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Three Dimensions of Foresight

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How can creative and concerned citizens tell more effective stories about the future? Make them different, deep, and diverse.

This talk by design futurist Stuart Candy from Carnegie Mellon University was given in April 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic to help launch the online collaborative storytelling experiment #FromTheFutures, hosted by Lance Weiler and the Digital Storytelling Lab at Columbia University.

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Three Dimensions of Foresight

  1. 1. THREe dimensions of foresight Stuart Candy, PhD Director, Situation Lab Associate Professor of Design Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA #FromTheFutures Columbia DSL April 09, 02020 @futuryst / futuryst.blogspot.com @sitlab / situationlab.org
  2. 2. Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, CMU, Pittsburgh PA
  3. 3. “In a time of extreme change, From the Futures attempts to collectively make sense of the present, through the shared imagining and prototyping of a better tomorrow.” Source: fromthefutures.org
  4. 4. “Instead of just hoping to return to our old normal, what would it mean to collectively muster our courage, creativity and resilience to make the futures we envision a reality?” Source: fromthefutures.org
  5. 5. Most of us have extensive experience with science / speculative fiction images of the future
  6. 6. We could have a very interesting conversation about the ways in which these stories do and do not prepare us to navigate actual change in the world
  7. 7. The field of futures studies or foresight has emerged over the past half century to tackle the challenges of thinking more effectively about various possible worlds that might actually come about
  8. 8. It has a more academic side (e.g. understanding the “images of the future” people carry and how these influence action), and an applied side (e.g. understanding how to help organisations, companies and communities of all kinds navigate change)
  9. 9. The best futurists I know are usually interested and involved in both
  10. 10. Over the past decade and half, building on this foundation, my colleagues and I have been developing new theories and practices that bridge in particular to media, the arts and design…
  11. 11. Experiential futures: “the design of situations and stuff from the future to catalyse insight and change” See: Candy & Dunagan (2017). Designing an Experiential Scenario, Futures, 86: 136-153
  12. 12. Experiential futures Stuff Situations @futuryst / thx @gregvan Design fiction; Speculative and Critical design Immersive scenarios; Roleplaying and simulation
  13. 13. Today I’ll introduce futures/foresight in general, and experiential futures in particular, by talking about three kinds of thought that these practices call for
  14. 14. Three Dimensions of Foresight
  15. 15. 1. Difference 2. Depth 3. Diversity
  16. 16. Let’s take a closer look
  17. 17. 1. Difference
  18. 18. The first dimension is addressing that the future context is not the same as the present context
  19. 19. Everything that exists once did not. Everything that currently exists one day will no longer.
  20. 20. Pace layers diagram: Brand (01999). The Clock of the Long Now
  21. 21. Source: Beja & Lorente (2011). The constructal law origin of the logistics S curve. Journal of Applied Physics 110, 024901-2.
  22. 22. Yet often we think in terms of whatever is going on in the present, just extended indefinitely
  23. 23. An alternative approach is to look for seeds of change in the present and imagine them growing into something more significant
  24. 24. Example: Coral Cross See: Candy (2020). When Reality Outruns Imagination https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/when-reality-outruns-imagination-stuart-candy/
  25. 25. The first serious game funded by the CDC, Coral Cross (2009) was an alternate reality game commissioned by the Hawaii Department of Health to support pandemic preparedness
  26. 26. Design: Matthew Jensen for HRCFS, 2009
  27. 27. Designed in late 2008 / early 2009 (early in the days of social media), the story was based on a flu pandemic set 2-3 years into the future, and it imagined an effective peer-to- peer emergency response in the islands, coordinated on social media through an (imaginary) organisation, Coral Cross
  28. 28. Design: Matthew Jensen for HRCFS, 2009
  29. 29. Shockingly, just weeks before the scheduled launch of this painstakingly designed pandemic preparedness alternate reality game, there was an actual pandemic, the first in over 40 years (H1N1 swine flu)
  30. 30. We retooled the project as an “emergent reality game.” Since the pandemic was real, Coral Cross had to be as well…
  31. 31. This story helps make the point about the dimension of difference in two ways:
  32. 32. Source: HRCFS, 2009
  33. 33. 1. Imagining then-nascent social media platforms as a seed of positive community change was a way to try telling a story about a different future
  34. 34. Source: HRCFS, 2009
