What lies over the horizon? Scenarios to the Future of Social Sciences in the Era of Digitization and Social Transformation

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The year was 2040 when the social sciences transformed into something really unrecognizable. …

The year was 2040 when the social sciences transformed into something really unrecognizable.

The social science catalogue now includes courses like coding and decoding, myth and magic, food futures, reality engineering, micropolitics, macrohistory and macrofutures, decolonization, re-creativity and re-invention, foresight studies, big history and galaxies, robotics and space sciences, spirituality and social transformations, etc. This was the tip of the iceberg. The climate of uncertainty and the explosive success of digital technology not to mention some game-changing events like the Occupy Wall Street, the discovery of the Higgs-boson like particle, the emergence of culture as driver of new economic growth among others continue to influence our ways of knowing and re-perceiving the social sciences.

Recently, many academics have speculated about the future of the social sciences. The shape of things to come will certainly come in a digitized content and more according to experts. This paper explored some scenarios on the futures of the social sciences. It tracked emerging developments and explored the possible, plausible, and preferred social science scenarios in 2040. It employed the futures triangle and archetypal scenario (business as usual, best case, worst case, outliers) methods developed by Sohail Inayatullah and Peter Schwartz respectively.The purpose of this paper is to anticipate events and leverage the changes shaping the future of the social sciences.

