(some reading notes )
* Highlight, page 4 The great existential challenges facing the human species can be traced, in part, to the fact that we have underdeveloped discursive practices for thinking possible worlds ‘out loud’, performatively and materially, in the register of experience. That needs to change. In this dissertation, a methodology for ‘experiential scenarios’, covering a range of interventions and media from immersive performance to stand-alone ‘artifacts from the future’, is offered as a partial corrective. The beginnings of aesthetic, political and ethical frameworks for ‘experiential futures’ are proposed, drawing on alternative futures methodology, the emerging anti- mediumist practice of ‘experience design’, and the theoretical perspective of a Rancièrian ‘politics of aesthetics’. The relationships between these three domains – futures, design, and politics – are explored to show how and why they are coming together, and what each has to offer the others. The upshot is that our apparent binary choice between unthinkable dystopia and unimaginable utopia is a false dilemma, because in fact, we can and should imagine ‘possibility space’ hyperdimensionally, and seek to flesh out worlds hitherto supposed unimaginable or unthinkable on a daily basis. Developed from early deployments across a range of settings in everyday life, from urban guerrilla-style activism to corporate consulting, experiential scenarios do not offer definitive answers as to how the future will look, or even how it should look, but they can contribute to a mental ecology within which these questions may be posed and discussed more effectively than ever before.
* Highlight, page 9 It is as if the slider of the probable future moves depending on how you tilt your mind.
* Highlight, page 9 However, as alarming as it is – this weighty responsibility for how the future will turn out – 1 Sterling 2006b. 1 more worrying still is the implication of a serious inbuilt shortfall in our capacity to meet that responsibility.
* Highlight, page 10 It is about developing the requisite tools to steer ourselves, and our communities, towards preferred futures. It is about furnishing the means intentionally to slide the probable future towards our preferred outcomes
* Highlight, page 11 At once an emerging form of foresight practice, design work and political action, an experiential scenario is the manifestation of one or more fragments of an ostensible future world in any medium or combination of media including image, artifact, and performance. It involves designing and staging interventions that exploit the continuum of human experience, the full array of sensory and semiotic vectors, in order to enable a different and deeper engagement in thought and discussion about one or more futures, than has traditionally been possible through textual and statistical means of representing scenarios.
* Highlight, page 12 My efforts are deliberately located at the next analytical level up from future content, looking at how we think about the future, and how we might approach it much more effectively than we currently do. This is about process, methodology. It is about 4 engaging the range of possibilities that the term ‘future’ encompasses at a given time and in a given domain; how to imagine those possibilities, and how to design and stage interventions that manifest them as vividly and usefully as we can
* Highlight, page 14 The claim is not, therefore, that we can will our way around an epistemological impasse – absence of ‘information’ from the future – but rather that we can and should pragmatically use our capacity for hypothetical exploration in a way that recasts this impasse as more of an opportunity than a problem. The opportunity lies precisely in the fact that action takes over where episteme fails, as our future becomes increasingly subject to active design over passive discovery.
* Highlight, page 15 It could be said that my interest in enabling widespread engagement with foresight as a practice does in fact push for a particular future; one in which that hope is fulfilled, and this I concede.
* Highlight, page 15 Jim Dator, who has been involved in the field since its inception: ‘Futures studies … is interested not in itself furthering any particular view of the future, but rather in furthering both narrowly professional as well as broadly participative inquiry into the future–understanding the roots and consequences of each of the manifold images of the future which exist in people's minds and in support of people's actions. We are interested in identifying and understanding the many different images of the future which exist, understanding why certain people have certain images rather than others, how their different images of the future lead to specific actions, or inactions, in the present, and how present actions or inactions themselves create certain aspects of the future.’
* Highlight, page 18 how to convey a variety of ideas about the future accessibly, meaningfully and impactfully to a wide group of participants?
* Highlight, page 18 Our answer to that question took the form of a set of experiential scenarios, a series of windows on alternative versions of the year 2050 in which people could spend a short period and then have a discussion based on their varying responses to the shared experience, a sort of theatrical hybrid of theme park ride and role playing exercise
* Highlight, page 19 In other words, an experiential, cross-media approach promised to maximise accessibility in two ways; not only making complex subject matter more welcoming, but also facilitating the logistics of reaching a big group at an in-person event.
* Highlight, page 19 Despite the exciting beginning to this rare state- sponsored futures process, the legislature reverted to (what one surmises struck them as) the comforts of a more conventional planning practice.
* Highlight, page 19 No longer was there a vehicle for Hawaiian residents to examine their assumptions about the future before embarking on ‘planning’ it.
* Highlight, page 19 The longer the time horizon in question, the more obvious it is that assumptions based on a smooth continuity of present arrangements are unlikely to hold throughout
* Highlight, page 21 This dissertation thus includes consideration of ‘wild’ settings, spaces less scripted than galleries and workshops, to help fill in our framework for understanding and designing experiential scenarios through the lens of ‘guerrilla futures’ interventions
* Highlight, page 22 the aim is to facilitate and enable futures- oriented interventions as a means, in turn, to explore and effect concrete changes actually desired in the world
* Highlight, page 24 The future, a purely virtual space, is a political frontier sorely in need of both decolonisation and democratisation
* Highlight, page 25 Breadth concerns the difference between considering a singular ‘future’ and examining ‘futures’ in the plural. Depth deals with engagement with the specificity, details and textures of one or more scenarios, particularly the emotional or internal (experiential) aspects
* Highlight, page 28 Scale, speed, and stakes of change: a self-reinforcing trinity of reasons to take the widespread, public improvement of futures thinking seriously, as a matter of urgency. If we don’t drastically and promply improve our ability to deal with future risk scenarios, we are virtually certain to succumb to one or more of them. Conversely, if, even half a century from now, humans have managed to avoid catastrophic social, economic and environmental collapse, we could deduce from that happy outcome that our ability to envision and act upon alternative futures must have greatly improved.
* Highlight, page 29 It will in some small measure help, I would hope, to make the unthinkable thinkable and the unimaginable imaginable, to enable the avoidance of disasters (where avoidable), to escape from narrow and hegemonic conceptions of the future, whether inherited or imposed, and not least, to invent, elaborate and pursue continuously our preferred futures, whatever those may be.
* Highlight, page 32 The factors describing any given exercise in futures thinking / narrative / imagery include not only the obvious temporal dimension, but also geographic and cultural ones – including epistemic and axiological assumptions and commitments.
* Highlight, page 34 The start of a corrective to monofuturism as well as to binary futurism consists in entertaining a broader range of potential outcomes.
* Highlight, page 36 the study of futures is recognised as being based primarily on ‘images of the future’, which we all have in our heads, and which circulate in our cultures.
* Highlight, page 36 Polak discerned as implicit in all human societies an orientation to the future, analogous, although not equivalent, to the ubiquitous capacity for foresight that, as we have already noted, belongs to each individual
* Highlight, page 37 the generation of renewed and inspiring images of the future was revealed as ‘the actual challenge of our times’, according to Polak. ‘The future that we see mirrored in the negativistic and nihilistic images of the future of our day is paralyzing us into an inability to respond by forging more positive and constructive images of the future.
* Highlight, page 37 in this dissertation the future is regarded less as being ‘out there’ than as ‘in here’, inside our minds, moving in our communities, and affecting, in all sorts of ways both monumental and subtle, how we live
* Highlight, page 38 futures is ultimately about becoming aware of, and then improving in the present, the range, robustness and rigour of our own images of the future.
* Highlight, page 39 American futurist Roy Amara made famous a simple three-part framework for the futures field, ‘possible’, ‘probable’, and ‘preferable’,46 which he saw as capturing the three distinct roles or approaches to the subject matter that futurists had begun to adopt. These were, respectively ‘image-driven’, ‘analytically-driven’, and ‘value-driven’.
* Highlight, page 40 What ‘is’ or ‘seems’ possible, probable and preferable; all are very changeable over time, depending not only on when you are, but also on where and who; what you want; and what you’re looking at, and even, as suggested in the Introduction, what your mood happens to be. We should bear this in mind, for no futures exercise produces results once and for all.
* Highlight, page 41 There is a common image of change, a visual or diagrammatic metaphor, if you will, that envisages all future scenarios as points inside a cone of possibilities radiating from the present moment
* Highlight, page 41 we make our way ‘forward’ through thickets of possible worlds, carving a particular path, which by definition is only one of many possible paths. In this conception, you are at the apex of the cone, in the moment of pure presence and of zero potential; all possibilities expand off from this point of origin into the future
* Highlight, page 44 With each moment that passes, whole swaths of previously viable possibility space die off like withering segments of a temporal vine, but at the same time new, previously unimagined branches spring to life
* Highlight, page 44 The cone is also a funnel, channeling the temporal process into an ever- narrowing chute until it crystallises in the realised present and becomes history, disappearing in our wake. Hence, the future is as dynamic a domain as it is possible to imagine
* Highlight, page 45 from any organisational or broader cultural point of view, to devote only the odd burst of attention to the future against a day-to-day backdrop of presentism is a very poor foresight strategy. Constant updating is required, otherwise possibilities that at one time may have seemed viable but that no longer are, linger confusingly, further obscuring an already murky view of options currently available
* Highlight, page 48 Particular sets of futures belong and correspond to particular ‘I’s and particular ‘we’s. But even to absorb and begin to use these futures terms changes the conditions of possibility for our perceptions themselves, and how we may go on to operate as (suddenly more futures- oriented) political actors.
* Highlight, page 52 The ultimate reason to engage in futures work, then, and especially to create scenarios – which are merely tools to help us think – is to enrich our perceptions and options in the evolving present.
* Highlight, page 55 The key insight is that there exist a finite number of basic types of story that people tell each other about the future: four of them, in fact
* Highlight, page 55 First, there are stories of a future of continued growth, in all the key social, and especially economic, indicators. These are traditionally dominant in Western society, closely associated with the historical myth and metanarrative of indefinite linear progress. Then, as counterpoint to the anthem of continuation, and coming from the growing numbers of those who discern that indefinite continued growth within a finite system is impossible, there are stories of collapse; a tear in the fabric which brings ‘progress’ to a standstill, or sends society reeling ‘backwards’. Third, since continuation is not possible, and collapse is not desirable, there are exhortations to adhere to certain standards, or values, or constraints: this is the disciplined or ‘conserver society’ future. Finally, there are stories about future society in which something drastic and unprecedented happens to shift our
* Highlight, page 56 historic trajectory, a game-changing alteration, at the level of one or more of our fundamental assumptions: a transformational image of the future.
