Conference Grants: Harry Burson at SCMS

30 May, 2023

Conference Grants: Harry Burson at SCMS

We are pleased to support our students sharing their work at the premiere conferences in their field. Harry Burson presented his paper, "“Metaverse, Multiverse, Server-verse: Fantasies of Control and Connection”, at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) annual conference. From Harry:

With the support of The Berkeley Center for New Media, I presented new work at the 2023 meeting for the Society of Cinema and Media Studies in Denver. My paper, “Metaverse, Multiverse, Server-verse: Fantasies of Control and Connection” examines the figure of the “multiverse” as it has appeared in a spate recent films and television shows. I argue that there is a meaningful correspondence between the depiction of the multiverse on screen and the recently revived Silicon Valley dream of an online “Metaverse” brought on by Facebook’s rebranding as Meta. On film, the multiverse is a trope that suggests a hidden infrastructure that brings order to reality through the interconnection of multiple universes. Online, the unfulfilled promise of the Metaverse similarly promises to unify the Internet as one all-encompassing virtual space. I contend that these two phenomena together reveal a cultural fantasy of a hidden order that organize the chaos of contemporary existence. If the present age is defined a surfeit of contingency and a pervasive anxiety about the very possibility of futurity, the promise of these phenomena is the return of a unifying structure to existence—a structure is generally congruent with the market logic of digital capitalism.

In addition to my panel, which featured three other excellent papers on contemporary global film cultures, I attended many other fantastic sessions with scholars presenting work on the multiverse, immersive media, and AI. The panel “Against the Universal: Multiverses of Meaning in Everything Everywhere All at Once” featured four thought-provoking papers on the recent Oscar-winning film, addressing the topics of immigration, empathy, and affect in relation to the idea of the multiverse. I also attended a pair of panels with scholars presenting work at the intersection of digital media and sound studies, “Music’s Material Mediations: New Histories of Sound Technologies and Software” and “AI Voices: Analytics, Synthesis, and the ‘Self’.” These panels had particularly insightful work on the evolving field of AI and vocal synthesis that point to exciting new directions for scholarship on computation and the voice.