Pandemic has highlighted inequalities in society caused by systemic failures. As a consequence people are increasingly critical towards probable futures ruled by giant tech companies (and privileged white men). How do we challenge the dominant and very limiting ideas of the future?
Image: SEE THROUGH by Morag Myerscough, London 2021
Emerging alternatives for future thinking & making
Participatory futures are a more democratic way to practise future thinking. Participation in creating alternative futures can be made available to the public using community based collaborative methods and platforms. Diverse agents broaden perspectives and provide more inclusion e.g. involving citizens in the allocation of public budgets to ensure representation. Increasing the diversity of people is also important to minimise biases in teams working with foresight.
Public participation and engagement enables agency and collective action towards aspired futures. Creating new narratives using imagination about desirable futures can also be added to make them easier for the public to understand.
With increasing complexity and unpredictability we need to move away from either/or thinking to add plural futures with multiple, seemingly contradictory possibilities. Plural futures include individual, communal, regional, and planetary perspectives simultaneously. Multiple actors can describe the experience of possible futures and how different worlds could feel like by focusing on a journey rather than outcome.
SPECULATIVE FUTURES; Sci-Fi, Design Fiction & Worldbuilding
Speculative techniques aim to expand the boundaries of imagination about the futures. These are helpful tools for policy makers and designers to make the future seem more real. Futures context can be applied to everyday situations to design new products and services around them.
Sci-fi focuses on future storytelling while design fiction is used to create artifacts in alternative realities. So, design fiction is a more physical tool, and often involves actual objects. Worldbuilding is used to create immersive future scenarios, including social and cultural features. It is an outside-in practice, while science fiction and design fiction are inside-out practices.
Pandemic has brought dystopian future scenarios into focus risking of colonising our minds with negative images. Utopian and dystopian futures are always problematic since someone’s utopia can be someone else’s dystopia (e.g. Nazis). Instead, we need wide-ranging visions, and a new attitude towards complexity and adaptability to achieve desirable futures.
“Resurgence” is a term from decolonial theory which is about redefining who you are and what your community is about. Who are the people that are left out and currently not served by the system? How to challenge the reproduction of current systems and continuation of the past? What are the pre-distributed power and class structures serving the current system? The goal is to find and build common ground to strengthen collective action and imagines of preferred futures for many. In addition, we need to create the applications and actions that follow from new ideas.
To widen the thinking to more than human future we use collective listening, collaboration, and dreaming at the edges of possibility including instability and unpredictability to the foreground.
Public debate and collective imagination in new platforms increases participation and makes desirable futures more democratic. Furthermore, cultural and public institutions can provide meeting places to become community platforms for co-creation. There are different ways to anticipate the future in different cultures, languages, places, and we need more diverse representation into the conversations.
Fuelling Public Imagination by Nicklas Larsen
African Futures by Nicklas Larsen
Experiments in Feral Futuring by Anab Jain and Alex Taylor
World Futures Day: Decolonizing Futures by panel discussion by Envisioning
Science Fiction Prototyping, Design Fiction and Worldbuilding, What Differences? By Alex Fergnani
Cognitive biases affecting foresight and anticipatory thinking by Miguel Jiménez