Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Futures of Everyday Life

Artwork by Sky Kiyabu for FoundFutures, August 02006
Poster used in Hawaii 2050 Blue Room

(Update 31jan12: The full dissertation is available for download as a pdf here.)
(Update 12aug16: Previous link amended to point to DOI.)

In Honolulu last Thursday morning, 27 May, I defended my completed doctoral dissertation. The five committee members accepted the document as submitted, without requiring any changes. To say that this comes as a relief hardly begins to describe the feeling.

I owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of people -- family, friends, and colleagues -- for incalculable moral and intellectual support. You know who you are: thank you. But I want to acknowledge here the key contributions of two people in particular: Jim Dator, my committee chair and mentor, truly the futurist's futurist, and the reason for my going to Hawaii to begin with; and Jake Dunagan, my long time collaborator and friend, with whom much of both the practice and theory of experiential scenarios, as described in the dissertation, were developed. To be able to work with such fine people as these makes an otherwise arduous process totally worthwhile.

The rhythm of everyday life around here is going to change now that the long PhD writing process is behind me... Time at last to take a few deep breaths.

The Futures of Everyday Life: Politics and the Design of Experiential Scenarios


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.


Anne said...

Congratulations! I hope you will consider making it available online.

csven said...

Agree with Anne. Would very much enjoy reading your dissertation.

sportsbabel said...

awesome stuart!!

and so glad to hear you'll be able to return soon to delivering the rest of us nice bite-size chunks of your thought rather than one big treatise! congratulations.....

tricia wang said...

hey stuart I just came across your work - I would love to find out if you are making your dissertation available online or if you have future plans for it. thanks!

Stuart Candy said...

Hi folks, thanks for the encouragement to share my dissertation! I'm currently investigating options for making it more widely available, and will post again when I have more to share on that.

Cynthia Selin said...

congrats. reveal in it. and don't loose track of all the tentacles you tucked in. i look forward to getting to know your work better

jdt said...

Terrific! Thank you.
Joel Ticknor