* Highlight, page 56 in recognition of their function as processes, as opposed to steady states, here we name them after verbs rather than nouns: Continue, Collapse, Discipline, and Transform.
* Highlight, page 66 our sense of both ‘probable’ and ‘preferable’ futures is invisibly hemmed in by an underdeveloped sense of the possible
* Highlight, page 73 Inaction in the face of known risks is undoubtedly, to borrow a phrase from architect William McDonough, a ‘strategy of tragedy’.1
* Highlight, page 73 a weak epistemic and psychological infrastructure for taking the future seriously and preparing for its challenges. This is an aspect of our unfolding future which we seem to be having enormous trouble wrapping our heads around
* Highlight, page 73 a failure to reckon properly with the unthinkable – the future we don’t want – is bound to make it even worse. So both it and the unimaginable – the future we barely dare to hope for – are not problems at a personal scale, but collective ones
* Highlight, page 77 Both breadth and depth of anticipation are needed, however, and to strike the right balance between them – clearly a built-in tension exists here – is part of the art of deploying futures wisely
* Highlight, page 78 scenarios relating to relatively slow, systemic issues are less readily mediated, and more likely to be overlooked
* Highlight, page 81 I found myself thinking about the difference between the way we represent possibilities to ourselves, and the way those things feel when they actually happen. ‘What’s the gap?’ I wondered to myself, in my lecture notes. I have come to call this gap the ‘experiential gulf’. It is the difference between how we imagine or expect something to seem in advance, and what it’s actually like being there.
* Highlight, page 81 It is the difference between scenario as represented and scenario as experienced.
* Highlight, page 82 This helps clarify the nature of our challenge in thinking and feeling through possible futures; for to narrow the experiential gulf implies simulating possibilities in such a way that the sense of possibility comes closer to the sense of actuality.
* Highlight, page 83 that there is a great distance between the judicious, intellectually careful (often, no doubt, for good political reasons) framing of this research and the sort of qualitative, felt insight that might make a real difference. Climate change scenarios, temporally distant and complex as they are, provide a prime example of the experiential gulf as a serious conundrum.
* Highlight, page 84 all ideas, stories, narratives, and images can be regarded as experiences, that is, as events occurring on a common bodymind substrate
* Highlight, page 84 The challenge of imagining and confronting climate change is thus, I would argue, emblematic of the issue facing humanity’s futures-oriented thought as a whole: our current strategies are puny and inadequate.
* Highlight, page 85 Damasio’s ‘somatic marker hypothesis’ suggests that gut feelings, whether positive or negative, help mark out certain possibilities as worthy of our attention, such that the otherwise painstaking (indeed, potentially interminable) logical sifting of options prior to deciding is given a vital boost. Thus they ‘provide an automated detection of the scenario components which are more likely to be relevant’.
* Highlight, page 87 When the affective (experiential, bodily) side is neglected, as may be the case in more traditional approaches to futures, the felt, gut-level concern necessary to motivate an appropriate response may be not be activated.
* Highlight, page 88 We are beginning to understand the what a bridge across the experiential gulf might look like; the stuff it needs to be made of. The insights of neurologists like Damasio, and of psychologists like Epstein and Weber, echo our intuition that addressing futures properly requires an integrative strategy, working on both sides at once.
* Highlight, page 88 Daniel Gilbert is an expert in the field of affective forecasting: how we think we'll feel in response to certain things happening to us. The main argument of his 2006 book Stumbling on Happiness is that when it comes to these kinds of forecasts – matters as basic as what will make us happy or sad – we're frequently wrong.
* Highlight, page 89 Things we expect to be devastating turn out not to be so bad. Events we expect to transform our lives for the better might not do any such thing. And on top of it all, our recollections of what we expected are distorted in hindsight, with the effect of hiding from our own view how wrong we were.
* Highlight, page 89 Yet another pattern, and the key point in this context, is the divergence between the personal and social imaginaries. The world they imagine living in 30 years later may be going to hell in a handbasket, with bus strikes and terrorist attacks as far as the eye can see, but in the essay about themselves, there tends to be no sign of society’s challenges, their lives are mysteriously insulated. To recognise this mismatch, and begin reconciling personal expectations with those at the community level, is among the first signs of increased futures literacy.
* Highlight, page 91 It is not always possible to fully compensate for the lack of these four features – personal, moral, immediate, and observable – from future scenarios
* Highlight, page 91 The most promising avenue for addressing this problem seems to be making otherwise absent, hard- to-imagine possibilities immediate and observable. As Gilbert suggests, an actual experience of the long-term effects of climate change would instantly change minds.
* Highlight, page 91 Construal Level Theory.188 CLT tries to account for differences between how we imagine near and far futures, and has found that exactly the same future prospects, with exactly the same profile of advantages and disadvantages, are considered in abstract or concrete terms depending, respectively, on whether they are further away or closer in time. The more distant in time something is, the greater the psychological distance, and the more abstract are the terms in which we represent it to ourselves – quite different from the terms in which we think about the texture of near-term, everyday life
* Highlight, page 92 As the event swims into view, you engage it in more concrete detail.
* Highlight, page 92 The tendency to construe things that seem further away in time and in likelihood at a low-fi resolution is not surprising. Especially in view of our earlier cone image of expanding possibilities, where more remote futures are bound to be more numerous, uncertain, and spare of detail, our conception of far futures is accordingly more sketchlike, in contrast to the comparative oil painting of the very near-term. The reason for the tradeoff between breadth and depth of scenarios becomes clear in this context.
* Highlight, page 94 An experiential scenario, then, would help bridge the experiential gulf by enabling the construal of otherwise distant, seemingly improbable events in a format to render them richer, more accessible, and immediate.
* Highlight, page 94 The more detail is provided about a scenario, the more subjectively probable it may be rated.
* Highlight, page 94 the paradox that a more detailed story may be rated subjectively as being more likely to happen, even if the added detail reduces objective probability; this is called the ‘conjunction fallacy’.
* Highlight, page 95 Another pattern, observed over years of running futures workshops, is that often when people are assigned to focus on one particular future, initial scepticism is gradually replaced by acceptance.196 Indeed, acceptance of the scenario may increase to the point where people who have spent time in different scenarios may become passionately attached to ‘their’ assigned future, even if at first they were quite unconvinced.
* Highlight, page 96 ‘The production of a compelling scenario is likely to constrain future thinking. … [O]nce an uncertain situation has been perceived or interpreted in a particular fashion, it is quite difficult to view it any other way. Thus, the generation of a specific scenario may inhibit the emergence of other scenarios, particularly those that lead to different outcomes.
* Highlight, page 97 Reasoned consideration of the likelihood of certain scenarios or details within them are not, in this approach, tossed out the window, but remain in the discourse alongside more experiential explorations.
* Highlight, page 97 It is one thing to be swayed by an experience that represents a single theory as to the future’s trajectory, but it is quite another to be exposed to a series of compelling experiences that express mutually exclusive logics of alternative futures. In either case one will, at least, have a richer vocabulary of possibility, in the form of real memories (albeit of virtual experience) to draw upon from that point forward.
* Highlight, page 98 a balancing act ‘between particularisation and generalisation – between literal and abstract representation’, which ‘comes with the territory… when you’re transmitting vicarious experience’
* Highlight, page 98 high-level scenarios, which lack human scale – the detail of a 1:1 scale representation of life, and the experiential or affective impact that could accompany it
* Highlight, page 99 The futurist, having broad-brush ‘trends’ or possible ‘emerging issues’ in the past and present to draw on for ‘evidence’, must take more risk, or draw to a greater extent on imagination, the more she ventures to say anything in concrete terms.
* Highlight, page 101 The best strategy for addressing the general/particular dilemma, then, may be to alternate the two, in ‘a constant back and forth between micro- and macrohistory, between close-ups and extreme long-shots, so as to continually thrust back into discussion the comprehensive vision of the historical process through apparent exceptions and cases of brief duration.’
* Highlight, page 101 alternative approach to depth, a less travelled road to the ‘internal’ dimension of futures for which he and others have argued elsewhere under the banner of ‘integral futures’. Thus our turn to the mundane, our ‘microfutures’, or futures of everyday life, would be, for reasons already examined, explored and expressed mainly experientially.
* Highlight, page 102 Such experiences ‘instantiate’ an example from the relevant segment of possibility space, in a way which cannot fully replace the comprehension available through macro-level abstraction, but which can complement it by mediating possibility space on a human scale.
* Highlight, page 103 It is common in futures work to create a series of alternative scenarios, expressed as narrative text, and then to have clients explore and discuss these stories in a report or in a workshop setting.217 This approach works well, much of the time, but not everyone is equally adept at or interested in reading text and statistics about the future.
* Highlight, page 104 Possibly in line with variations in thinking and learning style, such speculations on the page invariably spark certain people’s imaginations, while striking others as abstract, dry, or worst of all, irrelevant.
* Highlight, page 104 The approach we adopted sought to reach beyond the purely verbal and cognitive offer of a written scenario, to address participants in a more affective mode.
* Highlight, page 104 Participants would not simply be handed a text about how things could unfold between 2006 and 2050: rather, they would be invited to live it. Each room was designed and staged, with the help of a number of graphic designers, two improvisational theatre troupes, and a dedicated group of volunteers associated with HRCFS, to afford those in attendance (up to 150 participants at a time, per room) a half-hour experience of a different version of Hawaii’s future.
* Highlight, page 110 They were not predictions, nor even forecasts, of Hawaii’s future. Each was based on its own carefully researched and constructed narrative and historical logic. And the four experiences deliberately pushed the bounds of credibility, each in a different direction, stretching imaginations and inviting expanded perceptions of Hawaiian history’s multidimensional potential.
* Highlight, page 111 Some 530 people were thus divided into four groups, each one experiencing a different future, followed by a facilitated discussion in smaller discussion groups, and then another half hour in a second experiential scenario. The experiences were used by facilitators as a catalyst for exploration of participants’ perceptions of the possible, probable, and preferable paths that change could take in Hawaii between 2006 and 2050.