  35. 35. 2. The future is almost never what you expect! (even when you’re actively anticipating it)
  36. 36. Now, a very different case…
  37. 37. Example: NaturePod™ See: Candy (2016). NaturePod™ https://futuryst.blogspot.com/2016/05/naturepod.html
  38. 38. With a group of graduate students,* we created a hypothetical product and launched it as if it were real, at Canada’s largest architecture and interior design show * Situation Lab team at OCAD University (2015), Toronto: Bergur Ebbi Benediktsson, Nourhan Hegazy, Jennifer McDougall, and Prateeksha Singh
  39. 39. NaturePod™ (2015) put together the vogue for “biophilic architecture” with the march of screens into every aspect of our lives, taking both to their logical (?) conclusion
  40. 40. Photo: NaturePod | Connie Tsang for Situation Lab
  41. 41. Photo: NaturePod | Connie Tsang for Situation Lab
  42. 42. Photo: NaturePod | Connie Tsang for Situation Lab
  43. 43. Difference The future is another place.
  44. 44. 2. Depth
  45. 45. Source: Schacter and Addis (2007). Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 362, 773–786 elaboration of past and future events past events future events
  46. 46. We use our experiences from the past to navigate change
  47. 47. Raising the theoretical possibility of a different future is not enough
  48. 48. Here’s how the world’s top climate scientists have tried to get the world’s top decision-makers to take climate disruption seriously
  49. 49. Source: IPCC 2018
  50. 50. While this is what’s at stake…
  51. 51. Source: News Media Insider
  52. 52. Source: michaelappleton. com
  53. 53. There is an ‘experiential gulf’ between how we typically represent/narrate futures for serious purposes, and what real situations feel like on the ground
  54. 54. Thinking about change in the abstract, at a high level, is one thing. But how might we get under the skin?
  55. 55. If we want hypotheticals to make a real difference, we need to experience that difference for real
  56. 56. Example: Plastic Century See: Dunagan (2010). Our Plastic Century. http://www.iftf.org/future-now/article-detail/our-plastic-century/
  57. 57. Plastic has in recent years become a kind of mini environmental cause célèbre. A decade ago, for the hundredth anniversary of mass plastic production, we* did an installation at the California Academy of Sciences to help put this issue on people’s radars. * Stuart Candy, Jake Dunagan, Wallace J Nichols and Sarah Kornfeld
  58. 58. Image credit: Plastic Century | Candy, Dunagan, Kornfeld, & Nichols, 2010
  59. 59. How to make the historical reality of exponentially increasing plastic, and the disturbing forecast (expected production 2010-2030 exceeding total ever produced 1910-2010) register with people at a gut level?
  60. 60. Photo: Plastic Century | Mike Estee, 2010
  61. 61. Photos: Plastic Century | Mike Estee, 2010
  62. 62. Photo: Plastic Century | Mike Estee, 2010
  63. 63. Tool: The Experiential Futures Ladder See: Candy & Dunagan (2017), Designing an Experiential Scenario, Futures, 86: 136-153
  64. 64. Experiences Objects @futuryst 2020 Stories Ideas ABSTRACT CONCRETE WHAT FUTURES HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN GOOD AT WHAT DESIGN HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN GOOD AT
  65. 65. Situations ABSTRACT CONCRETE Stuff The Experiential Futures Ladder @futuryst 2017 EXPERIENTIAL GULF Scenarios Settings KINDS OF FUTURE; VAGUE DESCRIPTIONS SPECIFIC FUTURE HISTORIES OR STATES 1:1-SCALE, VISITABLE REPRESENTATIONS OF TIME AND PLACE ARTIFACTS OR MATERIAL INSTANTIATIONS
  66. 66. Depth Any future that we get will be as real and complex as the present is.
  67. 67. But there is still another essential dimension…
  68. 68. 3. Diversity
  69. 69. Many of us have inherited a linear conception of time, and think the task is to work out what “the future” holds
  70. 70. the present time à the futurethe past @futuryst
  71. 71. But: any single image of the future, no matter how compelling, is incomplete
  72. 72. “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick
  73. 73. A key to investigating real-life futures is hiding in plain sight
  74. 74. futureS
  75. 75. @futuryst (after Minkowski, Hancock & Bezold, Voros, and others) the present moment time à futureS
  76. 76. There are lots of different generative processes and frameworks; ways of generating scenario sets
  77. 77. Source: GBN (1992). Deeper News 7(1)
  78. 78. Source: Jon Worth Euroblog, Brexit Diagram Series 3, v. 21, 19.9.2019, 21h30 brexitdiagram.files.wordpress .com/2019/09/brexit- what-next-21.png (CC-SA)
  79. 79. Source: Arup Foresight
  80. 80. Collapse Transform Discipline Grow
  81. 81. How may this idea of diversity or plurality of possible futures be used in practice?
  82. 82. Example: Hawaii 2050 See: Candy (2016). Ghosts of Futures Past. https://futuryst.blogspot.com/2016/08/ghosts-of-futures-past.html
  83. 83. A scenario from “Hawaii 2050” Source: Candy, Dator, & Dunagan (2006). Four Futures for Hawaii 2050. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/253641086
