Brief: using scenario methods to design one or more storyworlds that can be used for a physical narrative and possibly a prehearsal (or the combination of both); the physical narrative should be light and portable, to be used in a hotel room and an exhibition in Austria and Cluj in September and October, and possibly in Belgium in the autumn. This all sounds easy enough, until the second part of the brief is introduced: the process should be akin to lucid dreaming…

Lucid dreaming: awareness of the fact that you’re dreaming

  • First thing to do is to broaden your awareness even before you fall asleep
  • Asleep, dreaming - becoming aware of dreaming, observing it as it comes, without interfering
  • Gradually if you want to you can begin to steer it
  • Make your own reality

Translation into the scenario process:

  • Opening the process to different ways of knowing - pre-rational, somatic, interpersonal, emergent…
  • Non-predictive methods: KPU-framework, used to structure thinking about the present and Causal Layered Analysis, designed to probe into deeper cultural and mythological origins of scenarios
  • Interspersed with processes from improvisation, creative writing, surrealism and other techniques not usually associated with a futures exercise

For participants:

  • The methods used shouldn’t really matter. you also don’t have to know exactly what happens next: as in dreams, go with the Flow and try to be as open as possible
  • Today is less about “understanding exactly what’s going on” and more about trusting your gut feelings and unconscious mind
  • Letting ideas flow from you and through you - try not to block anything that comes to mind. do not worry about anything seeming silly, stupid, or unrelated - nothing you do or say today can fall into those categories
  • If something feels uncomfortable or makes you insecure, try letting go of these feelings and approach every exercise with curiosity - “the beginners’ mind”; if it doesn’t work after a while, feel free to step out and take some distance for a while, then come back…
  • Let your mind loose and watch your inhibitions melt away
  • Trust yourself, trust the people around you, trust the process

Process: Scenario Building as Lucid Dreaming

We know that there are a few objects in this world:

  • Shoes
  • Soft wool
  • A heavy relationship with a father and family (not mother)
  • Roses
  • Mint
  • Empty void
  • A car key for a big car that can move lots of people
  • Ice cube (melting)
  • Ink and paint dribbling on pebbles
  • A box
  • Sparkling powder
  • Dragonfly wings
  • Small mechanical devices
  • Bottle of gin
  • A big and heavy photocopier

Knowing about the few objects originating in the world, there are a few things we might assume:

  • It looks like a Victorian scene on Brighton beach
  • There is a bar or multiple bars, where brightly coloured gin cocktails are important
  • Dragonflies have wings
  • Dragonflies might be larger than in our world, perhaps helicopter-sized
  • The smells are heavy and sticky - a mix of shoes and roses…
  • There might be an apothecary on a ship (a ferry?) at sunrise
  • People might be sipping gin at sunset
  • There is a magic box that can bring us things we want at any moment: the world has magical underpinnings and changing situations
  • There is a dusty grave
  • Tiny mechanical insects dance on an ice-cube
  • One family lives in this world, they are cobblers with a shoe factory
  • It's a non-plastic world
  • People take drugs, sparkly ones
  • There might be a large building, something like Cleopatra's palace
  • There is an x-ray station and drivable photocopiers, like giant cars
  • The world is predominantly translucent, except for the shoes
  • There are many large soft beds around, mobile, perhaps in cars; mother might be in the bed, with a bottle of gin
  • Tools (some rusty) are scattered around the place
  • There is a hornets' nest
  • Nanotechnology rules the world
  • It looks a bit like Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age

About the world:

  • Is it an apocalyptic world?
  • Are there colours in the world?
  • What happened to the sun and the atmosphere?
  • How long is one day?
  • What's wrong with this world?
  • Would we like to live in this world? If yes, what would we recognise?
  • Can we float in the water without getting poisoned?
  • What is the purpose of fixed places?
  • The places that smell of shoes and roses, are they dangerous?

About the inhabitants:

  • What is the social interaction like? Communication, interrelation?
  • Is this society autocratic or anarchic?
  • Are there humans around? Do they talk? What colour are their eyes?
  • How long can you sleep?
  • Whose grave is it? Why is it so dusty? Is the land poisoned? Why is no one there?
  • For whom are the magical powers?
  • What are the senses in this world?
  • Who is drinking the cocktails?
  • What are the consequences of alcohol and drugs?