* Highlight, page 111 The purpose was to provide material to think with, which is to say, shared reference points for conversation among the participants.
* Highlight, page 111 The intention was not to drive the audience towards any particular conclusions, but rather, as we often put it, to ʻhand their assumptions back to themʼ in a thought-provoking way.
* Highlight, page 112 Given that future scenarios have no factual, ‘evidentiary’ referents per se, experiential scenarios and artifacts afford people the rudiments of a common vocabulary, a virtual shared experience, however basic, around which their contributions can cohere, and push off in discussion.
* Highlight, page 112 Of course, a scenario in any medium can directly refer to only the most minute fragment of the world that it means to represent. The same is true of an experiential scenario, which will manifest only some tiny portion of the stupendous array of conceivable objects that populate, and moments that comprise, the future at hand. From a design perspective, there is an art to alighting on the most evocative of these that can be staged within the constraints of the exercise
* Highlight, page 112 From the reception side, the mechanism by which this arrangement functions could be seen as an experiential synecdoche,226 where the part of the scenario that is visible stands in for the whole. This may appear complicated but it isn’t especially; we are all very used to being able to infer what a ‘world’ is like from some glimpsed part of it.
* Highlight, page 114 by vividly manifesting multiple, competing scenario logics in parallel, it aimed to offset the potential for increasingly specific narrative elements to increasingly mislead, instead forcing a more comprehensive reckoning with the legitimate theories of change underlying each one
* Highlight, page 114 it has become increasingly clear to us that one of the useful ways of enframing and enabling this avenue of exploration is experience design
* Highlight, page 115 experience as the basic working material for the futurist (as well as the designer and political actor)
* Highlight, page 116 Experience can be, and in a whole range of human activities, most certainly is, designed.
* Highlight, page 118 The idea of avoiding a pre-emptive choice of media to address the underlying goal of engagement is enormously helpful here. In this approach, then, one might start by identifying the kind of impression, sensation, or insight you would like to create, and so to begin with, it makes sense to treat all conceivable strategies and media as fair game
* Highlight, page 119 There is not necessarily an intrinsic reason to prefer any particular medium or strategy – you should choose what is most likely to work the kind of magic you have in mind.
* Highlight, page 119 Experience as a vector for ideas and explorations casts the body-mind as a sort of blank screen or empty stage on which anything imaginable may be played out. It is thus conceptually an interior mirror to our external notion of possibility space, the notional platform on which any future configuration of the world can be placed.
* Highlight, page 120 This design process – part deductive, part generative – proceeds backwards from an understanding of the type of impact you would like to have. That means beginning with a sense of one’s desired quality of attention, or ‘engagement’, as Garrett has it. And the upshot of bringing an ‘experience design’ frame to futures is that it can be untethered from limiting assumptions and traditions around how to engage people in contemplating possible futures.
* Highlight, page 121 if we wanted to give people anything like an immersive glimpse of these futures, there was a logistical requirement around duration. Performance would afford a choreographed unfolding of scenario content so everyone could absorb the core narrative elements, and scheduled sessions would enable a series of different (and smaller) groups to see the same thing. The arrangement consisting of separate rooms for each scenario, playing out in parallel during a specified window, with shades of theatrical experience, theme park ride, and role playing exercise, was progressively ‘deduced’ from the desired intellectual, emotional and community outcomes, together with the day-long format of the kick-off event, the attributes and layout of the venue, and the resources and time available
* Highlight, page 122 With experiential futures, then, we are paradoxically creating real memories of hypothetical experiences, the point of these strategic memories of course being that they will leave us better prepared for life’s actual challenges.
* Highlight, page 124 To begin the design process at the end, so to speak, with a statement of desired impact, and to use the whole experiential continuum as a canvas, is a liberating way to approach facilitating futures, both from an exploration standpoint (such as Hawaii 2050) and a persuasion one.
* Highlight, page 125 As things are remade, when lines are redrawn, on however large or small a scale, the political is activated.
* Highlight, page 126 Politics, as approached here, provides a theoretical perspective in which to locate experiential futures as an emerging form of thought-into-action.
* Highlight, page 130 Rather, with Rancière, we can posit a unity of politics and aesthetics which greatly expands the scope of politics so the nature and scale of the political stakes in world-making may be better understood.
* Highlight, page 130 the ‘political’ dimension has two characteristics: first, it configures and performs power so as to elevate, privilege, and reward certain interests, perspectives, behaviours and agendas, and to suppress others, and second, it is mutable. Both conditions are necessary. Something that can change but that has no implications for human relations is not political. Something that has implications for relations but that is fixed and unchangable is not political either.
* Highlight, page 131 The things that shape our lives are not resident solely, or even mainly, in the blunt tools of legislation and courtroom, but are deeply embedded in our patterns of perception, habits, and behaviours. This may be why revolutions rarely, if ever, succeed in their stated aims: even if the control of ‘power’ structures is transferred, changing the faces in government is a relatively superficial adjustment.
* Highlight, page 132 I am saying that to this traditional conception of the political may be added a complementary ‘aesthetic’ perspective, which, like a superior toothbrush, reaches places that the other ones don’t.
* Highlight, page 132 My work on politics was an attempt to show politics as an ‘aesthetic affair’ because politics is not the exercise of power or the struggle for power. It is the configuration of a specific world, a specific form of experience in which some things appear to be political objects, some questions political issues or argumentations, and some agents political subjects. I was attempting to redefine this ‘aesthetic’ nature of politics by setting politics not as a specific single world but as a conflictive world: not a world of competing interests or values but a world of competing worlds.262
* Highlight, page 136 Whether one adopts the programmatic, declarative Situationist approach, or the more orthogonal, performative Prankster approach, to intervene in the politics of aesthetics means to effect a change at the level of perception – the playing field of the aesthetic. To couch our approach in terms of the triad of politics, design and futures, the relevant task could now be characterised less as the design of political systems per se, and more as the design of interventions in systems that are thereby rendered political; their inequalities exposed, suddenly contingent, mutable.
* Highlight, page 137 this more capillary, distributed definition of politics, whose complexity we have already noted, paradoxically lends itself to simplified consequences for action. This is partly due to the fact that it relocates our focus from the the lofty bird’s-eye-view of whole-system implementation, down to a level that acknowledges embeddedness in something larger, engaging it on a scale we can handle.
* Highlight, page 138 The central implication for engaging politics in this form is that, rather than trying to change everything at once, you can act politically by beginning with a modest intervention in the aesthetic register. You can try to make some way of seeing or doing visible, thinkable, or otherwise available in a way that it previously was not.
* Highlight, page 140 The elaboration of alternative worlds calls for a distinct set of intellectual and creative skills, and indeed it is the failure of these to propagate through our culture with sufficient urgency that motivates the experiential futures work on which this dissertation is based. In other words, it is one thing to claim that alternatives are available, but it is another thing to elaborate them specifically and convincingly.
* Highlight, page 141 Our ability to imagine difference is undoubtedly imperfect, and limited, but we do have one, and it can be cultivated: indeed design, futures, and critical politics are all approaches to accomplishing just that.
* Highlight, page 142 I am suggesting that futures is inherently pluralising, as well as defamiliarising, simultaneously bringing closer the potentially radical Otherness of worlds to come, and rendering the present strange.
* Highlight, page 143 in principle the insights afforded by the examination of alternative futures can just as readily be deployed in the service of prevailing powers, ideologies and interests as against them; just as readily towards perpetuation of a (perhaps) repressive, unjust, exploitative, morally reprehensible program, as towards an emancipatory, progressive, humane one. The difference is simply in the framing: ‘What alternative futures must we guard against?’ versus ‘How can we escape the imposition of a single future?’
* Highlight, page 145 The sense in which futures can be taken to be critical, then, is that – when carried out publicly, and towards the project of multiplying rather than diminishing or foreclosing possibilities – it serves as a constant reminder of the contingency of today, provides a series of alternative standpoints from which to reperceive (and so critique) the present moment, and affirms implicitly, if not expressly, the responsibility of each of us in pursuing preferred possibilities, while forgoing or avoiding others.
* Highlight, page 146 people can and should indeed cultivate a habit of ‘thinking the unthinkable’. The difference is one of rationale – constantly to expand horizons, generate new possibilities, and pursue preferred worlds, rather than to prop up existing ways of ordering things.
* Highlight, page 152 Given that our ideas about the future do ultimately need to map on to a shared, global, physical space, and given that vast differences of worldview (against all odds, perhaps) persist; paradoxically, when it comes to the future, decolonisation can be best found in plurality.
* Highlight, page 153 If colonisation is the inscription of patterns of domination, then decolonisation of the future entails identifying and challenging these patterns, and providing multiple viable alternatives. I repeat, pluralisation of the range of plausible futures is the key to decolonisation.
* Highlight, page 155 ‘what could eventuate’ is offset against the observed present, such that the present may be ‘read’ – or better, ‘experienced’ – not just contrapuntally but polyvocally; with each voice adding to a sense of possibility and action that is at all times, multidimensional.
* Highlight, page 155 What we can affirm with certainty is what it does for the person practising it. As this form of foresight-plural is cultivated, whether by an aspiring or self-labelled ‘futurist’, or by anyone else, it begins to produce a markedly different political subjectivity.
* Highlight, page 157 We designed our way into this mess, we must design our way out.
* Highlight, page 158 Alternative possibilities exist, and failure to act is also a choice, in effect, for the momentum of the status quo
* Highlight, page 159 Then let me add: design is foremost a practice, or process, to which what is said and written about it serves a supporting function.
* Highlight, page 160 Design and politics may or may not be ‘everything’, but anything political can surely be seen as a matter of design, and vice versa. Ideas of ‘intent’ and ‘optimisation’ are as politically loaded as it is possible to imagine, implying pursuit of a normative agenda – which comes from somewhere – and a set of underlying values.
* Highlight, page 161 we consider a view that discourse is not something that happens in mind and language alone, swarming and circulating around inert matter, but that it is in part figured, congealed, reflected and embodied in materiality
* Highlight, page 161 We should begin by acknowledging that our ‘problem’ of reuniting these opposites is one native to the tradition of Cartesian dualism, rather than inherent in the nature of things themselves.
