Sunday, July 07, 2019

The music of a community emerging

Volume II of the Journal of Futures Studies special issue on Design and Futures has been published!

A Conversation Piece installation by Agence Future in Belgium (02017) | Photo by Bram Goots

Co-edited over the past several years with Cher Potter from the V&A Museum and University of the Arts London, the first half of this major project came out a couple of months ago.

The second half is now out too: another dozen and a half contributions exploring futures and design's intersections. About fifty writers appear in this special issue overall, voices from around the world; Mexico to Portugal, Australia to Taiwan, Kenya to Kazakhstan.

We recognise this as just the start of a vibrant and fast-moving hybrid field of activity that barely existed a decade ago. We were sadly unable to incorporate every piece that we would have liked, but glad to offer a platform taking the design/futures conversation forward that includes some of the key figures in the field, alongside others brand new to it.

Below is our intro to Volume II (with contributor links added). In case you haven't looked at Volume I yet, you might like to start there, but the two halves of this collection can also be read independent of each other and in either order.


Introduction to the Special Issue: Design and Futures (Vol. II)

Volume I of this special double issue of the Journal of Futures Studies ‘Design and Futures’ – the largest themed project in the history of the journal – began by noting something that is increasingly self-evident to anyone paying attention: the fields of futures and design are merging in a process of dialogue, experimentation, and mutual discovery. Obvious perhaps, and yet this process and the practices and perspectives it engenders are nonetheless remarkable. They show no sign of abating.

The dialogue continues (note we do not say ‘concludes’) here in Volume II, with scholars and practitioners from across the two fields, and beyond, delving more deeply into the practical and philosophical issues at various intersections. Both established and emerging voices share generously of their case studies, lessons learned, and methodological questions. They traverse the worlds of media, design, curation, and strategic foresight; they propose research strategies that cross community perspectives and shift our geographical (and political) focus to different sites for design and futures. To adapt an observation from cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove, “position and context are centrally and inescapably implicated in all constructions of [design and futures] knowledge” (Cosgrove, 1999, p. 7).

This second volume of ‘Design and Futures’ opens with seven peer-reviewed articles from a constellation of contexts, spanning five continents: Maya van Leemput (Belgium) distils lessons from many years of relational work and play where futures meets media, art and design [upper image]. Leah Zaidi (Canada) illuminates the importance of worldbuilding as an emerging practice that intersects science fiction with real-life applications of design and foresight. Ralph Borland (South Africa) outlines a case study of interventionist art from the streets of Cape Town as an instance of guerrilla futures activism [lower image]. Karla Paniagua (Mexico) describes the first four years of running a postgraduate design/futures program in the highly energetic and fast-changing context of Latin American foresight practice (la prospectiva). Stefanie A. Ollenburg (Germany) offers a generic ‘research through design’ framework, inviting researchers to hybridise futures and design in participatory projects, early and often. And finally, a pair of case studies from Taiwan: Jeanne Hoffman investigates preferred future images about the environment in 2060 as held by a cross-cultural cohort of undergraduate students; and Kuo-Hua Chen considers the possibility of designing for increased environmental awareness among young Taiwanese through a suite of futures interventions in curriculum.

These are followed by a potent collection of shorter essays and interviews from philosopher Timothy Morton; Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli; transdisciplinary artists Maja Kuzmanovic, Tina Auer, Tim Boykett and Nik Gaffney; designers Nik Baerten, Dan Hill, and Lucy Kimbell; futurists Aaron Rosa and John Sweeney; NASA visual strategist David Delgado; architect Lizzie Yarina, and design theorist Tony Fry.

Taken in singularity, these voices are strikingly diverse, but when hearing them together, they begin to harmonise. It is the music of a community emerging.

Through this issue, we encounter contemporary questions around design and futures in the twenty-first century, as well as ageless questions about what it means to be human, and the nature of time itself. We’re excited to see what these may do to help deepen, enrich and catalyse further activity and exchange.

It seems fitting that this second volume starts and ends with articles about journeys. This project has been a remarkable journey for us as guest editors – with several years of work spanning multiple job changes, international relocations, and children being born – as well as tremendous changes in the context of design and futures themselves. In spite of expanding this themed publication to two volumes, the interest and contributions have far exceeded our expectations. It is gratifying that the relevance of this undertaking continues to grow apace.

We wish to express our gratitude to all authors who submitted proposals; our wonderful peer reviewers; our incredibly understanding partners on the home front; and not least José Ramos of the Journal of Futures Studies, without whose tireless support this project would not have been possible.

Stuart Candy and Cher Potter, Guest Editors

Cosgrove, D. E. (1999). Mappings. London: Reaktion Books.


The whole of Design and Futures, Volume II is available in open access via JFS – please enjoy, share, and build on what you find.

> Design and Futures, Volume I
> From killer apps to killer imps
> Design is Storytelling
> Critical activism (Anab Jain in JFS)
> I Design Worlds (Liam Young in JFS)
> Ghosts of futures past