Henry Jenkins, the Annenberg Innovation Lab’s Chief Advisor and Senior Research Fellow, founded the Geek Speaks lecture series to give USC students, faculty and community members a forum to discuss such deeply “geeky” subjects as comics, science fiction, video games, TV series, and so on.  In the series’ first few years, the Geek Speaks lecture series has hosted such geeky luminaries as comics theorist Scott McCloud, novelist Cory Doctorow, Intel’s futurist and roboticist Brian David Johnson, Vampire Diaries creator Julie Plec, and a long list of others, and has quickly become one of the most popular event series of its kind, with the Autumn 2014 event on The Future of Comics selling out in less than 24 hours.


Geek Speaks: Cyberpunk Past and Future
April 24, 2015 

The literary and cultural movement known as cyberpunk began in the early 1980s when a confluence of speculative-fiction writers remapped and reinvigorated their genre—and much more. Inspired by a rapidly changing present—the beginnings of the World Wide Web; the proliferation of man/machine interfaces; the global spread of Japanese culture—these writers integrated technology, politics, literature and cultural theory to create a genre that not only predicted the future but also helped shape it.

As the Spring 2015 installment of our Geek Speaks series, the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab co-sponsored the USC Visions & Voices event Cyberpunk: Past and Future. This day-long event was held on Friday, April 24, 2015, at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and brought together seminal figures of the cyberpunk movement including Rudy Rucker (the Ware Tetralogy), Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber) and Bruce Sterling (Bicycle Repairman, Taklamakan, Mirrorshades), along with figures from the worlds of film, music, technology, architecture and cultural theory, to discuss the cultural moment cyberpunk incited. The afternoon was devoted to “Cyberpunk 2.0”: small-group world-building and storytelling sessions in which USC students can collaborate with cyberpunk’s founding figures, co-developed by the USC Interactive Media and Games Division's Assistant Professor Jeff Watson and the Annenberg Innovation Lab's Technical Director and Research Fellow Geoffrey Long. The event was organized by Scott Fisher (Cinematic Arts), Henry Jenkins (Communications, Journalism and Cinematic Arts) and Howard A. Rodman (Cinematic Arts).

We are proud to present the following videos capturing the day. 

Introduction & Welcome: Henry Jenkins


Panel: The Origins of Cyberpunk Culture
A conversation with Bruce Sterling (Islands in the Net), Rudy Rucker (The Ware Tetralogy), Roger Trilling (Wild Palms), and Mark Pauline (Survival Research Lab), moderated by Henry Jenkins.


Panel: The Legacy of Cyberpunk Culture
A conversation with John Jennings (The Black Kirby Project), Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia), Claire L. Evans (YACHT), Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer), and Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber), moderated by Howard Rodman.


Cyberpunk 2.0 Storytelling & Worldbuilding Workshop
Undergraduate and graduate students teamed up with writers, designers, scholars and technologists to imagine storyworlds that update cyberpunk themes to reflect and confront how the world has changed since the 1980s. Led by Jeff Watson (School of Cinematic Arts) and Geoffrey Long (Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism), with assistance from Stacey Robinson (The Black Kirby Project).


Technologies of Cyberpunk
An interpretive chronology of film and TV design fictions that engage the increasingly permeable membrane between computer intelligence and human minds and bodies, from the cybernetic, human-computer interfaces of the 1950s to contemporary visions of fully hybrid states of post-humanity. Curated and assembled by Steve Anderson.


Closing Rant by Bruce Sterling



Geek Speaks: The Future of Comics
October 23, 2014 

In his landmark book Reinventing Comics (William Morrow, 2000) theorist, scholar and artist Scott McCloud described comics as a "misunderstood, squandered idea that seems increasingly obscure [and] small, like an atom waiting to be split." McCloud argued that new digital technologies would allow comics to evolve into new forms, incorporating such features as motion, sound, or interactivity, and to adopt a near-infinite number of possible sizes, shapes, and topics. Fast-forward almost 15 years, and comics have indeed been reinvented – although perhaps not in the ways McCloud envisioned. Which of McCloud's predictions came true, what surprising new twists and developments have emerged, and where might comics go in the next 15 years?

This Geek Speaks event began with a lively one-on-one conversation between McCloud and USC Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts Henry Jenkins, as was followed by a panel of respondents including Geoffrey Long (USC Annenberg Innovation Lab Technical Director and Research Fellow), Joe LeFavi (Quixotic Transmedia), Dan Burwen (Cognito Comics) and other special guests.

This event was co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, the Visual Studies Research Institute, the USC Interactive Media & Games Division, and the USC John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts

Panel 1: A Conversation with Henry Jenkins & Scott McCloud

Panel 2: 

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Geek Speaks: The Women Who Make Television
April 3, 2014


This event showcases the outstanding work being done right now by female writers, producers, and show-runners working at all levels in the television industry -- from producers of prime time network and cable series to creators of series which are now being distributed directly through digital platforms. We want to bring more recognition to this generation of highly creative women who have broken through historic glass ceilings and have started to reshape the kinds of stories television tells. Our hope was to bring a critical mass of them together for one event, where they could share their stories and discuss their creative visions for the future of television.

In 1973, American Public Television aired The Men Who Make the Movies, which showcased authorship in the Hollywood studio era through indepth interviews between Richard Schickel and such directors as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, John Ford, and Alfred Hitchcock. The event's title pays tribute to this transformative series, but also stresses the needs to push beyond its focus on masculine creativity.  As we look back on a year plus of developments which have transformed television as a medium,  this conference showcased a range of highly creative women who are now working the American television industry as creators, executive producers, head writers, and showrunners, women who now exert some degree of creative control over what we watch on television. These women represent a broad range of different forms of television programing, including sitcoms, dramas, and fantasy/science fiction programs, and have worked for both Broadcast and cable networks. Women still face an uphill struggle to gain entry into the television industry, yet these women have shattered through the glass ceiling and can now stand as role-models for the next generation of women and men who want to change what kinds of stories television tells and what kinds of audiences it addresses.

Across two sessions, we talk with these women about their careers, their creative visions, and the medium through which they work, along the way seeking to provide insights into the current state and future potentials of American television.  

Read Neon Tommy's review of the event here.

Panel 1: Creative Process

Opening Remarks: Henry Jenkins

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The first session, Creative Process, (4-5:30 p.m.) explores their paths into the industry, their relationships to their mentors and creative partners, and the changing contexts in which television is produced, distributed, and viewed.


Panel 2: Creative Product

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The second session, Creative Products, (6-7:30 p.m.) deals with the content of their programs, their relationship to their genres, issues of representation, and their perceptions of the audiences for their work.

Geek Speaks: The Uses (and Abuses) of Science Fiction
November 7, 2013 

From its conception, science fiction was a genre which has encouraged speculation at the limits of known science, sometimes in the name of popular science education, sometimes as a mode of theory formulation and discussion. Across its history, the range of topics that science fiction might address has expanded to include topics in media, communications, gender and sexuality, race, political philosophy, and the social sciences more generally. Increasingly, science fiction concepts and themes are being folded directly into the design process at major companies, as they seek to identify potential products and services and prototype the needs and desires of consumers.

On this Geek Speaks panel, each of the speakers – Cory Doctorow, Henry Jenkins, and Brian David Johnson  has done work exploring the interplay between speculative fiction and real world communities, and each is also a hardcore fan of the science fiction genre. In this free-wheeling conversation, they discuss the roles that science fiction has played, for better or worse, in shaping the ways we think about innovation and confront the challenges of designing for the future.