* Highlight, page 165 The mutual dependence, interpenetration – and ultimately, indissolubility – of the material or technical, and symbolic or social, or communicative planes, is the point I wish to emphasise here.
* Highlight, page 167 Every design decision, from the largest scale to the smallest, is riddled with political implications – consequences for power relations between people.
* Highlight, page 169 Things, in their physicality, have what designers call affordances, simultaneously enabling some actions and prohibiting others.
* Highlight, page 171 The upshot of this part of our investigation is that the political, and with it the theoretical, can not only be interpreted, but also enacted, through material and aesthetic forms. Putting the three together, then – politics, futures, and design – ideas about the future can (but do not necessarily for all who encounter them) reorder the ‘distribution of the sensible’ by the design of interventions and perform future narratives experientially. There is at this three-way intersection a potential for a critical and politically charged hybrid political practice.
* Highlight, page 174 Futures studies is basically ideational in character. It is about images, narratives and perceptions – the contents of our minds, insofar as they have a bearing on the future. Ultimately, of course, these influence our actions and inactions, thus making their way into the phenomenal world and into materiality, which effects ultimately motivate our interest in them. But the starting point in any case for futures inquiry is decidedly internal. Design, by contrast, can be seen as primarily a matter of, well, matter; the external environment, the material domain.
* Highlight, page 179 it seems to me that at the macro-level of the practices overall, futures and design can be regarded as isomorphic enterprises; they have the same basic shape. Both are iterative processes, with alternating divergent (generative/exploratory) and convergent (visioning/implementation) phases. In this first, intrinsically exploratory phase, alternative and diverging paths are generated and tested. In the second phase, they lead to a convergent phase, culminating in decision and execution. Thus, both futures and design prove to be ultimately interested in praxis, effecting desired change in the world, and so require explicit acknowledgment of values and normative commitments.
* Highlight, page 182 ‘discursive design’, which ‘refers to the creation of utilitarian objects whose primary purpose is to communicate ideas—they encourage discourse. These are tools for thinking; they raise awareness and perhaps understanding of substantive and often debatable issues of psychological, sociological, and ideological consequence.
* Highlight, page 182 ‘Critical design’ is a practice pioneered by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby of the Design Interactions Department at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London.
* Highlight, page 183 Dunne says: ‘Design approaches are needed that focus on the interaction between the portrayed reality of alternative scenarios, which so often appear didactic or utopian, and the everyday reality in which they are encountered.’
* Highlight, page 184 Hertrich’s ‘hypothetical prosthetic’, an ingenious and provocative concept design in its own right, also suggests a useful frame for our agenda with experiential scenarios generally. The discursive and design technology developed here could be considered instances of ‘prosthetic foresight’
* Highlight, page 185 critical design typically addresses or portrays the future more directly, while interrogative practice may be more of an activist intervention
* Highlight, page 187 Design brings rigour to sci-fi, sci-fi returns the favour by bringing greater imagination to design.
* Highlight, page 187 Exploration of what lies past the currently achievable, where prototyping and speculative storytelling meet – hypothetical invention – is a long tradition. (Leonardo Da Vinci may have been the prototypical design fictioneer, five centuries ago.) But since the practice is directly (if not self-consciously) concerned with the mediation of possibility space, and since the means for doing so have recently exploded – consider access to, fluency in, and audiences for a range of media – design fiction is an idea whose time has come
* Highlight, page 191 A first example of conceptual design fiction is the ‘Clock of the Long Now’, a ten thousand-year, architectural-scale timepiece, the design of which began in the mid-1990s, and which eventually will be built inside a mountain in the Nevada desert.
* Highlight, page 193 as a conceptual ‘design fiction’, the spime promises to unleash a working over of our relationship to materiality as thoroughly as the Long Now Clock ultimately hopes to do for our attitudes to temporality.
* Highlight, page 193 Design fiction is a new analytical category, retrospectively applied to a whole range of cultural outputs at the intersection of design/media production and forward thinking, including concept videos, advertising spots, and other speculative imagery. It incorporates artifacts ranging from ‘critical design’ to segments of Hollywood sci-fi movies that portray possible technologies in compelling detail.
* Highlight, page 194 the skill of the artist, or of the political activist, or of the futurist, in wading into an ecology of ideas about the future will consist in their ability to create and contribute to it those theory objects which are the most likely to elicit engagement, and to nudge attention and concern in desired directions. This represents one measure of political ‘effectiveness’: successfully guiding conversation and attention in a culture’s discursive ecology.
* Highlight, page 196 Futures in support of design describes work in which the exploration of one or more future scenarios is finally subservient to a bounded design task – the creation of products, services, or whatever. Design in support of futures, by contrast, describes that type of practice where the design ‘output’ is not the end in itself, but rather is used as a means to discover, suggest, and provoke. When futures and design dance, they move very differently depending on which one takes the lead.
* Highlight, page 196 To be sure, some of the largest challenges that humans presently face could be said to result from insufficient ‘futurity’ being built into the designed world (this is one way to restate the argument of Cradle to Cradle, for instance) and so, using alternative futures to produce things more wisely, in a more future-proof fashion, as it were, would be a way to address this.
* Highlight, page 196 Another gloss on this complementary pair is that futures in support of design is driven by the development of applications, while design in support of futures is driven by the exploration of implications. (I am grateful to Tony Dunne and Fiona Raby for drawing this valuable distinction, in the context of design, to my attention.) It follows, then, that design is primarily a search for killer apps, while the futurist hunts killer imps.
* Highlight, page 198 1. Don’t break the universe This phrase, offered by our frequent design partner Matthew Jensen, became something of a master principle for developing experiential scenarios. It means that a scenario or artifact should ideally be presented on its own terms, as if transplanted from a fully realised, coherent, concretely existing alternate (or rather, future) universe.
* Highlight, page 199 This is a principle of realism in representation, similar to the actor’s commitment never to ‘break character’ or ‘break scene’ during a performance.405 It also invokes the theatre’s invisible ‘fourth wall’ through which the audience supposedly watches the world of a play, although rather than being an argument against breaking that wall (a traditional imperative aimed at preserving the audience’s suspension of disbelief), our conception of preserving the ‘universe’ entails the exact opposite. That is, if an experiential scenario is literally performed with an audience present, this principle argues for removing the fourth wall from the beginning, treating them not as a separate ‘audience’ but rather as an organic, diegetic part of the scenario, internal to the narrative.
* Highlight, page 199 the aim was to draw them in to the logic as well as the affect of the narrative, their comprehension and participation in the given universe requiring active engagement.
* Highlight, page 200 the scenario is better not being so literal, instead drawing the audience in.406 There is in this an echo of what performance theorist Richard Schechner calls ‘dark play’. (‘Playing in the dark means that some of the players don’t know they are playing.’407) However, the art of it is to generate a hook, a moment of intrigue, and a path of discovery into the material, rather than to create a persistent state of confusion. Intrigue is tantalising, confusion is irritating, and it can be a fine line separating the two. At one level, the difference may simply be duration: confusion is intrigue that doesn’t pay off soon enough. Generally, though, the encounter is more effective if unannounced.
* Highlight, page 200 The reason to refrain from providing more explicit context for the story, but instead, to drop people into the middle of things (in medias res, as the Roman poet Horace put it), is to encourage a different quality of attention during the encounter. But it also behooves the experience designer to unfold the scenario’s content artfully, so the narrative can be sniffed out without the reek of clumsy exposition.
* Highlight, page 201 ‘Don’t break the universe’ is thus a strategy to produce heightened engagement, one which also credits the intelligence of an audience with being able to work out the difference between ‘scenario’ and ‘reality’.
* Highlight, page 203 If there is a reason to take care to build coherent future universes that can, as it were, stand on their own, it is to lend them sufficient authority to withstand their encounter with the default movie in which people live. An important consequence of insisting on an internal coherence to the scenario is that it holds the work itself to a higher standard, and forces the designers to maintain a high degree of rigour about the story being told. It can require considerable work to ensure that the experiential scenario makes sense on both its own terms (internally) as well as to an audience (externally), but the payoff is considerable, literally.
* Highlight, page 207 a kind of thinking which helps put this notion into practice, selecting and producing the most evocative manifestations of a particular scenario, is what we have called – here comes another metaphor – ‘reverse archaeology’.
* Highlight, page 207 In designing future artifacts, we almost always start from a written scenario of the future in question, the drafting of which provides the opportunity to consider its internal cohesion, its coherence with the present and with history, and so on. Whereas the archaeologist tries to deduce the ‘world’ from the ‘fragment’, we as multimedia futurists attempt to distill and then manifest in tangible form the most potent fragments expressing the world of the scenario.
* Highlight, page 208 Evidencing, or the making of evidence from the future, can be used as a rapid way to prototype future service experiences. You can use the evidence as a stimulus with users or in Roleplay to test the ideas. This type of ‘archaeology of the future’ enables service providers to make early qualitative judgments about the implications of a design. Ultimately it allows customers and collaborators to ‘play back’ their own assumptions as concrete experiences rather [than] abstract evaluations.
* Highlight, page 209 We have come to recognise that the iceberg principle, like ‘evidencing’, is a variant of prototyping, a practice long used by designers to loop their exploration process through materiality.
* Highlight, page 209 Rapid prototyping helps people to experience a possible future in tangible ways. These include rough physical prototypes of products or environments, or enactments of processes and service experiences, as well as the internal infrastructure and business plans that will be required to deliver them. It allows a very low-risk way of quickly exploring multiple directions before committing resources to the best one.429
* Highlight, page 210 As prototypes become ever more powerful and persuasive, they will compel new intensities of introspection. To paraphrase philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, they will become conceptual machine tools for postindustrial innovation – not because we are now gifted with finer imaginations but because we have better instruments for imagining and rehearsing the future.430
* Highlight, page 210 3. The art of the double take The third principle for designing and staging experiential scenarios is what we have called ‘the art of the double take’. The basic idea springs from an playful, exploratory, ‘decolonising’ ethos best captured by Dator’s so-called ‘Second Law of the Future’, which holds that ‘Any useful statement about the future should at first appear to be ridiculous’.432 In this view, a key contribution of futures thinking is specifically to encourage the examination, as opposed to the automatic reinforcement, of expectations and assumptions.
* Highlight, page 211 all four of the Hawaii 2050 experiences were designed to walk the fine line at the edge of plausibility; to seem ridiculous at first, and yet eerily possible on reflection.