About the things in the world:

  • What infrastructure is around?
  • Do the roads lead to bars, or to Cleopatra's palace? Was the palace rebuilt or discovered?
  • Why are the tools rusty? Are they used for fun or work?
  • Are the magical powers fluid or mechanical? What is the technology behind the magic?
  • Why are there large photocopiers?
  • Where are the copies?
  • How far can the mechanical helicopter fly?
  • What's the colour of the shoes?
  • Are roses and mint real or camouflage?
  • Are there elephants, and if so, what colour?
  • Is the grass marvelous?
  • What are the sizes and relationships between the objects?
    • How big is the ice cube?
    • How big are the dragonflies?
  • What is the brand of gin?

Known, assumed and unknown parts of the world

We have landed on an endless peninsula with a shoreline that is neither land nor sea. The shoreline is smooth in parts, rough in others, with waves breaking on rocks. The coastline is sprinkled with geothermal hotsprings, rigged with mechanical contraptions. The vegetation is weird - machinic and brown in most places, except for wide, green pockets of tumbleweed, propelled by mechanics. You can see them tumbling across the landscape in search of water, or rolling towards the golden centre. There is water everywhere on the coast, while the centre is barren and dusty. The coast is on the tropical equatorial, while moving in either direction towards the poles nothing but desert can be found. The wind sweeps from the coast inland, blowing orange dust and tumbleweed-like mechanical pockets of tropical nature across the peninsula.

The atmosphere hanging over this land of permanent sunrise and twilight is thick and woollen. It is never completely dark or light, but partakes of continuous gradients from golden orange to silvery sparkles. The sun and moon are visible at the same time. Light is heavy and laden with golden dust that accumulates in thick sediments on hidden graves. When darkness comes, the world sparkles. The air fills with mechanical insects collecting the sparkling dust as a drug. Aside from the buzzing of the insects at night, there is an eery noiseless quality to the peninsula. Occasionally the silence is pierced by small, medium and large voices, by faint dripping, drifting and echoing sounds.

Things are built rather than grown, there are canals lit by giant candelabra, the rolling hills are made of shoes. There are very few plants and animals around, and only in secret pockets of nature. Living flora and fauna, as well as and ancient human graves, are sought after by mechanical dragonflies, which patrol and scan across a fragmented and dispersed nature. An Apothecary of Species is hovering above the world, swirling through the mist on giant dragonfly-propellers. In the Apothecary, intricate nano-machinery works on replicating rapidly disappearing lifeforms and maintaining the population's health. The world is crisscrossed with helicopter landing strips allowing the dragonfly apothecary to circle in on any species in need of replication. One of the endangered species are humans - shabby, clean, healthy and curious creatures that drift aimlessly, often wearing only shoes.

The landscapes are surreal (from the dreamers’ points of view), unnatural and complicated, reminiscent of Balinese Steam Punk: hot and steamy, lush and decaying. Everything is in motion. Sparse human habitation is scattered across floating settlements. Infrastructure and places float to you. The movement is mechanical, but also fluid - an insectoid dance of machines and liquids. The majority of floating places are bars, saunas (actually hornets’ nests) and huge soft beds shaped like fluffy duvets. The land is covered in scattered tools: both newly built and frequently used, as well as old, rusty, forgotten tools. Everything is made from metal and various unknown organic compounds. There is no plastic whatsoever.

Across the floating peninsula hover many roads, all leading from the many gin distilleries to dusty cocktail bars. On the roads drive giant photocopiers that print spacious two-dimensional cars. One of the strangest contraptions on the peninsula is a floating palace that looks x-rayed under sunlight. From outside it appears like a translucent box standing on an ice-cube. From inside its walls are built of wood and x-rays, its windows are covered with leather. Its origins are unclear (there are conspiracy theories about whether it had been discovered or rebuilt). In the present there are only parts of the palace in use. One part is a newsagency, another - of course - a cocktail bar, from which all other bars are replicated.


