Thursday, September 01, 2016

A Question of Scale

Diagram by Daisy Ginsberg; original here.

How do you scale experiential futures?

If we're serious about infusing foresight into the culture at large, how can experiences of possible futures reach more people?

The Futures of Everyday Life concluded by connecting the promise of experiential futures to the prospect of social foresight, a distributed cultural capacity for thinking ahead.

This question of scale, then, has been a driver in much of my work over the past several years.

It is in the DNA of The Thing From The Future, a game we created to make concrete futures ideation (storytelling and design fiction) faster, easier and more widespread.

Itt's one of the main motivations behind the series of playful participatory design events that we -- Situation Lab and The Extrapolation Factory -- have run at OCAD [video], New York University [video] and the University of Southern California [post].

Scale via the classroom route has been at the heart of an experiential futures assignment I've developed over the past few years called The Time Machine, written up in 02013, then taught and iterated each semester since. (A Time Machine turns a room into an experiential scenario at 1:1 scale, immersing visitors in a possible future.)

And scale is also the central question I brought to the most recent Oxford Futures Forum, held at the University of Oxford a couple of years ago now. An abstract contributed for that event is reproduced below, by way of a prelude to sharing more here soon about experiential futures practice at scale.

In particular, we'll be taking a look at several dozen Time Machines created so far, as well as the Museum of the Future exhibition which I worked on for the World Government Summit held in Dubai earlier this year.


Scaling experiential scenarios 
In recent years a romance between foresight and design has blossomed, with much engaging and media-rich output emanating from the encounter (Antonelli 2008; Sterling 2009; Candy 2010; Haldenby 2013; Dunne and Raby 2013). Notably, hybrid practices such as "design fiction" and "experiential futures" have been entering common currency (Bleecker 2009; Raford 2012; Turney 2013).
I have collaboratively developed experiential futures (a broader term, encompassing design fiction) across wildly different contexts - public art installations, client workshops, massively multiplayer online games, and so on. Hybridising scenarios and design brings visceral engagement into a dry tradition that otherwise threatens to fall short of its culture- and history-catalyzing potential (Candy 2010). 
So what’s next? 
The task of putting design more impactfully in service of scenarios poses two complementary questions: 
* What kinds of scaled-up immersion are possible -- considering, for instance, a transmedia intervention during the Arab Spring whereby multiple Tunisian media - press, radio and TV - reported "from" 14 June 2014, three years into the future, for a whole day? (Candy 2011) 
* What structures of participation are most effective for scaffolding experiential futures design – e.g., what makes a successful brief for students translating textual scenario premises into tangible, immersive form? (Candy 2013, 2014; Candy and Dunagan forthcoming) 
Having been involved in the futures field since 1997 as (variously) a student, researcher, consultant, artist, and educator, my interest in these topics spans all these modes. The work has not always generated the expected results, but it has always been illuminating. 

• Antonelli, P. 2008. Design and the Elastic Mind. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
• Bleecker, Julian. 2009. Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design Fact and Fiction. Near-Future Laboratory, Los Angeles.
• Candy, Stuart. 2010. The Futures of Everyday Life: Politics and the Design of Experiential Scenarios. Dissertation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of Political Science.
• Candy, Stuart. 2011. ‘An experiential scenario for post-revolution Tunisia.’ The Sceptical Futuryst. 1 April.
• Candy, Stuart. 2013. ‘Time Machine / Reverse Archaeology: Create an experience or artifact from the future.’ In 72 Assignments: The Foundation Course in Art and Design Today. Chloe Briggs (ed.). PCA Press, Paris.
• Candy, Stuart. 2014. “Dreaming Together: Public Imagination and the Future of Governance”. In Made Up: Design's Fictions. Tim Durfee and Mimi Zeiger (eds.) JRP Ringier / Art Center Graduate Press, Zurich. Forthcoming.
• Candy, Stuart and Jake Dunagan. 2014. ‘The People Who Vanished: Co-creating an Experiential Scenario’. Futures. Forthcoming.
• Dunne, Anthony and Fiona Raby. 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
• Haldenby, Trevor. 2013. Bringing the Future to Life: Pervasive Transmedia Scenarios and the World of Worlding. MDes Thesis. Strategic Foresight and Innovation Program, OCAD University, Toronto, ON.
• Raford, Noah. 2012. ‘From Design Fiction to Experiential Futures.’ In The Future of Futures. Andrew Curry (ed.) Association of Professional Futurists, Houston, TX.
• Sterling, Bruce. 2009. ‘Design Fiction.’ In Interactions 16, 3.
• Turney, Jon. 2013. Imagining Technology. Nesta Working Paper 13/06, March.


This contribution can be found in the full collection of abstracts from the Oxford Futures Forum, on this occasion dealing with the theme Design and Scenarios.

A recent special issue of the journal Futures guest edited by Thomas Chermack, Cynthia Selin, Rafael Ramirez and Yasser Bhatti features several articles arising from the Forum.

The edited collection called Made Up referenced above is officially no longer happening, unfortunately, but the piece I wrote for it has been posted here: Dreaming Together.

And the article co-authored with Jake Dunagan, listed as Forthcoming, appeared in Futures a few months ago under the title Designing an Experiential Scenario.

> Experiential Futures in The Economist
Dreaming Together
> An experiential scenario for post-revolution Tunisia
> The People Who Vanished
> 1-888-FUTURES
> The Futures of Everyday Life

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