Melanie Gilligan’s largest project to date, The Common Sense takes the form of a sci-fi mini-series which looks at how minds, bodies, and interpersonal relations are shaped by technological advancements within capitalism. This experimental narrative drama tells a story that revolves around a future technology which allows one to directly experience another person’s bodily sensations and affect, a system that becomes widely adapted altering social interactions until it breaks down and alternative narratives unfold.
Gilligan draws upon a feminist sci-fi tradition that includes the work of writers Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin in which sci-fi is used as a means for both critiquing a social order and proposing a different vision. The story is also influenced by recent social movements and riots across the world responding to the “permanent crisis” of capitalism. Gilligan explores the complex relationship between the technological development as propelled by capitalist accumulation and how interpersonal relations and emotions are instrumentalized in this process. However, the artist also leaves open some uncertainty for possibilities regarding the new conditions technological change can create.