* Highlight, page 213 Depending on how an experiential scenario is set up, one may be struck in the encounter by ridiculousness first, or by ordinariness and plausibility. Both routes can work.
* Highlight, page 213 Either way, the principle of the ‘double take’ is that one comes to the scenario twice; the first time fast, a snap judgment, and the second time slow, a rethinking of the initial impression. What is important is the journey from one to the other – from acceptance at first towards questioning, or from questioning to acceptance. The point is that the ‘double take’ entails raising a fundamental tension, and allowing the audience to arrive at its own response, and reconcile or negotiate this tensions (in whatever manner) is essential.
* Highlight, page 215 So, futures can lend design a richer temporal context and big-picture meaning- making – a framework within which to process the stupendous question of, to use Mau’s phrase, the ‘design of the world’. Design lends futures solidity, communicative as well as exploratory effectiveness (as Sterling noted regarding his own writing process); a direct interface to materiality, a place to begin pursuit of preferred futures in the concrete.
* Highlight, page 217 Guerrilla futures is the uninvited critique and pluralisation of futures scenarios – often, although not necessarily, via experiential intervention. Its aim as a practice is to introduce scenaric possibilities to publics that otherwise may not be exposed to them, or that, while perhaps aware of the possibilities in question, are unable or unwilling to give them proper consideration. It’s the tactical, activist strand of futures practice.
* Highlight, page 217 It is about enabling people to become aware of and to question their assumptions about futures – possible, probable or preferable – by rendering one or more potentials concrete in the present, whether or not they have asked for it.
* Highlight, page 217 The particulars of the media used, and the subject matter in question, can vary enormously. One example could be giving out an ostensible ‘future artifact’ to urban commuters
* Highlight, page 217 In another case, it could be drawing a line in blue chalk on the sidewalk,
* Highlight, page 218 Or it could entail putting up a bronze plaque, ‘memorialising’ a hypothetical community tragedy that, in the world of the scenario, isn’t going to happen for another ten years
* Highlight, page 218 Or it could entail putting up a bronze plaque, ‘memorialising’ a hypothetical community tragedy that, in the world of the scenario, isn’t going to happen for another ten years. What these examples all have in common is the deliberate, concrete intrusion of future possibilities into the present to encourage as well as enable deeper engagement with those possibilities.
* Highlight, page 218 There is is an overlap between experiential and guerrilla futures, but they are non-identical. Not all experiential scenarios can claim the guerrilla activist’s level of direct engagement with the Rancièrian ‘political’.
* Highlight, page 219 Life in futures work entails constant labour on the frontier of acceptability. Those whose thinking would benefit most from a plural futures perspective are sceptical or uninterested, while those predisposed to be aware and interested for that reason do not need it as much.
* Highlight, page 219 In any case the principal feature that distinguishes guerrilla handiwork from other futures work is the fact that it is uninvited and unexpected on the part of its audience.
* Highlight, page 220 Guerrilla work may be accomplished in highly scripted, unscripted or only semi-scripted situations – this form of futures ‘in the wild’447 is perhaps most obvious when it takes place in city streets, subways, or personal mailboxes, rather than in relatively controlled environments like classrooms, galleries, museums, and theme parks.
* Highlight, page 222 Guerrilla futures, then, has more to do with the possibilities afforded by the element of surprise, which would usually come from the setting and circumstances of an intervention, while future jamming focuses on the sensibility and semiotic techniques deployed.
* Highlight, page 222 The practice of culture jamming (which precedes both future jamming and guerrilla futures) aims to subvert the authority and messaging strategies of dominant cultural institutions.
* Highlight, page 223 While there are multiple lineages of art, humour, performance and activism that can be traced into this form of political provocation,455 among the most important forerunners to culture jamming is the Situationist International,456 and in particular the strategy first elaborated by Situationist-in-Chief Guy Debord, of détournement.
* Highlight, page 225 Culture jamming can be regarded as a sort of propagation-by-performance of critical theory, with similar thematic preoccupations to its academic cousin – alienation, capitalism, the mass media – but revealing abusive techniques and technologies of domination not through commentary from outside, but through appropriating and undermining them.
* Highlight, page 226 I don’t want to pour cold water on the nascent concept of future jamming, which may be the single closest conceptual offering in the futures literature to ‘guerrilla futures’, our tactical counterpart of experiential futures. Still, the question arises as to whether the notion of future jamming contains potential for much more than a future-themed version of culture jamming.
* Highlight, page 227 The actual illumination of future possibilities, both broader and deeper, is afforded neither by general cultural critique, nor by mocking the inadequacy, narrowness, foolishness or other shortcomings of a given image of the future. A ‘jamming’ strategy may disrupt the hegemony of monofuturism (similarly to how a teenager’s snide remarks to her father might ‘disrupt’ his household hegemony) but they stop short of actually providing viable alternative ways forward.
* Highlight, page 228 As best we can, we must go beyond ‘jamming’ existing futures communications, and actively elaborate alternatives.
* Highlight, page 228 the disruption of hegemonic futures (default patterns of thought), which we have previously described as decolonising, requires also generating and exposing unseen options (or, unseen aspects of existing options) implies a critical ingredient about guerrilla futures interventions: the element of surprise.
* Highlight, page 228 Next we consider experiential futures in light of a second form of activism, ‘prefigurative politics’. The term denotes a mode of action which seeks actually to promote a desired future state of affairs by enacting or embodying it in the present.
* Highlight, page 229 guerrilla futures interventions are only sometimes about promoting a specific preferred future, whereas prefigurative politics always is
* Highlight, page 230 Social movements historian Barbara Epstein, describing prefigurative politics, has written: ‘To most [direct action] movement activists, a vision of the future is meaningful only if it is acted upon in the present, even if doing so disrupts daily life and produces organizations that often do not function smoothly within a political structure based on different values.’
* Highlight, page 231 While the virtual terrain of the future is, as we have seen, quintessentially one of ideas, signs, and symbols, the ideal for our guerrilla futures intervention is to reach out from the play of the semiotic toward the register of lived experience. The productive tension at the heart of our strategic oxymoron, ‘experiential futures’, finds its apotheosis in the guerrilla futures intervention that strives to render the always-already virtual future momentarily real.
* Highlight, page 232 Nevertheless, it does remain a largely ‘expert’ enterprise, whereas even to contemplate decolonisation of the future (as described in Chapter 3) to my mind implies a widespread, distributed, ideally culture-wide exercise.
* Highlight, page 238 In the comparative analysis that follows, the three interventions outlined above – the Yes Men’s Times Special Edition, the Sierra Club’s Blue Line project, and FoundFutures: Chinatown – our attention will be trained mainly on the external elements of these guerrilla ‘performances’; space, time, media, narrative, and audience involvement.
* Highlight, page 242 the general rule of thumb that emerges is that the more easily a space is accessed, the more readily its use is either ignored or overturned. The more visible it is, the more valuable, but also vulnerable: impact = attention × duration. Impact and expected lifespan stand in inverse proportion to one another. Hundreds, even thousands of flyers can be generously distributed, but such ephemera disappear overnight. Posters mounted in a location designated for advertising upcoming events may be safer, but also stand out less.
* Highlight, page 242 The main lesson here, in terms of physical media, militates for simplicity. A single element – a mock newspaper reproduced 80,000 times; a simple blue line traced in the street – may be enough for an intervention to evoke effectively and memorably a specific array of political ‘future’ concerns, and thus to ‘redistribute the sensible’ of an urban scene.
* Highlight, page 244 for certain purposes, the very proposal of a public futures intervention, if accompanied by vivid visualisations, may be enough to generate significant attention, and could even make the actual performance redundant
* Highlight, page 244 the ‘performance’ of the intervention begins before a drop of paint has been spilled or a projector switched on. The guerrilla futures intervention is not just for the ‘here and now’ of the performance, but for the absent, though potentially much larger, audience reached later and at leisure, especially via the web.
* Highlight, page 245 This secondary impact is what we have come to refer to as the ‘afterlife’ of a project, and we have learned that thorough documentation of the design and installation processes – through photographs, video, notes of conversations, changing impressions, and decisions made – are usually at least as important
* Highlight, page 249 Secrecy beforehand was of the essence; had information about it been known publicly ahead of time, its impact would have been much diminished.
* Highlight, page 249 Blue Line project was also calculated to attract media attention, and with careful timing, but with the difference that public knowledge was sought beforehand, to maximise participation.
* Highlight, page 250 We noted above that a dimension of ‘time’ would be dealt with as an aspect of narrative; the chronological or historic timeframe of the scenario being extruded into the present in the given intervention.
* Highlight, page 251 The fact is that these interventions avoid offering internal narrative (that of the future depicted or evoked), instead focusing on promoting or enabling an external narrative (the story about community members taking action on climate change).
* Highlight, page 251 The Times Special Edition, rather than presenting a utopian master narrative of ‘how the unimaginable could happen’ used the newspaper medium to offer a constellation of realised ideals.
* Highlight, page 252 The ‘internal’ layer is the scenario; that is, the story told, or implied, about the future. The ‘external’ layer is the story about the staged encounter with the future.
* Highlight, page 253 One particular risk in this vein is that a controversial approach to staging the intervention may generate plenty of attention, but risks sending the resulting discussion off the intended course, if it focuses too much on the intervention tactics rather than the substantive issues sought to be raised.
* Highlight, page 253 Primary audiences, those who see the intervention directly at the time; and secondary audiences, those who hear or read about it later.
* Highlight, page 254 intervention should be approached with a sensitivity to both primary and secondary audiences – the first-hand experience, and its ‘afterlife’. A third element also warrants mention in this setting; the involvement of and impact on the ‘performers’ or activists themselves.
* Highlight, page 254 The Blue Line project in Hawaii attempted to maximise public participation in staging the intervention.
* Highlight, page 254 The mode of engagement was the staging of a public spectacle, a mildly ‘artistic’ demonstration, pointing experientially and symbolically to the climate issue.
* Highlight, page 255 I would surmise that the greatest impact was probably on those who took part in the project, spending one or two hours actively mapping potential climate change onto their neighbourhood – the effects of such participatory ‘futuring’ would be worthy of further research.
