The previous global data-visualization invited us to get into details and try to sort all these things out, starting with one of the potential determinisms that come to our mind first. Namely, what kind of augmentations are envisioned regarding what type of sources for the imaginaries. At first glance, it seems to be a relevant hypothesis that each source relies on its own pictorial tradition, a specific way to give shape to future soldiers.

So we wanted to pay more attention to this potential determinism. To do so, we have decided to stick with four types: the mini mecha (remember in Matrix?), the giant mecha (Goldorak, hear you go), the powered armor (Tom Cruise fighting aliens in Edge of Tomorrow), and the adaptive armor (Venom personified).

Regarding the sources, we have focused on movies, manga, animation (as opposed to films or manga), literature, and obviously comics.

Sources versus Type of armor

From a methodological standpoint, let’s be clear: the first thing that comes to mind is that the diversity of the sources is not equally represented. Being a work in progress, we are working on it, but is was so “easy” to start with the DC and Marvel encyclopedia and read each hero/villain’s biography and code it so we did it.

Actually this issue is something we would like to handle more carefully, but digging into pop culture is much more than counting review on Rotten Tomatoes or so. It implies tools to dig beyond the “line of visibility” of more popular works to discover less popular but not less relevant movies, novels or even short stories. There is certainly something to invent – like creating participatory fan based database – in order to widen the scope of this category of big data.

Nevertheless, we can see that whatever the source, the powered armor trope, the one closer to common ground and current behaviors, is a very used one, followed by the mini mecha. Some slight variations could led to more subtle analysis if they appear to be robust enough. For instance, mini mecha are over-represented in movies. In this case, we could postulate that it is easier to immerse the reader / viewer in something that feels closer to reality than having Pacific Rim style Yaegers running on the beach. This is a partis pris, not a phenomenological property of movies themselves. It could then be challenged from the standpoint of other aesthetical canons. For instance, this experiential framework could be challenged in a culture favoring collective behaviors instead of personal experience? At least, that could be an interesting enough hypothesis in order to start investigating less represented culture?

This is also interesting in the sense that our first point in the data set is the book from Heinlein that features a mini mecha. With some notorious heroes such as Iron Man following, the trope seems easier to develop. On the other hand, adaptive armor is a common feature in comics (thanks to aliens and symbiotes merging with humans) but not in movies or manga. It is hard to give extra meaning to this so far, except for hypothesizing the existence of some graphic or narrative tradition. Besides, we might be surprised to see a rather well distributed figure, meaning there is no strong determinism about the media on this choice of armor.

This rather counter-intuitive finding is quite exciting: how then could we explain variety of imaginaries? And this also means that each support is highly creative in itself.