Medics, Monsters and Mash-ups seminar, Nov 20th

Centre for the Study of Science and Imagination (SCIMAG) Seminar
Wednesday November 20, 3.30-5pm, Room 219 Wells Street

Medics, Monsters and Mash-ups: Gothic 2.0
Anthony Mandal (Cardiff University)

“Humanity 2.0 is an understanding of the human condition that no longer takes the ‘normal human body’ as given. On the one hand, we’re learning more about our continuity with the rest of nature—in terms of the ecology, genetic make-up, evolutionary history. On this basis, it’s easy to conclude that being ‘human’ is overrated. But on the other hand, we’re also learning more about how to enhance the capacities that have traditionally marked us off from the rest of nature.” — Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, Warwick.

At the end of November 2012, Anthony Mandal won a commission through the AHRC’s REACT Books & Print initiative. Since January 2013, he has been working as lead academic partner with Bristol-based creative company, SlingShot, on Jekyll 2.0: Embodying the Gothic Text, to create a pervasive media experience that draws on the narrative and themes of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic masterpiece, Jekyll and Hyde (1886). The core of the project addresses the fundamental questions of Jekyll and Hyde: What makes us human? Do our minds control our bodies or are we shaped by our urges, compulsions and appetites? Will technology radically transform us into a new organism, ‘Humanity 2.0’? Such questions are nothing new: during the 19th century, the cultural implications of emerging theories of identity and the dominance of science were explored by numerous works of literature. Drawing on the gothic tradition, the project transforms reading into play, using participants’ bio-data (breathing, heart-rate, galvanic skin response) to shape their experience in uncanny ways.

Jekyll 2.0 will be a location-based pervasive media adaptation of Stevenson’s novel, reclaiming its transgressive power and reframing its central themes for the age of the bio-hacker. Neither a game nor a story, Jekyll 2.0 adapts a classic literary book using 21st-century technology to explore whether ‘humanity’ is a stable and meaningful concept or simply a convenient construction. As such, it merges linear fictional ‘narrative’, the interactivity associated with street gaming and the technological uncanny of bio-sensory feedback. Anthony’s talk will offer an overview of how the project is merging contemporary bio-technology with classic gothic preoccupations in order to create an immanent experience intended to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. The talk will also reflect on the methodological and conceptual questions that are emerging from current debates on creativity and technology in the early twenty-first century.

Dr Anthony Mandal ( is Reader in English Literature at Cardiff University where he is also Director of the Centre for Editorial & Intertextual Research.

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