At 2pm on 1 October 2017, hundreds of telephone boxes across the city of Hull eerily began to ring at exactly the same time.

The distinctive cream-coloured (rather than the usual red) telephone boxes held a surprise for anyone who picked up: they found themselves transported into a future vision of Hull, with the voice on the other end from the year 2097.

The calls were part of 2097: We Made Ourselves Over, a series of events by Blast Theory, an arts collective whose work mixes interactive media, digital broadcasting and performance. It was the culmination of a year-long project in collaboration with Aarhus, European Capital of Culture 2017, which asked residents and experts from both cities to describe their hopes for the coming 80 years.

Through film, live performance and a smartphone app, the project created intrigue and piqued the curiosity of people from Hull and beyond, who turned up in their thousands at locations across the city to find out what 2097 had in store.

Imagining the city of the future

At the centre of the project was a series of five short films released in instalments online and screened at pop-up locations suggested by Hull locals. Viewable below, they imagine a future city in which technology is king. The first film in the series pushes this possibility to its limits, presenting a vision of a city ruled by “elders” – a group of young women – who receive their power through data transfer.

The second instalment raises the political stakes as the young rulers of the city must decide which district to destroy first. Film three sees the city’s leadership changing hands, while in the fourth film the mother of the departing ruler, Hessa, is forced to leave her home as the giant “molecular harvesters” come to destroy her neighbourhood.

Through their projections of the future, these short films address some of the key issues that affect the Hull of today – gentrification, displacement, and social welfare. In the final instalment, viewable via the link at the bottom of the page, Hessa’s mother makes the long walk to “the new city” and on her journey we witness the potential effects of a future where technology rules.

Confronting global challenges

Alongside the short films, a series of interviews examine their themes in more detail. Experts in science, economics, and geography were asked about some of the biggest problems facing our future cities. In the video above, David Gibbs, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Hull, explains some of the key challenges facing humanity in the coming decades, such as global warming and deforestation, and looks at some of the steps being taken to help overcome them.

Other experts are trying to understand the relationship of new technology to humans. In the film above, Dr Margaret Boden, Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex, answers such questions as: “How is technology changing humans?” and “how will we live with artificial intelligence in 2097?”.

Hull is a city that was built on human migration and industry, and at the heart of 2097 are the human stories that have contributed to the city’s development over the last 800 years. By imagining the next 80 years, and the huge challenges that are coming, 2097 signals that it is up to us to determine its future.

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