* Highlight, page 255 The Times newspaper intervention was a beautiful example of what Douglas Rushkoff has called a ‘media virus’ (a successfully self-replicating meme). It reached a primary audience of tens of thousands, and a secondary one of many millions. It did not ask any particular action of its audience, but was framed as a sort of guerrilla futurist spectacle.
* Highlight, page 255 It may be that the most effective of the three scenarios staged was so because of the element of direct, personal engagement (the ‘Save Chinatown’ protest in ‘McChinatown’).
* Highlight, page 256 when a possible future scenario is made available for consideration, a ‘redistribution of the sensible’ is effected. This constitutes a political moment, a meaningful change in the perceptual order, with considerable potential for further politically-charged ramifications. This is a subtle, qualitative, and interior shift, which helps clarify why the transformations at issue here are, by and large, inadequately supported by evidence.
* Highlight, page 256 Strategy typifies the programmatic, agenda-setting capacity of main actors; tactics characterise the capacity of a dissenter to talk back, to create and exploit small holes, to slip through and widen them in the imagination until other dreams pour through. The use of tactics is, in Certeau’s phrase, ‘the art of the weak’.
* Highlight, page 257 we also need to admit that sometimes an intervention that should work simply misses the mark, for whatever reasons
* Highlight, page 258 How do you measure whether someone’s mind has been changed by a futures encounter? This is an instance of a broader problem of how one can know whether any ‘political’ art is actually having the desired impact.
* Highlight, page 260 Individual stories are not decisive evidence of the success or otherwise of an intervention or artwork, but only indications of the sorts of reactions that people may have. A valuable next step in the research agenda suggested by this would be to design and implement more systematic evaluations, such as ethnographic observation or post-intervention questionnaires of participants across different conditions.
* Highlight, page 261 Had we been aiming specifically to elicit negative attitudes towards national chain stores, the business owner’s self-surprising reperception in favour of Starbucks would have been a disaster. As it turned out, however, that surprise was for us a small sign of success: the experiential scenario revealed something that mere hypothetical rumination had not. As Stephen Duncombe has pointed out, ‘if we shift persuasion from persuading people to think X, and instead simply persuading people to think, then it’s a whole different ballgame.
* Highlight, page 262 any successful experience is founded on engagement, the minimal condition for any kind of impact. A scenario offered for exploration purposes, dramatising a complex issue, will be impactful and useful not because its audience comes to share a particular (ideological) position and produce the same responses – that is more like advertising, a very different practice – but precisely because it elicits different responses. It does not get people thinking the same things, but encourages them to think about the same things. A well crafted ‘theory object’ in any form calls or compels a degree of attention, enabling a debate and exchange of views, some or all of which, in the case of a future scenario, may have been unavailable before it.
* Highlight, page 262 a piecemeal, tactical checklist: 1) To which spaces of display and/or performance can we gain access, and what are the risks and potentials afforded by each?
* Highlight, page 263 When is the most appropriate moment, in terms of scheduling, to stage the intervention?
* Highlight, page 263 How long does the artifact need to stay as installed?
* Highlight, page 263 What materials and media should be used? Can they be reused, moved around and redeployed, or must they necessarily be treated as ‘disposable’? Are our resources being used wisely?
* Highlight, page 263 What is the main point of the story? Who are the primary and secondary audiences, and is the real or most meaningful impact that of the encounter for the former, or does it really make sense only when seen in context later?
* Highlight, page 263 Is a physical intervention, with the labour-intensiveness that entails, strictly necessary, or there an easier way to accomplish comparable results, for example online?
* Highlight, page 264 The design of any experiential scenario in any setting requires one to take account of the same generic factors: Who are the audience members, and what kind of experience would you like them to have; what is the future narrative in question, and to what extent will it be a ‘static’ scenario (providing a snapshot of some future world) versus ‘dynamic’ (setting out the whole backstory from the actual-present to the future-present of the scenario); what are the spaces and media at one’s disposal; if it is a live experience, as opposed to a film or gallery artifact, whether it will be ‘immersive’ in the sense of incorporating the audience’s presence in the scene, or whether it will instead rely on the traditional ‘fourth wall’ of the theatre, and pretend that no one is watching.
* Highlight, page 264 The key difference is that a conventional experience is bound to be more or less replicable and regularised, like a theme park ride, or the four rooms staged for Hawaii 2050. By contrast, a guerrilla intervention has more variables that you don’t get to control; more unpredictability, and more scope for strategic ambiguity and genuine surprise on the part of its audience.
* Highlight, page 264 All too often, the ‘urgent’ (short-term, pressing matters) outshines the ‘important’ (longer- term, and slower-moving, but ultimately weightier matters) in our thinking, at all levels. With that in mind, a key framing question will surely be; what about it makes this a story worth telling, and retelling, and where, how and by whom will that occur?
* Highlight, page 266 There are those propositions that we take to be true, there are those that we treat as if they were true (however sound, or not, our basis may be for believing that they are), and there is the domain of speculation, where we let ourselves off the ontological hook a little, and allow ourselves to explore possibilities or imaginings of various kinds, even if we don’t necessarily have evidence for them. We can imagine these modes as falling on a kind of spectrum of representations ranging from completely real to completely imaginary. The three key markers to plot are the reality bedrock ‘is’ at one end, the pure supposition of ‘what if’, at the other end, and the mimetic ‘as if’ in between. We’ll call this the ontological spectrum.
* Highlight, page 267 We can treat what if speculations as if they were the case, or we may even endorse as fact a proposition which others would regard as the most unfounded, outlandish speculation.
* Highlight, page 268 the category of is should be regarded as the most tenuous of the three, because it constantly requires verification to shore it up
* Highlight, page 268 whatever our declared membership or outlook may be philosophically, much of everyday life is enabled by an unselfconscious pragmatism, whereby we take philosophically problematic things for granted
* Highlight, page 269 to become adept hackers of the historical process we must first master hacks of the mind, at first our own, and then those of others whom we may wish to engage in conversation.
* Highlight, page 269 Neuroscientist and fiction writer David Eagleman recently described the unsuspected similarity of his two jobs.534 ‘What’s written in the textbooks is completely untrue. Science never goes as a linear process of discovery, it’s always people making creative leaps. You go into the lab every day, and you make up the wackiest stories that you can, and you see [from] which ones you can build a bridge of evidence back to what we already know.’ This turns out to be logically identical to the process of ‘incasting’ by which the logics of alternative futures are tested and fleshed out.
* Highlight, page 270 Indeed, brain science has revealed that most of the time, our thoughts are not carefully attending to the present moment, but are instead time-travelling into recalled past and fantasised future states, plumbing what psychologist Daniel Gilbert calls ‘the dark network’.536 Any futurist should cultivate an awareness of these categories so they may be put to good use, and the guerrilla futurist in particular is bound to become an expert on charting new reaches of her own, as well as our collective, dark network.
* Highlight, page 270 A future scenario is a discursive technology at the what if end of the spectrum. It is first and foremost a thought experiment.
* Highlight, page 271 Simulation is an activity which belongs in as if, between the abstract what if of the scenario and the concrete is of supposed reality. A simulation may be thought of as an enacted scenario. When a building’s inhabitants are evacuated in a fire drill; when a pilot learns to fly a complex aircraft using a mockup that never leaves the ground; or when a trainee surgeon operates on a dummy; when actors rehearse a play in an empty theatre; or when a complex model of weather systems is run inside a computer to produce next week’s forecast – all these things involve using a representation or simplified version of a ‘real’ situation or system, in order to produce insight as to the workings of that system, or to use a low-risk test run to found confidence in preparing for the ‘real’ version of it.
* Highlight, page 271 In this framework, role playing and gaming – so long as you are aware that you are playing a role or a game – would also be included under as if, this area of simulation.
* Highlight, page 271 A hoax is a deliberate deception, which belongs at the is end of the spectrum. The defining characteristic of a hoax is the way it bifurcates actuality and perception. It engineers a false sense of what is. The thing that links it to scenarios (what if) and simulations (as if) is that it can be seen as a hypothetical that the audience does not know is a hypothetical.
* Highlight, page 274 strikes an intriguing balance between seriousness and mischief that anticipates the sensibility investigated in these pages (‘don’t break the universe’)
* Highlight, page 275 The difference between as if and is resides in awareness of the ontological status of the thing. A hoax is not a hoax if no one is fooled. A simulation would move towards being a hoax if it included deception about the fact of it being a simulation.
* Highlight, page 276 not everything at the hypothetical is end of the spectrum, although deception may be involved, counts as a hoax, or is reprehensible.
* Highlight, page 277 Our understanding of what makes us tick is incomplete, and riddled with mixed motivations. We may like to believe that we think or do one thing, while in fact thinking or acting consistently in some other way. As a result, experiments intended to get at the real story may deploy ‘methodological deception’.
* Highlight, page 279 it is shallow, moralising, and ultimately, intellectually indefensible to see all deception as equivalent.
* Highlight, page 281 War of the Worlds (hereinafter WOTW) was adapted for radio from the eponymous science fiction novel, written by H.G. Wells, and based on the premise of an invasion of Earth by creatures from Mars.552 In the radio dramatisation, taking place forty years after the novel was first published in 1898, this improbable narrative was given a startling makeover. Welles and his co- conspirators cast the story arc as an item of breaking news, interrupting the ostensibly scheduled musical program with increasingly alarming bulletins about an unfolding crisis, starting with a report on strange activity detected by astronomers on the surface of the red planet.
* Highlight, page 284 A Hell House experience consists in audience members touring a building where each room stages a scene dramatising life’s evils, as defined by this variant of the Christian belief system – suicide, gay marriage, abortion, rave parties – and their eternally regrettable consequences for the wrongdoers.
* Highlight, page 285 Hell Houses are an outreach tool, a way to change hearts and minds, aimed at advancing the theological mission of believers. This intense commitment, and its embeddedness in a wider ideological program, is reflected in the growth of Hell Houses into something of a national phenomenon.
* Highlight, page 286 In a nutshell, as ethnographer and Hell House expert Elizabeth Nixon puts it, ‘the ultimate goal of a Hell House is to save souls through fright.