  84. 84. To help kick off a public conversation and a process intended to co-create a sustainability plan for Hawaii (in 2006), we* turned four written scenarios about the islands in the year 2050 into four experiential scenarios for 500+ people to inhabit * Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan, then at Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, with a team of designers, improv actors and volunteers
  85. 85. Source: Stuart Candy / Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies 2006. Photos: Cyrus Camp
  86. 86. Experiential futures Stuff Situations @futuryst / thx @gregvan Design fiction; Speculative and Critical design Immersive scenarios; Roleplaying and simulation
  87. 87. the present moment time à @futuryst (after Minkowski, Hancock & Bezold, Voros, and others)
  88. 88. Example: The Time Machine See: Candy (2013) in Briggs, ed. 72 Assignments. Paris: PCA Press. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305333152
  89. 89. The Time Machine is an experiential futures approach for art, design, and foresight practitioners and learners to create a room-scale experience from the future. Developed / deployed to date at: • Carnegie Mellon University • North Carolina State University, Durham NC • CEDIM, Mexico City • OCAD University, Toronto • California College of the Arts, San Francisco • National University of Singapore
  90. 90. Any changed future world would manifest in countless rooms within that world
  91. 91. A Time Machine is a room created to make it possible to visit and immerse in a future world
  92. 92. How can you make use of this principle now? Especially since, in your teams, you’ll be telling one story rather than a whole set
  93. 93. Two practical suggestions
  94. 94. 1. Make your future different from the future stories that you are most used to seeing
  95. 95. 2. Ideate diversely before you choose what to do (diverge before converging)
  96. 96. Diversity The future is always multiple potentials, not just one
  97. 97. Tool: The Thing From The Future See: Candy (2018), “Gaming Futures Literacy.” In Miller, ed. Transforming the Future. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312016855
  98. 98. The Thing From The Future is a card game for scaffolding imagination, discussion and prototyping of specific things from countless alternative futures. Co-designed with Jeff Watson (USC). Deployed to date, for example, at: • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva • Museum of Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro • Nesta’s FutureFest, London • UNDP, New York • UNESCO, Paris • Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Alaska • Massachusetts Institute of Technology • New York University • The INK Conference, India • Maker Festival, Toronto • IDEO • Dropbox (…and many more)
  99. 99. governance future there is a related to what is it? monumentjoyful In a #FutureThing by Stuart Candy and Jeff Watson | @sitlab 2018
  100. 100. governance related to what is it? monumentjoyful In a future there is a #FutureThing by Stuart Candy and Jeff Watson | @sitlab 2018
  101. 101. THE FAMILY future there is a related to what is it? DEVICEFEMINIST In a #FutureThing by Stuart Candy and Jeff Watson | @sitlab 2018
  102. 102. THE FAMILY what is it? DEVICEFEMINIST future related toIn a there is a #FutureThing by Stuart Candy and Jeff Watson | @sitlab 2018
  103. 103. Future Theme Thing
  104. 104. The structure works and is infinitely customisable – whether or not you have the card deck
  105. 105. {THEME} what is it? {THING}{KIND OFfuture} future related toIn an there is a #FutureThing by Stuart Candy and Jeff Watson | @sitlab 2018
  106. 106. So overall…
  107. 107. First dimension: Difference. The future is another place. Look for seeds of change that could be really transformative if they were to grow
  108. 108. Second dimension: Depth. Any future that we get will be as real and complex as the present is. We must try to not just think, but also feel, our way into these future conditions, to grapple with them effectively
  109. 109. Third dimension: Diversity. The future is always multiple potentials, not just one. Look for something new and valuable to bring to the ecology of thinkable futures
  110. 110. And futures imagined with Difference, Depth, and Diversity enable a fourth D: Design
  111. 111. We can’t exercise wiser choices without alternatives. We won’t discern alternatives without looking for them.
  112. 112. Not just successful organisation- level navigation of change, but our collective future as a species, depends on using our capacity to imagine worlds together – “social foresight” See: Candy (2010), The Futures of Everyday Life. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305280378
  113. 113. The risks of not having these competencies built into our societies and institutions are increasingly obvious
  114. 114. At the same time, the huge upside potential of making these ways of thinking and designing normal is only just starting to be seen
  115. 115. thanks 谢谢 gracias ‫ﺷ‬‫ﻛ‬‫ر‬‫ا‬ Хвала ありがとう terima kasih @futuryst @sitlab futuryst.blogspot.com

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