  • Cobblers
  • Humans
  • Survivors (of whatever happened)
  • Synthesized, gelatinous x-ray jellyfish
  • Ants
  • The Owl People

Outward characteristics:

  • Shapeshifters
  • Tall
  • Clean
  • Smelling of roses & mint
  • Brown and colourful
  • Sparkly
  • Skinny

Character traits:

  • Dreamy
  • Tactile
  • Obsessive
  • Curious
  • Vain
  • Agile, twitchy with access to boat-hooks
  • Tolerant & respectful
  • Survivors
  • Addicted to continuous medical treatment & cleaning

Social structures:

  • Small groups
  • Moving on, nomadic
  • Imbibe, sleep, drink, doze
  • Drink cocktails in the sunset
  • Flying dragonflies, drinking gin, hiding in hornets' nests
  • Live & have fun
  • Sleep a lot, hike, produce gin
  • Talk to each other
  • Fix x-ray machines
  • Climb trees of shoes
  • Make sugar out of anything they can find while drinking gin
  • Look for things to talk about them
  • Sleep while healing
  • Detectors to find things to talk about
  • Tools made by imagination: they manifest when needed & vanish when not needed
  • Vacuum mechanical tanks with suction devices to collect dust and finger plaster
  • Carefully crafted hand tools
  • Nanotech tools
  • Replicators and planned devices (can't make life though)
  • Crystal sets
  • Algae and mushrooms
  • Magnets
  • Needles
  • Gas burners
  • Gloves with extended fingers
  • Bags of spanners
  • Magic indistingushers (advanced tech)
  • Egg beaters
  • Self-folding origami
  • Ratchets
  • Syncopators
  • Parts of tools (modular toolkits)
  • Photocopiers which act as 3D printers too: drawings and thoughts can be printed (brain-fab)
  • On a boat
  • In a tree
  • On a dragonfly's wing
  • Melting like an ice cube
  • In a box
  • Among inhabitants, shifting shape and identity
  • In the middle of the world
  • Moving in a two-dimensional, photocopied car
  • Outside of the world, taking an external, comicbook-style perspective
  • In a tower amidst the woollen clouds, making photocopies of your favourite moments
  • Operating mechanical devices

Problems include;

  • Forced idleness due to uncontrolled shapeshifting and the resulting boredom
  • Inability to use handcrafted tools with shapeshifted hands (tools are made for specific shapes, once a person shifts s/he can't use the tools anymore)
  • Origami identities, distractions, difficulty to keep focus when everything and everyone is in constant motion
  • Rigid hierarchy (for Owl People) in opposition to the fluidity of the world
  • Past life issues and an obsession with past lives; also cultural amnesia about what happened to early survivers (what was the apocalypse?)
  • Gradual loss of imagination (the “everything is possible” syndrome), due to overusing the dragonfly powder and magic box
  • Scavenging of raw materials (the environment doesn't support life any more)
  • People are skinny and suffer from addictions
  • Sustenance during long sleep and healing is difficult to maintain

Dreams and Hopes include;

  • Loss of vanity
  • Living the High Life (in one shape)
  • Shrinking
  • Multiple identities
  • Consistency (for shapeshifters)
  • Flights of fancy
  • Riches of the past
  • Tolerance, freedom, peace
  • A clean world
  • Perpetuum mobile
  • Swarm dreams (the ants)
  • Being able to hold conversations with tools (the ants)
  • Machines do (most of) the hard work,
  • Unconditional basic income for all sentient beings
  • Hierarchy of responsibility (related to resources)
  • Fluid role rotation (esp. shapeshifters: everyone has to fulfil every role in several phases of their lives
  • ID trade: illicit trade in photocopied shape-identities
  • Atmosphere Monitoring Facility
  • Library: focused on story collecting
  • Health maintenance centre: for body, imagination and semi-living tools
  • Transient Minority Authority: for temporary shapeshifing fluctuations
  • Bodyshapers Guild
  • Oracles for inspiration
  • Deity Generators
  • Distillery Network

Social groupings:

  • Dragonflies
  • Shapeshifters
  • ID Traders
  • Owl People (navigators)
  • Dragonfly Herders
  • Tool Wranglers
  • Twitchers (and brain hybrids)
  • Health Practitioners
  • Librarians
  • Gardeners
  • Old Plants
  • Explorers
  • Everything moves: There are nomadic groups of explorers and anarcho-syndicalists in temporary social structures travelling in health-crazed technological vessels. In a moving, shifting world, individuals are responsible only for themselves. While people do things for themselves, they have a sense of being part of a “collective something bigger”. All shapeshifters go through role and shape rotation until they have passed through all available roles and reach a shapeshifter's nirvana, where their shifting slows down and they can settle in a shape and role they like most. Older people spend more time in aware, sentient roles. The slowest shape is a meditative, monastic floating jellyfish “Om”.
  • Shortcuts to nirvana are available: Karma is transactional. Identity Traders have become a semi-official guild and governmental institution. They (mis)use knowledge and thereby (unconsciously) control society, and there are religious underpinnings to their understanding of life transitions.
  • Ceremonial religion-like systems are pervasive: The Owl People are the oracles. They assist inhabitants through shamanic navigation practices.
  • Dragonflies must live: dust is life: Mechanical insects are responsible for harvesting, herding and husbandry of semi-domesticated swarms of dragonflies, as well as the collection of sparkling dust. The dust is a byproduct of dragonflies' wings (it turns into non-sparkling dandruff when they are diseased). Dust is used to support shapeshifting abilities. Dust also heals damaged bodies during sleep. Dust is a shapeshifting drug, and to take it is seen as brave and daring, meant only for the more sentient/priviledged roles.
  • Make your own world vs cultivate a life-supporting environment: The environment does not support life, and health maintenance is a collective survival necessity. The more sentient shapeshifters have more fragile bodies and are not able to handle tools. Therefore their shapes are more difficult to survive in.
  • Mutation is a survival mechanism: The Twitchers are shapeshifters simultaneously existing in different shapes, rejected by the guild of Bodyshapers. They are byproducts/side-effects of using dust to shortcut the shapeshifting process. Some of the twitchers have smooth bodily form, but a twitching, mutated brains: they tend to work as librarians, as they exist in multiple stories at the same time, levitating in a “deja vu” awareness, remembering what the process of shapeshifting is like.
  • Machines do the hard work: It is important to make (non-sentient) machines that can do the hard work, in order to keep up equality as an ideology for all sentient beings. Machines are also health practitioners responsible for keeping the population alive.
  • Shapeshifting is technology enabled reincarnation: This is the underlying model of society. There are two different worldviews: one that the person should embody and enjoy one single shape for as long as natural; the other that being able to reach nirvana is a priviledge for all. The first is preached by the Atmosphere Maintenance Centre, the other by the twitchers and ID Traders.
  • Cultivate one life: As there is no real death in a shapeshifting world, a cult of “one lifetime” has arisen. These people are gardeners of Ye-Olde plants, grave seekers who worship the one grave as it is dedicated to the last person who ever died.
  • A lot of chatter from different shapeshifters (incomprehensible to outsiders)
  • Yearning for a long phase (owl time and jellyfish meditation) vs Life is a chain of short phases (dust consumption, role exchanges, shapeshifting, twitchers, ID traders)
  • The myth of “Tools can save us all” vs “living with nature” tales
  • Yearning for freedom: life without dust
  • Equality is a jewel
  • Twitchers are demons vs twitchers will save us all
  • Myths of dying…
lucid dreaming

lucid dreaming

A Twitcher's daily routine

As one of the inhabitants of the peninsula, we describe here the daily routine of a “Twitcher”. Twitchers are the inhabitants who go to visit ID-traders to speed up, as well as individually determine the outcome of their next shapeshifting process. Defying the tenor of events harbors certain risks, such as being stuck in-between shapes. This is not necessarily a bad thing to happen, but it's not always desired.

