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“X-Factor Futures” is a scenario workshop to explore the 'x factor’ of xCoAx, the link between computation, communication and aesthetics. In this day-long workshop we will develop scenarios with the elusive 'x factor' as main protagonist. Using foresight techniques, including scenario building and horizon scanning, alongside more experimental methods we will cook up some experiential futures. Together, we will explore parallel pasts, impractical presents and possible futures in the search for connections. The created scenarios will be translated into an experience prototype or “future pre-enactment”.

Participants: Tina Auer, Tim Boykett, Victoria Bradbury, Alkan Chipperfield, Mara Dionisio, Nik Gaffney, Julian Hanna, Jared Hawkey, Ricardo Melo, Valentina Nisi, Francisco Laranjo, José Luís Tavares, Ivo Teixeira, Andreas Zingerle

Facilitated by: Maja Kuzmanovic, with assistance from Nik Gaffney, Tim Boykett, Valentina Nisi and Julian Hanna

Production: Ricardo Melo, FoAM and xCoAx

Workshop page on the xCoAx site:

The title of the workshop is “X-factor Futures”. By the X-factor, we mean the “X” in xCoAX“ (not the TV talent show): the link between computation, art and communication. It is a phenomenon that is hard to put in words, but becomes clear through experience, for example in transdisciplinary collaborations. The x-factor is related to something called the “Third Culture”, a term coined by C.P. Snow (1962) and popularised by John Brockman (1995) of the Edge Foundation. The third culture goes beyond rivalry of art and science to affect and create meaning in everyone's lives (at least that is the aim). Finding a language to communicate across disciplines, focusing on experience and immediacy, as well as clearly explaining difficult ideas is what the Third Culture proponents stand for. The Third Culture is facilitated through digital technologies and cultural phenomena like maker cultures or speculative culture - situations in which people from all walks of life find themselves temporarily, and what emerges is neither art nor science but something in between. This workshop is one of such situations. We co-create across disciplines, we experiment with different techniques and ambiguous topics and work with experiences that involve not just our analytical, but also synthetic, physical and inter-personal skills.

The second part of the workshop title is “futures”. Why work with “futures”? Because by projecting our imagination forward to a range of possible futures, we can get some distance from our present situation and see it from different vantage points. This might help us gain clearer (or different) perspectives on what is going on today. Secondly, the Third Culture, or any culture for that matter, doesn't develop overnight. If we work in the pace layer of culture (see image below), our conception of what is “now” needs to broaden, to become an extended present or the long now. We live in complex, entangled systems, with which we have an interdependent relationship. This means that whatever we do will influence this system (however imperceptibly), and that whatever happens to the system will affect us. Interdependence is intimately linked with our sense of “agency” in the world - our ability to influence the systems we are a part of. With agency comes responsibility, but also creativity and an awareness that we are a part of ever increasing wholes and that our actions have a cause and effect that is bigger than our individual lives. In this workshop, we will exercise responsibility, creativity and awareness.


Pace Layering

As a participant in this workshop you are responsible for your own experience, and we invite you to make the most out of it. Awareness is related to you being aware of the other people in the room, of the group as a whole and of the task we have set ourselves to complete by the end of today. Much of the process today is designed to tap into your creativity, imagination, intuition and your curiosity to constructively work with others - to be co-creative.

Another reason to work with futures is because this workshop is a part of the “Future Fabulators” project, co-ordinated by Time's Up, with FoAM, M-ITI and AltArt as partners. In Future Fabulators we integrate storytelling, foresight and transmedia technologies to bridge the gap between our everyday futures and the “big futures” of climate change, technological advancement, economic turbulence etc.

This brings us to the core question of this workshop: What does The Third Culture look like?” This question was chosen by the participants who casted their votes on the xfutures poll, out of 27 ideas proposed by a few members of the Future Fabulators and based on the participants' motivations to join the workshop. Our task for today is to explore a range of possible answers. How will we do that?

In the morning we will begin by exploring different aspects of the Third Culture and the X-Factor in the present. We will ask ourselves what is known, what is assumed and what is unknown to us at the moment. We will look at what might influence changes in the Third Culture internally and externally, by thinking about what drives change in art, computation, communication and “the other” (or x in xCoAx). In the afternoon, we will project/speculate about what might be probable, possible and even preferred futures for the Third Culture, and at the end create different scenarios, using words, images and experiences.

The process can be intense and fast paced. We therefore ask for your complete commitment from now until we end at five o’clock. The workshop is not about deep philosophical discussions, but you can see it as a quick-and-dirty prototyping of possible futures/extended presents. We will have to help each other stay on topic and stay on time. If the facilitators appear strict, this is only for the sake of getting where we want to be at the end of the afternoon: having a set of scenarios that we can use to better understand the Third Culture and to take this understanding into the rest of the xCoAx conference and hopefully also into your lives after we leave Porto. But today is about high-speed incubation, drawing from intuition, serendipity and synchronicity. The long 'fermentation' of ideas might continue for days, months or even years - you never know when something you heard or did today might help you in your life and work.

For today, we invite you to adopt a “go with the flow” attitude. Don’t worry about conversations that seem to take long to start, or ones that end quickly. Don’t worry about being clever, just be yourself - in a Third Culture we need people from all walks of life, with a whole range of mind- and skillsets.

The process is highly participatory. You won’t have much time to sit back and listen to talks - you have the rest of the conference for such activities. We have created a framework, but it is up to you to create the content and your experience. I invite you to enjoy yourself and stay engaged. To help your participation, we have a few house rules:

  • Take your time to listen and observe before you speak, practice active listening
  • Be respectful of the needs and wishes of others in the group
  • Minimise your communication with the external world
  • Use your two feet: if you feel like you are tired, not contributing, or you simply want to explore different points of view - use your two feet to change groups or step out for a while. Also, if you can’t commit to the workshop for a full day, please use your two feet to leave the room now. But if you can stay with us, let’s begin!
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  • Last modified: 2014-06-26 10:02
  • by nik