Watch the Richard Gregory Memorial Lecture 2019

Alex McDowell

Reality Starts Here. Building Fictional Futures to Change the World

We were thrilled to welcome Alex McDowell as our 2019 speaker, an award-winning visionary designer and storyteller, working at the intersection of emergent technologies and experiential media. 

Watch the lecture here.

Professor Richard Gregory

Find out more about Professor Richard Gregory, who inspired these lectures and the formation of BVI.


Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, as a basis for science fiction and fantasy storytelling in books, films and games, but also for exploring and interacting with alternative futures for businesses and governments. The created World is an imaginary environment with coherent qualities such as a history, geography and ecology, often involving the creation of maps, a backstory and entities within the world. World building is a way to completely re-imagine the role of the storyteller. It can develop new relationships between creators that acknowledge that the framework for a story is multi-dimensional, holistic, non-linear and transitional.

In this era of unprecedented change, no single author can begin to build reflective worlds that are coherent and inclusive without deep collaboration between multiple storytellers of all types.  These are artists, writers, scientists, experts in their domain, are all sources of a backbone knowledge. To be effective these experts must consider problems they have never encountered, emerging with answers that are unexpected, that disrupt conventional thinking and that inform a rich and unexpected world.

In this lecture Alex will explore the rich history of World building, his own approach that has found success in films such as Minority Report, Fight Club and Man of Steel, and its role in creating context for storytelling using today’s media. He will explain how World building translates the complexity of a futuristic world into a common visual language that can be understood by all. In this way, interconnected stories can be woven together to create new ways to transmit information to audiences across generations.

He will explain how collaborative and distributed storytelling can literally change the world as a container for multiple narratives that accumulate, weave and provoke unique multi-faceted insights. He will show how the World creates a fluid space: a complex system intersecting a human center. The System allows the world to function, it is the How and the What; the Human at the center is the Why. Conditions change, the World adapts and Time disrupts.

Supported by Bristol+Bath Creative R+D

We are grateful for Bristol+Bath Creative R+D's support with this event. 

Bristol+Bath Creative R+D is a first of a kind, a £6.8 million collaboration between the region’s four universities - the University of Bristol, University of Bath, UWE and Bath Spa - and digital creativity centre Watershed.

Alex McDowell


Alex McDowell is Creative Director, Narrative Designer, Experimental Design; Professor of Practice USC School of Cinema; Director, World Building Institute, World Building Media Lab.

We have two basic requirements for the Richard Gregory Memorial Lecture – firstly that it’s about exciting contemporary issues in Vision Science and secondly that it covers something that Richard would have enjoyed.

Professor David Bull, Director of BVI & Professor of Signal Processing
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