* Highlight, page 287 an important threshold comes into the picture as the scenarios portrayed begin to venture from the relative safety of what if and as if into claims, explicit or implicit, about how the world is, or how the future ‘will’ be. When this happens, two primary ethical considerations for those staging an experiential scenario may arise; that it is distressing, or misleading. Merely to assert or assume good intentions in any given case is not enough, of course, in the same way that an artist’s declared political agenda does not establish that their art actually has the desired impact.
* Highlight, page 288 one ethical question concerns whether people are distressed or even traumatised by what is presented to them
* Highlight, page 289 to what extent one does or might be expected to foresee adverse consequences of an intervention.
* Highlight, page 289 The second key ethical question has to do with unwarranted assertions, or resulting interpretations, from an experiential scenario. In principle, a vivid experience could be made from any future scenario however absurd or ideologically slanted. Obviously, though, the fact that something can be made experientially vivid doesn’t necessarily make it more true.
* Highlight, page 290 this concern does go to the heart of ‘experiential futures’, a consciously contradictory term and practice, juxtaposing as it does the abstractness of future with the concreteness of experience.
* Highlight, page 290 If someone ‘resolves’ this tension by mistakenly embracing the scenario as factual, then the key questions must be more specific; to what extent, for how long, and with what consequences did this confusion occur, and was it a reasonable response on their part in the circumstances?
* Highlight, page 291 Interestingly, any ethical disapproval that attaches to an intervention that has elicited a ‘false’ response as a result of an ontological curveball is precisely a result of the sense (on the part of the disapproving party) that it was neither necessary nor voluntary. In other words, implicit in such a reaction is a counterfactual proposition that it wasn’t necessary, it didn’t have to be that way; the world could be otherwise. The irony is that to reveal the plurality of worlds is precisely the point of a deliberate is-level mimesis.
* Highlight, page 292 New Orleans’ experience of Hurricane Katrina, and Detroit’s experience of the collapse of the automobile industry. These were complex situations, but a failure to engage the future, to dare to foresee with sufficient breadth or depth, played a decisive part in each. Those cases are harbingers of the sort of collective and emergent failure – whether by slow decline or knockout punch – that we may expect to see if our ability to think and feel through alternative futures does not dramatically improve. In probing alternative futures, then, and in encouraging others to do likewise, it is certainly possible to be reckless. It is also possible to be too careful. One cannot defend against all conceivable misunderstandings. And in the past our future projections have often been too narrow, shallow, and timid. Desperate times, sometimes, call for desperate measures.
* Highlight, page 292 generally our interest in experiential futures will concern longer-term potentials in possibility space, rather than something that could happen immediately, today.
* Highlight, page 292 the confusion around an is/hoax/mimetic futures intervention is unlikely to last very long, because quite quickly, other things being equal, some other evidently incongruous element (e.g., a future date, or the fact that there are no other newspapers reporting the end of the war), will ‘correct’ the ‘misperception’.
* Highlight, page 293 As Dunagan and I have said repeatedly in advocacy of experiential futures, sometimes it’s better to be surprised by a simulation than blindsided by reality. When this rationale applies, and when it does not, is a matter for would-be activists to weigh on a case by case basis.
* Highlight, page 294 Although it is a difficult art to execute (and also to prove) in any particular case, the general point here is that the value of enabling someone genuinely to contemplate a compelling alternative future universe – if perhaps only for a moment or two – may be profound. Everyone can recount instances in their own life where sudden, contingent insights have led to momentous changes in direction. The value of these interventions and futures perspectives should not necessarily be sought in their enabling a particular or permanent future orientation (although those are conceivable outcomes). Even small glimpses of other worlds may make the effort worthwhile.
* Highlight, page 294 As Whitehead reminds us, it is the business of the future to be dangerous – which makes it our business to be able, at certain times, to conjure with that danger in order to navigate it more wisely.
* Highlight, page 295 the ‘safer’ settings of workshops, galleries and the like have great value, but bringing these lived modes of exploration to people who have not consciously opted into them may be the only way out of the ‘Futurist’s Catch-22’.
* Highlight, page 295 The Futurist’s Catch-22 is, in short, that those who most need futures work don’t ‘get it’, while those who ‘get it’ don’t need it so much.
* Highlight, page 296 Somewhere along the line the balance needs to shift from guerrilla futurist agitation, to a more mundane, ordinary, and embedded use of futures thinking.
* Highlight, page 299 To infuse futures thinking into wider culture is the agenda of interest here.
* Highlight, page 300 A foresight culture therefore emerges at the dawn of the 21st century. It is a culture that routinely thinks long-term, takes future generations seriously, learns its way towards sustainability and brings the whole earth back from the brink of catastrophe.
* Highlight, page 300 a different sensibility is abroad. It is one that sees each generation as a link in a chain, not only as inheritors of the past but also as guardians of the future. The species looks out on a newly enchanted world and universe. It grows beyond the primitive ego states and destructive technologies that drove so much of earlier history. Finally it grows toward maturity.585
* Highlight, page 301 Current futures practice is one of special occasions; here we are speaking of a futures of everyday life.
* Highlight, page 301 any society in which social foresight were properly implemented would thereby have addressed the fundamental conundrum of the unthinkable and the unimaginable.
* Highlight, page 301 here may still be communities whose way of life is transformed, as Detroit’s was, but they would be empowered to reinvent and reorient themselves deliberately, not falling into ruin through neglect. The notion suggested here would comprise an emergent foresight counterpart and antidote to the emergent failure
* Highlight, page 302 For Slaughter, the passage a community would take from raw, individualised foresight to a refined, social foresight is through increasingly widespread adoption of the components of futures studies discourse.
* Highlight, page 302 the application of high technology (neurological or genetic-level therapies) to intervene directly in the human foresight capacity
* Highlight, page 303 the possibility of a foresight culture spreading from a tradition other than futures studies.
* Highlight, page 303 The much repeated item of lore concerning the tradition of the Haudenosaunee Confederation (League of the Iroquois) looking to the possible impacts of any major decision upon the next seven generations may qualify as an indigenous forerunner of and analog to futures
* Highlight, page 304 cultivating new techniques of consciousness, psychedelic or shamanic, which could in principle represent steps towards a form of social foresight while leaving futures methods as we know them out of the loop
* Highlight, page 307 in a society where foresight is distributed and embedded, clearly many, if not all, institutions would have a foresight capacity also. So too would individual people, at any rate to a higher level than the untutored ‘level one’ capacity we all have by default.
* Highlight, page 308 ‘Future-shock therapy’593 is concerned with creating maximum impact, ideally triggering some sort of realisation that a particular future scenario, perhaps insufficiently considered up until that point, may be possible. This effect may be sought by a practitioner manifesting (creating and distributing) supposed ‘evidence’ of that future having come to pass. Future-shock therapy is the guerrilla futurist’s tactic of first resort. Among the principles articulated earlier it highlights the ‘art of the double take’, as well as a willingness to ‘break the universe’ of consensus and ordinary expectations with alternatives. It may be compared, though should not be confused, with the Poetic Terrorism described by anarcho-theorist Hakim Bey in his work on Temporary Autonomous Zones.
* Highlight, page 308 ‘Ambient foresight’ is a contrasting idea of building futures awareness subtly, into the mental environment. Rather than demanding attention with fireworks, an ‘ambient’ future awareness is gentle, or perhaps almost invisible.
* Highlight, page 309 They are, then, a pair of fundamentally different ways of choreographing attention, polar opposites in a sense. Both are valuable, but for different purposes; they both adjust how we experience time, but use different temporal strategies. The former optimises for impact now, the latter for sustainability. One is explicit, uninvited, disruptive, provocative; the other is implicit, incidental, enabling, and subtle. Future-shock therapy is fireworks, ambient foresight is wallpaper.
* Highlight, page 309 this kind of insistent activism suits matters of urgency – desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that. But at some point along the road to social foresight, these sorts of aggressive tactical procedures need to give way to a gentler approach; a more strategic, built-in vector for futures awareness as a background condition.
* Highlight, page 311 It seems to me that the final aim, the noble end-game for the futures profession (albeit rarely articulated within the field), as being actually to make itself redundant. In a social foresight culture, the job description ‘futurist’ would probably be unnecessary.
* Highlight, page 311 In a society where futures are a reflexive, ordinary part of everyday life, we would be constantly envisioning, forecasting, fine-tuning and collectively deciding what to do next. We would be designing and redesigning society on a collective, ongoing basis.
* Highlight, page 312 provide information, in more or less sophisticated and systemically-integrated ways, that help illuminate a narrow segment of possibility space and take incrementally wiser, more informed actions.
* Highlight, page 312 Ambient foresight contains the seed of an idea for gentle suggestions and decisional inputs, relating especially to you, right now, that may help.
* Highlight, page 312 The mechanism and usefulness of ambient foresight ‘nodes’ may be illuminated with the recent concept of the nudge, based in behavioural economics, which helps describe this genre of informational shift. A nudge is ‘any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. … Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.’600
* Highlight, page 314 A second embryonic element of ambient foresight can be seen in networks that collect and synthesise futures-related insight. These, too, may eventually feed into realisation of our social foresight scenario. They are also rather more complex on the face of it than nodes, which are the crystallisation points for a system;604 with networks by contrast we are forced to consider the whole system, rather than just a visible point of it. We’ll touch on two emerging examples of ambient foresight networks: prediction markets and futures-themed alternate reality games.
* Highlight, page 315 James Surowiecki has famously dubbed the underlying principle for this kind of information aggregation ‘the wisdom of crowds’.608 The key limitation of this mechanism, of course, comes with the built in problem that there is no source of information ‘from the future’,609 so regardless of the sophistication of the system, the ‘predictions’ of the market can be no more than a snapshot of present expectations of its participants.610
* Highlight, page 315 In some ways prediction markets seem to be a sort of next-generation, more sophisticated and broad-based counterpart to the informational mechanism tapped by the longstanding ‘Delphi’ forecasting method, iterative expert surveys.
* Highlight, page 316 as a real- time index of uncertainty, prediction markets represent an emerging, if very limited, prototype of ‘networked’ ambient foresight; an ever-changing ‘best guess’ of the probable future for a specific situation or metric.612
* Highlight, page 316 driven more by an ethos of community-building and participation than by the competitive and mechanical synthesis characterising prediction markets. The emerging genre of the Alternate Reality Game (ARG), a form of interactive storytelling, often makes use of hypothetical future settings and invites players to ‘inhabit’ a certain scenario.
