Monday, April 30, 2018

Transforming the Future

Last week a book was published by Routledge and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) called Transforming the Future: Anticipation in the 21st Century.

Assembled by my colleague UNESCO futurist Riel Miller, it documents an ambitious effort to develop a framework for Futures Literacy, via dozens of engagements with diverse communities all around the world over several years. The research is ongoing; this volume presents the story so far.

What it means to be ‘futures literate’ …[is] emergent. People’s fictions about the later-than-now and the frames they use to invent these imaginary futures are so important for everyday life, so ingrained and so often unremarked, that it is hard to gain the distance needed to observe and analyse what is going on.

[Anticipatory assumptions] are the most basic component of anticipatory activities: these assumptions are necessary for all ‘uses-of-the-future’ because ‘imagination’ can only be elaborated on the basis of the underlying assumptions.

The research is concentrated on how to define and assess the extent to which someone has or can become futures literate by collecting evidence of her capacity to understand the nature and role of the [anticipatory assumptions] needed to ‘use-the-future’ in practice.

My own contribution to the collection, 'Gaming Futures Literacy: The Thing From The Future', springs from our work with UNESCO a few years back, which included producing a special (bilingual French/English) edition of The Thing From The Future to distribute to delegates at the Youth Forum held in Paris in 02015. The introduction, condensed:

Amid pervasive uncertainty and accelerating change, one of our great challenges, and opportunities, is to make high quality engagement with the yet-to-be more widespread.

The good news is that our repertoire of uses of the future, the set of available ways to map and manifest possible paths or waypoints ahead, is far from exhausted. Exciting vistas have recently opened up with foresight’s ‘experiential turn’ towards fuller exploration of design, media and games.

This chapter presents a case study of an experiential futures card game called The Thing from the Future, reflecting on it as a method for popularising and demystifying futures, and explaining the design mechanisms that make it tick. While undoubtedly a limited tool (like all tools), its potential significance as part of a wave of efforts to spread Futures Literacy which are actually enjoyable to use may give heart to those in search of new ways towards distributed anticipation and social foresight.

The whole chapter ‘Gaming Futures Literacy’ is available here.

A short video about the larger Futures Literacy Labs project was released by UNESCO last year, and can be found here.

And finally, thanks to Innovation Norway, the book Transforming the Future is available in full here.

> La Chose du Futur à Paris
> The Thing From The Future
> The Polak Game, or: Where do you stand?