Our twitcher in question used to be a human being who worked for a long time in a health maintenance centre. He was surrounded by all sorts of creatures in his professional life and over time he developed a profound admiration for dragonflies. These creatures, graceful and intelligent, have a high status on the peninsula. Among other skills, they have the ability to produce a certain golden powder, a kind of “magical dust” which provides particular essential elements for the environment and making life as such possible on the peninsula.

Our twitcher, badly longing to become a dragonfly, happened to get stuck in a state between human and dragonfly. Although he looked like a dragonfly (except for a few remnant human features) and even produced dragonfly dust, the dust his body secreted had none of the environment-enhancing, drug-like qualities of real dragonflies. Thus he needed to use a certain “dedusting machinery” to constantly clean his bronchial tubes of useless dust. This medical machinery had grown into his body and like a cybernetic implant and had to be used constantly.

One of the advantages of being trapped in this state twixt human and dragonfly was that he didn't loose his memory and consciousness of being a human as he came to full awareness of being a dragonfly - a benefit appreciated by others on the peninsula. On the one hand, he was a perfect supplier of “humankind” stories, collected by the librarians which were endeavouring to build up a stock of “shape history”. On the other hand, he was able to compare both phases - human and dragonfly - very directly. This made him a very crucial source of information, especially for others planning to shape shift on purpose.

Being a Twitcher for only a short time, his daily routine looked something like the following. Waking up in the morning, still overwhelmed with dreams and memories of his former human phase, he proceeds to the library where these stories and dreams are written down. Only slowly getting used to the constant deduster machinery implants, he needs to take many breaks, and rests on those fluffy beds floating by. Being revered by longstanding Twitchers for his awareness of being two shapes, he searches for a position to take advantage of his knowledge in the form of a consultancy for prospective “voluntary shape shifters”.

The Castle that looks like Cleopatra's palace is recommended as a possible site for his consultancy (with only the newsagency and a single bar inside it, the castle has lots of empty space). He enters the castle when it moves past one of the davenports he rests on. Following all the established rituals he needs to fulfil before he's allowed inside, he experiences an intense detoxication due a ritualized “gin bath”. Wandering through the castle he finds several spots he could use for his planned venture. Since he doesn't like overhasty decisions, he makes notes on the various pros and cons, has a drink in the “origin bar” and wanders off to rest again for a while, before participating in the weekly meeting of the Twitchers for Social Interaction and Exchange of Experiences (TSIEE). He likes these creatures who are trapped somewhere in-between and are still trying to get the most out of their condition. He falls asleep, dreaming about his former routines in health-maintenance…

A young shapeshifter

A normal morning for the clan, a big question for our juvenile protagonist.


There is a yearning for adventure, a feeling for history, a sense of danger.

Vessel Living. A clan of 28 persons. A romance. Our protagonist feels he's not taken seriously, wants to belong, wants to somehow prove his worth and worthiness. An insider. A need to improve contributions. Wants to stay put, there are stories of dangers.

There is the powder. Our protagonist has just received it with the morning dragonfly. Will they take it? The moment: enjoying morning gin. This is breakfast. The question: what to do next. Reflections on the day ahead.

Dear Diary. Writing in a device. An action to organise thoughts.


In the morning a dragonfly, a letter, and a powder to slow the transition. The Transcarnation. Morning gin with lover, a colection of vines. Next transcarnation will be away from a state able to water them and care for them.

Maybe not even able to be intertwined. But no fear, the clan will care for the vine. Nevertheless. Can our protagonist make a decision for the vines as well? Togetherness, but they complement one another. Are the vines changing? Is that just their interpretation?

The Shiftreport. The Duster can hold on to him for a little while.

On the vessel, looking out over the lush landscape, sipping gin. The rest of the clan is asleep. Chatting with Inanimates.

That which is LUW - Lost Upon Waking.

Is consciousness a technology?

lucid dreaming

For Hainburg we have been asked to make a hotel room installation. For Cluj something should happen in the Pensula. There are notes and plans for this in lucid_dreaming_implementation

Find here FoAM's Lucid Elucidations

  • future_fabulators/lucid_dreaming_a_storyworld.txt
  • Last modified: 2015-05-20 10:48
  • by nik