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  • 1. Shermon Cruz University Center for Research and Development Northwestern University; Center for Engaged Foresight World Social Science Forum 2013 Palais De Congres Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2. background, rationale, research question research methods – futures triangle, scenario archetypes, INSPECT method key drivers / drivers of change / influencers scenarios to the future of the social sciences conclusion
  • 3. knowledge divides: homogenous / singular Closed digitization: Commercial Open digitization: Public knowledge multiplies: heterogenous / plural
  • 4. What is the futures of the social sciences in the era of digitization and social transformations? What are the emerging trends, the pulls, the pushes and weights that might limit or transform the future of the social sciences?
  • 5. What are the possible, plausible and preferred social science scenarios in the year 2040? What might the social science discipline look like in those years? What lies over the horizon?
  • 6. Defining, vision, competing images; leads us forward Quantitative drivers of change, the news headlines, trends Deep structures, barriers
  • 7. Best possible circumstances, transform Game changers, wildcards Current trends worsens Status quo continues
  • 8. scenarios are written narratives of alternative environments designed to highlight the risks and opportunities involved in specific strategic issues (Ogilvy, Schwartz, 1998) scenarios are written narratives of alternative environments designed to highlight the risks and opportunities involved in specific strategic issues(Glenn, 2013). Similar to writing a movie script (Schwartz, 1998).
  • 9. Royal Dutch Shell Rand Corporation National Intelligence Council World Economic Forum Etc.
  • 10. “The future is an asset, a resource, a narrative waiting to be employed” Sohail Inayatullah, 2013
  • 11. Imagining/creating alternative futures could make our present remarkable, significant
  • 12. It used the proceedings of the 1999 and 2010 World Social Science Report and navigated the World Wide Web for relevant and related print and digital texts (journals, books, articles, reports, essays, speeches, blogs) that explored and/or imagined (logical, critical and creative) the future of the social sciences.
  • 13. scanned possible futures using the Google search, Google scholar, books, manuscripts, visions, and other scenario documents/report (print and digital) to peer into what the future could look like in 2040. INSPECT (innovations, nature, society, political, economic, cultural, technology) to scan and identify trends, drivers and emerging issues
  • 14. We narrowed our list and deliberated on its importance and uncertainty We identified the drivers based on our assumption that they are the most significant shapers to the future of the social sciences. We organized them into constellations and were used as building blocks to create our four alternative social science future worlds.
  • 15. not to ‘predict the future’ but rather to anticipate events and leverage the changes driving the field’s future to offer an alternative view and participate in the global conversation to create meaningful debates and engage social scientists, academics and practitioners to a broad range of futures questions and conversations
  • 16. to challenge our fundamental assumptions, probe received wisdom, reframe our visions and liberate our attitude towards the future of the social sciences
  • 17. There’s No Line on the Horizon: Push, Pushes and Weights of Social Science Futures
  • 18. setting the scene: enter the world of 2040
  • 19. University futures Sustainability epistemic complexity digitization Perception of the future Emerging technology
  • 20. rebuilding the mosaic damaged social sciences multiplex conception gaming the social sciences
  • 21. “Modernity is the key theme and condition of the social sciences…this situation has now become global; even those who may want to reject it or modify this predicament cannot avoid seeing themselves confronted with the modernist claim. Given its European and American roots, there is always the risk that this concern with modernity will be cast in parochial terms.” Peter Wagner, 1999
  • 22. Social science course catalogue in 2040 Philosophy I, II and III World History I, II and III Civilizations I, II and III Ethics I, II and III Government and Politics I, II and III Self, Culture and Society I, II and III Social Science Inquiry I, II and III Classics of Social, Political and Economic Thought I, II and III Colonization and Western Civilizations Introduction to World Civilizations I, II and III Introductions to Linguistics I, II and III The Complex Problem of World Hunger Problems in the study of Gender, Sexuality Anthropology of Museums
  • 23. “So what’s to be done now that big trouble has finally arrived on so many fronts? To be brutally honest, we have no idea and even less advice.” Richard Watson and Oliver Freeman, 2012
  • 24. Unemployed social scientists Unequal degree of internationalization Budget cuts/ closure Damaged social sciences Knowledge/digital divides Lack of pluralism and foresight Donor driven/ brain drain Knowledge fragmentation
  • 25. 2040 Social Science Courses (Fragmented) ‘University’ ‘Multiversity’ (singular, universal, individual oriented, homogenous, (diverse, plural, people oriented, heterogenous Eurocentric, positivist) indigenization, decolonized) Psychology Folk Psychology / Cross-cultural psychology Sociology Arabic Sociology / African Sociology / Chinese Sociology / Indian Sociology / Malay Sociology, etc. Philosophy Arabic Philosophy / Indian Philosophy / Chinese Philosophy / Malay Philosophy / African Philosophy, etc. Political Thought and Human Identity Arabic Thought and Identity / Indian Thought and Identity / Chinese Thought and Identity / Malay Thought and Identity / African Thought and Identity, etc. Universal Human rights Culture/Context based human rights / Standpoint Anthropology Europology
  • 26. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
  • 27. trans-disciplinary open access everywhere is the center / beyond the ivory tower /pluralized massive increases and demands useful personal, policy, movements Great scopes
  • 28. “Video games are one step before a whole other virtual universe” Vin Diesel
  • 29. Post-disciplinary Aging Spirituality Occupied Gaming Open access Gamed/virtualized Transmedia Robotics / Space Driven
  • 30. Social Science Catalogue in a Gaming Scenario Reality Engineering Coding and Decoding Home Economics Iteration Mapping Myth and Magic Micropolitics Macrohistory Futures Studies Video Literacy Play Photography Negotiation Translation Food Robotics Spirituality and Social Transformation Big History and Galaxies Decolonization
  • 31. - We have created plausible four alternative social science future environments - rebuilding the mosaic, damaged, multiplex, gamed. - Backcasting method and futures wheel analysis must be applied to put more content and provide specifics/actionable items – policies, program of actions, outline to achieved a preferred/ aspired future (a survey, an FI or FGD is appropriate here) - The present is a conduit to the four alternative futures. Scenarios are dynamic, they are pathways to alternative futures
  • 32. To change the future, we have to change the core narrative (Inayatullah, 2013) Serves as a mental model, images of an alternative future environments Culture eats strategy for breakfast (Inayatullah, 2013) . We have to analyze the future of the social sciences in multiple spaces / perspectives (scenarios at the local, regional is even better – contextual, grounded, situated). Not predictions but alternative narratives of social science futures Re-perceive the social sciences
  • 33. Maraming Salamat! (Thank you!)