The Para-Real: Finding the Future in Unexpected Places

New series in collaboration with The New Design Congress

ReclaimFutures have teamed up with The New Design Congress to bring you a brand new livestream series - The Para-Real: Finding the Future in Unexpected Places, a free series about subcultures building livelihoods in spite of platform exploitation and fractured societies. Over 12 episodes streamed weekly, we meet filmmakers who have never met their actors, artists building their own networks of value, documentarians exploring digital identity, and members of resilient subcultures. All of these people share a commonality: they have an innate understanding of the Para-Real, and have seized upon it to better their surroundings.

12PM PDT // 3PM EDT // 8PM BST // 9PM CEST

Watch the trailer

Browse the Series Programme

Episode 1
"It's Weird, Okay!? I Get It's Weird!":
Finding the Self in the Para-Real with VR Documentarian Joe Hunting

What exactly is The Para-Real, and what effect does it have on us? One answer can be found in how the Para-Real affects identity and intimacy. A Wider Screen (2019) is a remarkable short film that follows VRChat players as their experiences within the platform changes their internal and external lives. The documentary provides an intimate window into new, surreal interactions that immerses users way beyond a 2D screen. After streaming the film, director Joe Hunting reflects on the film, its themes of identity and self-discovery, and the affect of the Para-Real.

12PM PDT // 3PM EDT // 8PM BST // 9PM CEST

What is the Para-Real?

Between the digital realm and our physical world, The Para-Real is a third space, equally material but poorly understood. The Para-Real is where class politics, economics and the outcomes of hardware and infrastructure design collide. It manifests as the desire for play that turns young Minecraft players into network server administrators, the moments where digital security meets physical safety, the creation of mutually-supportive artist-driven marketplaces or the tension inherent in Virtual Reality’s land-grab in the living room. The Para-Real is the embodiment of the observation, ‘We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.’ 

The future is not a Zoom call. The digital systems we are confined to today merge protocol with platform to prey on isolation and extract value from labour. That we grapple with this incarnation of the digital realm indicates a dominant cartel in decline. In its place is a vacuum. We must resist the immature groupthink of the 90s’ vision of what the Internet can be. The Para-Real is once again contested space.

Weekly from May 23
12PM PDT // 3PM EDT // 8PM BST // 9PM CEST