* Highlight, page 317 Superstruct was based on a scenario set in 2019, in which an extraordinarily sophisticated computer simulation called GEAS (the Global Extinction Awareness System) had determined that a combination of five existential ‘superthreats’ was on a catastrophic course to end the human race by 2042, then just 23 years away. The game was open to anyone, and invited players in 2008 to imagine their lives a decade forward, sharing stories set in that particular future, discussing their concerns and insights, and above all, proposing ‘superstructures’ – new organisations and initiatives that could be developed to ward off the superthreats and extend humanity’s collective life expectancy.
* Highlight, page 318 Superstruct represents an early foray into a form of collaborative foresight, the contours of which are only just becoming visible. At the level of process, it demonstrated that an appropriately designed platform could enable a semi self- organising process by which the efforts of many people could draw on the insights and creativity of the group, resulting in a sort of mosaic storytelling within a given scenario.
* Highlight, page 318 understated cues are offered through nodes, sites where foresight-relevant information is made available, enabling context-determined nudges towards more future-aware behaviour. And, in an ambient foresight network, insights of players or participants are extracted to provide a crowdsourced estimate of the probable future (prediction markets), or to enable collective storytelling and problem- solving (alternate reality games). All these could be said to exemplify an embryonic ambient foresight, perhaps feeding into an eventual social foresight scenario.
* Highlight, page 319 It's an acknowledgement of the need for collaborative, grassroots futures work, as opposed to the more predictive guru model, the long history of which clearly overshadows participatory, exploratory approaches to the future in the public mind.
* Highlight, page 319 The need for ‘democratisation’ and ‘experientialisation’ of futures is rising alongside the means for meeting it: they have the same root cause, the increasing speed and reach of technosocial communications and changes.
* Highlight, page 319 . A more participatory, dialogue-model (we talk to each other) is bound up with emerging ways of bringing people together, especially in virtual fora.
* Highlight, page 320 the actual process of qualitatively engaging longer-term futures is in principle, it seems to me, not subject to automation. It is not subject to being made ‘as easy as falling off a log’, it requires time to either produce or absorb narrative logics, a deeply creative process.
* Highlight, page 321 Creativity requires periodic, temporary ‘encapsulation’ as opposed to the kind of constant global openness suggested by the slogan ‘information wants to be free.’ Biological cells have walls, academics employ temporary secrecy before they publish, and real authors with real voices might want to polish a text before releasing it. In all these cases, encapsulation is what allows for the possibility of testing and feedback that enables a quest for excellence. To be constantly diffused in a global mush is to embrace mundanity.625
* Highlight, page 322 It is certain that visions and storytelling can to some extent be crowdsourced, but in principle, it cannot be ‘ambient’; ambience has its limits.
* Highlight, page 323 The challenge for Hawaii 2050, as for futures studies generally, was not best thought of as being one of conveying pre-conceived futures from party A to party B; getting scenarios from one set of heads (ours), into those of others. The broader challenge, rather, was and is to facilitate the development in society of a richer mental ecology (to use a Batesonian phrase) of futures-oriented thought and action. Rather than simply producing concepts about what the future could or should be, and broadcasting these to people (although, we should acknowledge, some of the best-known futurists do still seem to regard their role as being precisely that) the key, emerging role for the twenty-first century futurist is to serve as a catalyst for a more foresightful society. This entails a far-reaching, multifarious, ongoing process which includes generating, sharing and exploring images and narratives of various futures, whereby the collective understandings and values, hopes and fears, expectations and assumptions, of a group and its individuals may be drawn out and held up for scrutiny, debate, refinement, and further inspiration. Such a mission will at times involve signalling specified content, but this is not the end of the story.
* Highlight, page 323 What it means more specifically is that the futures experiences described here (and others) can be seen as providing scaffolding for new thoughts and discussions. They provide things to think with,628 as well as shared reference points, a common vocabulary of lived experience (however brief) for those exposed to it – real memories of virtual events, which can be used for increased understanding, more detailed exploration, and richer discussion.
* Highlight, page 324 Experiential futures practice as set out in these pages may not be the True North of social foresight, but it is surely movement in a northerly direction.
* Highlight, page 326 We find we are visionary enough to have created challenges for ourselves that are truly mind-boggling, but we fall short in our collective capacity to envision, let alone implement, remedies. The complexity of the systems in which we are embedded is coming home to roost, with the revenge of unforeseen and unintended consequences propagating through those systems with the karmic inexorability of a mythic third act. If proverbial wisdom says that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, perhaps it is as simple (or as complicated) as this: that the same is true of foresight. Less engagement with the future holds no promise; more may be the only way forward.
* Highlight, page 327 the design and staging of experiential scenarios is a political, practical and perceptual-level intervention. It is praxis oriented and more than a little messy; a tactical attempt to manipulate the quirks of the human information processing system, especially our evolved preference for the immediate and tangible over the remote and abstract, to give those quirks a better chance of operating in our collective long-term interest, rather than against it. In that respect, ours must be a highly pragmatic, heuristic, ‘hacker’ activity, not a neatly enfolded, modular, and academically respectable program ready to be implemented in the schools and colleges of the world.
* Highlight, page 327 Both sides of the most lively current debate in academic futures – between ‘integral futures’ and ‘causal layered analysis’633 – miss the element of engagement of a wider public in the futures conversation. We would do well to be systematic about making the ingredients of a foresight ecology more widely available, finding more and better ways to share the excellent tools that the decades of conversation have already yielded.
* Highlight, page 328 First we pluralised ‘future’, mapping hyperdimensional possibility space in a notional cone containing countless dots, each one of which, on a close zoom, turned out to be another future world, corresponding to the innumerable and ever-shifting ‘images of the future’ that we all carry in our minds. We saw, however, that this reflected a far more complex conception of the future than a linear or binary one, and required some new tools to manage it. The four generic futures approach was described, both as a means of classifying an array of existing futures images, and, more importantly, as a generative technique to arrive at specific, divergent scenarios encompassing widest conceivable swaths of possibility space in the fewest strokes.
* Highlight, page 328 Neuroscience and psychology pointed us to the promising, so far little explored country of ‘experiential scenarios’ which include the register of experience (affect, emotion, intuition) alongside analysis (logic, reason, judgment) in the human processing system.
* Highlight, page 328 the experiential gulf becomes narrower, futures conversation can become more vibrant, by providing a shared vocabulary and reference point in memory for those involved.
* Highlight, page 328 Futures plural was revealed as fundamentally ‘critical’ as well as ‘decolonising’ of dominant social narratives, yet also going beyond bare critique and decolonisation by continually affirming the viability of specific, alternative paths forward. Design was shown to be a profoundly political domain, both in the enactment of power relations that we can ‘read’ in existing material arrangements, and in the intentional remaking of these.
* Highlight, page 329 This gave us a theoretical basis for the idea that futures and design together could comprise a politically potent hybrid practice around ‘redistributing the sensible‘ to make futures narratives vividly available.
* Highlight, page 329 To design, futures brings a holistic and systematic view of the range of longer-term impacts of today’s decisions; and design brings a concrete, communicatively potent form of exploration and an ethos of pragmatic efficacy to futures.
* Highlight, page 329 ‘Guerrillas in the wild’ considered the intentionally ‘political’ deployment of futures thinking, via experience design, in unexpected contexts.
* Highlight, page 329 the range of discursive technologies for manifesting future possibilities and located these on an ‘ontological spectrum’ from what if, to as if, to is. As the experiential gulf narrows, we noted, the impacts become stronger, but so too do the ethical risks. We must be prepared to reckon with the complexities and hazards attending the development of this practice.
* Highlight, page 329 my vision of what a futurist can and should be does not primarily entail telling people what the future can or should be, but consists in encouraging and enabling as many as possible to make such discoveries for themselves.
* Highlight, page 330 development and spread of futures tools rather than the outcomes of their application
* Highlight, page 330 the most potent political tool, to enable people to systematically redistribute the sensible at will and on their own behalf.
* Highlight, page 330 The conundrum of the Unthinkable and the Unimaginable is everyone’s issue – certainly not just ‘futurists’, nor designers, nor those who happen to have dedicated themselves to political theory or activism; nor just the displaced former residents of New Orleans, nor yet the casualties of Detroit’s seemingly inexorable decline. It is everyone’s problem. Futures studies is a community of thinkers that has defined and directly addressed it as such. But the Great Conversation needs to belong to us all, as do all the discursive technologies, principles of experiential futures design, and other paraphernalia of wiser, ongoing conversation and political self-reinvention.
* Highlight, page 331 The general purpose of futures studies could be regarded as the provision of tools for the invention and pursuit of preferred futures; that is, the reconciliation of hopes and expectations. But it begins and ends, finally, with what any individual does in relation to those things.
* Highlight, page 331 At the end of his study ‘From Individual to Social Foresight’, the Australian futurist Peter Hayward notes, ‘At its essence, the development of foresight is an individual journey. Processes and structures can support but not instigate the journey. The stepping off point is to move from certainty towards doubt; to move from comfort to discomfort.’635
* Highlight, page 332 Becoming with futures is a process of nudging ourselves, and each other, towards an ever greater, and yet more grounded, ‘influence optimism’, to use Polak’s term. We, ourselves, one by one, finally engage, or not, the self-fulfilling prophecy of the preferred future. I think that this may be the ultimate ‘political’ moment in ‘doing futures’: one’s self-reconstruction as a person with imagination, with options, with agency.
* Highlight, page 333 Jim Dator: ‘Should I be optimistic or pessimistic about the future? I believe the answer is: neither. I should be aware and active.’638 Bruce Sterling: ‘The best attitude for a serious futurist is not pessimism or optimism, but a deep sense of engagement.’639
* Highlight, page 334 The psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna wrote in 1991, ‘Perhaps a human language is possible in which the intent of meaning is actually beheld in three- dimensional space.’641 Given the fast-emerging ingredients of ubiquitous and instantaneous information access, ‘lifelogging’, natural language recognition, automated search, and gestural interfaces, we can begin dimly to make out the possibility of future conversations in which we routinely show, rather than tell each other, what we mean. And with this comes the prospect of a hybrid ‘political’ world-making practice, already here in embryo, whereby we show, rather than merely tell, each other about our visions, hopes, and fears, our – thankfully, still plural – possible futures.