Professor Max Saunders is Principal Investigator on the Ego-Media Project. Primarily a literary critic, Max specialises in 19th and 20th century literature, particularly in turn-of-the-century and Modernist fiction, criticism, and poetry. With Professor Clare Brant, he co-directs the interdisciplinary Centre for Life-Writing Research.
To-Day & To-Morrow
One strand of Max’s Ego-Media research has evolved out of his work on the To-Day & To-Morrow series of books, published in the 1920s and 1930s.
Edited by C. K. Ogden, the series ran to some 110 titles. “It was”, says Max, “ a really fascinating experiment.” Experts, writers and other public figures were asked to pick a subject, write about its current state/situation, and then predict its future. “It produced a wonderful genre quite unlike anything else, weaving between prediction, science fiction, histories of the future, and thought experiments. We use the term ‘speculative fiction’ for some science-fiction-type books. To-Day and To-Morrow is speculative non-fiction.”
Inspired by the To-Day and To-Morrow vision, and the importance of the futurological imagination to the way we talk about computers and the internet, Max initiated a series of events: Life Online Today & Tomorrow, featuring a range of speakers including Sherry Turkle, Pat Kane, Annette Markham, Will Self, and James Harkin.
Listen to recordings of some of these, together with other Ego-Media Project events.
Watch Professor Max Saunders discussing Today & Tomorrow
Max’s book on the series – Imagined Futures: Writing, Science, and Modernity in the To-Day and To-Morrow Book Series, 1923-31 – is published by OUP in August 2019.
Mass Observation: You Online
Max is also analysing the responses to the Mass Observation Directive commissioned by the Ego-Media team in summer 2015. The aim was to get people to reflect about how they use the internet, and tell us about their attitudes towards it.
“We asked them to do a couple of tasks. One was to list the first five things that came into their heads when they thought about social media and online communities. The other was to look themselves up on Google, describe what was there and how they reacted to what they found.”
Contributors were also asked to write about how they used (or didn’t use) social media, and the kinds of platforms and websites they used/visited. “It confirmed some of the things that people often say about the internet but without much evidence. And, sometimes, it wasn’t so much what people were saying, but how they said it that that could be very revealing.”
The directive generated about 170 responses, and analysis is on-going.
Watch Max discussing Ego-Media’s work with the Mass Observation Archive
Download the 2015 Mass Observation Directive to discover the questions the Ego-Media Team asked.
In other news
Max delivers a paper on ‘‘Future Trouble: The To-Day and To-Morrow series (1923-31)’’, at the British Association for Modernist Studies conference on Saturday June 22 2019.