Rabbit Holes into Wind Tunnels: The Transmedia Storytelling Potential of Foresight Scenario Innovation Zhan Li, Ph.D. Candidate (Communication), University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism email@example.com July 31, 2012 sLab @ OCADU, Toronto
Where I’m coming from…• Video games studies, participatory & convergence culture, online fan communities (Henry Jenkins, Comparative Media Studies, MIT); spreadable media, participatory civics, transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, USC)• Organizational narrative and strategy, sensemaking, network studies• How can transmedia storytelling enhance foresight scenario practices it adapts to the participatory new media landscape?• How can foresight scenario practices enhance the strategic conversation of the field of transmedia storytelling (and beyond?)?• FoE conference exercise/ Futures of Transmedia initiative
The QuestionWhy and how might transmedia storytelling help adapt foresight scenarios for the participatory new media eraGoals:• Give a thumbnail sketch of scenarios… for Transmedia Storytellers• Explore the narrative gap in foresight and why its important for its new media adaptation• Highlight examples of existing transmedia storytelling forays into foresight• Suggest starting points for thinking about how transmedia storytelling can help empower foresight scenarios
Foresight in a (very small) nutshell• Foresight, Futures [Studies]… and Futurology? – Techniques for enhancing, instilling and structuring mental model habits re: multiple possible futures; practical/plausible; visionary; subversive – Decision support for long- term and/or VUCA conditions – Applied and/or Critical – ‘family relations’: design, strategy, urban planning, contingency planning, trend
Scenario Planning vs. Scenarios?• The ‘Classic’ Scenario Planning Matrix Process – Can be resource-intensive – Ideally, Extended Process • Change org. culture – Expert networks-driven – Story = delivery vehicle – Not the only way Source: GBN/Monitor, 2004
Scenarios in Foresight: A Mystery“No matter how it is constructed, how full and rich or meager and lean, how factual or fictional, how particularistic or universalistic, the scenario gives methodological unity to futures studies. It is used by all futurists in some form or another and is, thus, by far the most widely shared methodological tool of the futures field.” (Wendell Bell, 2003)“Scenario development is the heart of futures studies. It is a key technique that distinguishes the work of professional futurists from other professions who deal with the future. With its popularity, however, has come confusion about what exactly scenario development is, and how futurists actually produce scenarios” (Bishop, Hines & Collins, 2007)
What Scenarios Are• A scenario is a story (usually short, text-based (~1p); sometimes with figures/illustrations/video but can be up to novel length) set in a plausible/valid future world that an organization or a community may face (5-50+ years ahead); scenarios typically come in sets.• Scenarios describe the progressive interactions between different actors, trends & events that drive opportunities and challenges facing an organization, community, industry, country etc.• A traditional foresight scenario exercise typically centers around data gathering, face-to-face interviews, and workshops for decision-makers/stakeholder representatives• At heart, scenarios are just structured, plausible (research-based), imaginative stories told about the various long-term futures that we face, in order to aid decision-making.
What Scenarios Are Not• They do not all stem from one technique• They are not meant to be predictive, and may not even be aimed at planning• They may not solely about preparing for the future e.g. organizational learning, networking, ideation, branding; a way to talk about the sensitivities of the present through the safe space of the future• They are not meant to simply endorse a single future vision
Four Metaphors for Scenario Methods• Wind Tunneling – Scenario methods as offering a structured thought experiment context for testing organizations’ future decisions and decision-making processes.• Memories of the Future – Scenario exercises create memories of how decision- makers reacted to hypothetical future situations. These memories enhance responses to those situations when they occur in reality.• The Surprise Machine – Scenario practices generate discussions about unexpected or less considered issues, so expanding the situation awareness of organizations and reducing risk/opportunity blindness.• The Gentle Art of Reperceiving – Scenario methods encourage people and organizations in the intuitive habits of challenging their assumptions, understanding and discussing situations from multiple perspectives; of considering the less probable seriously; and of seeking out alternative and less known explanations for events and trends.
