Fiction Festival, a cutting-edge world-building conference that included a world building symposium, interactive exhibit and synchromedia concert, participants created the fictional city of Rilao, a world-build based on a mash-up of the DNA of Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro. Participants explored Rilao’s history and stories, working down from systems to cultures to tribes. By doing so, Rilao serves as a means of creatively and critically re-envisioning and revising the near-future horizons of our own real-life cities and built world.

A weeklong, interactive exhibit of Rilaoan multimedia artifacts contextualized both the world of Rilao and the world-building festival.

The Oct. 24-26 festival was presented by McDowell and the USC 5D Institute. Professors Ann Pendleton-Jullian and Holly Willis also led the Rilao Project, as did Ph.D. student Lauren Fenton and research associate Bradley Newman. The project was developed by the USC World Building Media Lab and during world building classes at USC Cinematic Arts, Media Arts and Practice, as well as universities around the globe.

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Adventures in world building: Welcome to Rilao

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