A Mildly Forgotten Mystical Art?Cynthia Selin (2007): Pierre Wack’s “gentle art of reperceiving” is “mildly forgotten” – the classic lengthy, resource-intensive process has been mostly displaced by “atomized” “stunt scenario”/”scenario in a day” quick and cheap methods (both have their uses but…)“In my experience, scenario planning is an interpretative practice – it’s really closer to magic than technique…. We are not trying to enable everyone to create scenarios but to understand scenario-thinking…. ” (Napier Collyns, 2007) 1970s 1980s
A ‘Magic Circle’ view of the early history of Scenario Planning1950s Leo Rosten Herman Kahn
The Cultural Cringe“The danger ofentertainment scenarios…The very use of the word‘scenario’ can provedangerous for long rangeplanning: there is a risk ofbeing swamped by mediasuccesses or being limited toamusing businessmen, withlittle or no scientificgrounding.”(Godet, Roubelat, 1996)
The Opportunities and Challenges for Foresight Scenarios Opportunities ChallengesIncreased global change and Existing foresight specialists’uncertainty today means growing capacities challenged by increasingneed and demand for foresight demand/needIn foresight, the Internet revolution The foresight field needs innovationis still in its infancy momentumStorytelling in foresight Foresight field’s profile andcommunication represents a major connection withmarket & theory gap mainstream/popular culture has faded since ‘futurology’ era
The Emergence of New Media Foresight Initiatives Extending and complementing, not replacing, the face-to-face foresight consulting experience with new media storytelling. In 2006, Jamais Cascio wrote an groundbreaking blog post° which imagined how Web 2.0 technologies and open source culture could transform traditional scenario planning with a open database of scenario exercise elements for foresight practitioners. He imagined how “open source scenario planning” would be: More open, less hierarchical – breaking down the behind-closed-doors ‘elitism’ of the conventional scenario experience An ongoing knowledge community – using the Web to create permanent and public online databases of scenario elements and analyses that easily support ongoing scenario processes anywhere in the world Massively expansionary – an online community would support consideration of scenarios on a massive, unprecedented scale° http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004246.html
Pioneering examples of Transmedia Futures Projects World Without Oil (2007) by ITVS (US); online Alternate Reality Game created by Jane McGonigal (before she went on to join Institute For the Future and collaborate with Jamais Cascio) Collapsus (2010) by SubmarineChannel (NL)/VPRO (NL); directed by Tommy Pallotta (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly) – transmedia energy crisis/peak oil futures campaign, developed for Dutch public broadcaster in connection with TV documentary series. 16 Juin 2014 (2011) by Various (Tunisia) – Participatory futures/civics campaign by ad agency, broadcasters, newspapers during post- revolutionary uncertainty Wicked Solutions for a Wicked Problem/Pandemic 1.0 (2011) by The Workbook Project(US)/FreedomLab (NL) – Lance Weiler’s collaboration with Dutch futures/scenarios think tank; attempt to apply transmedia storytelling & futures to complex social problems and media strategy.
Starting points for furthering new media foresight with transmedia Engaging ‘Real World’ multi-platform media ecologies rather than closing off the foresight exercise space or treating the outside web merely as a data stream. Embracing the power and inventiveness of popular participatory storytelling forms to motivate participation and co-creation across media New media communication design that is narrative experience focused rather than e.g. code/game-focused Helping Make Foresight an Everyday Habit For All
Transmedia as a Guide to a Turbulent ‘Multi- channel’ Futures Universe How can Foresight Scenario communication work most effectively with an ever more noisy media landscape with a difficult attention economy?
Transmedia Storyworlds as a Collective Intelligence ParadigmGoing beyond the Library metaphor of conventional collective intelligence models, and imagining a collective intelligence as a Transmedia Storyworld instead (Ryan, 2011)
Transmedia as a model for understanding ‘the middle ground’ of participatory cultureLearning how to leverage the new amateur-expert power relations of co-creation and circulation
Some final rabbit holes… Jenkins’ 7 Core Concepts of Transmedia StorytellingHow might Jenkins’ Transmedia Storytelling concepts lead to enhancements to Foresight Scenarios? World-building Seriality Subjectivity Performance Transmedia’s Transmedia would Transmedia’s focus on Transmedia’s participatory culture & expand scenario users experiencing inspiration of users to collective intelligence communication to different perspectives produce and perform know-how can help multiple media blends well with their own storytelling create immersive & channels, engaging foresight’s focus on would help persistent scenario many different kinds expanding mental democratize and storyworlds co-created of audiences over the models and exploring invigorate scenario by user communities long term alternative possibilities innovation Spreadability & Continuity & Immersion & Drillability Multiplicity Extractability Transmedia expertise Transmedia design Transmedia immersion can increase the reach could maintain enhances the impact and power of foresight scenario storyworlds of scenarios; by helping spread and over long term whilst extractability enhances deepen scenarios for also encouraging many the usefulness and different kinds of more alternative portability of scenario audiences versions to develop knowledge as a tool