Programme

(T009)
Future Knowing, Future Making. What Anticipation does to STS.
Location 118
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 4

Convenors

  • Celine Granjou (University of Grenoble-Alps (IRSTEA)) email
  • Juan Francisco Salazar ( Western Sydney University) email

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Short Abstract

This track addresses the reconfiguration of techno-scientific agendas toward anticipatory goals and future-related expertise. It aims to account for the various assemblages of practices, infrastructures and imaginaries enabling experts and lay people to anticipate, foster and pre-empt the future.

Long Abstract

Today, anticipation of the future is coming to the fore as an emerging field of expertise and practice: anticipatory goals and concerns are incorporated within a growing number of disciplinary fields, communities of practice and industrial sectors concerned with climate change, risk management, security planning or strategic foresight. This open track invites communications that will account for how the future is made an object of knowledge, practice and ethics, as people from various disciplines, fields and sectors engage with enduring assessments of the 'not yet'. Its aims to foster contributions documenting the reconfiguration of research agendas and techno-industrial innovation pathways toward anticipatory goals and concerns in areas such as: industry and risk management; environmental sciences, governance and climate change; security and preparedness; trading and finances; (inter)national strategic future expertise; science and science-fiction; the role of STS scholars in knowing and making certain futures.… By accounting for the various assemblages of practices, forms of representation and material infrastructures enabling experts and lay people to anticipate, foster, and pre-empt the futures, contributions may contribute to documenting the shaping and maintenance of communities of anticipation and to unpacking the various, partly competing politics of anticipation at stake. The track aims to open up new dialog and boundary-zones between STS and Future studies in order to understand how futures are brought into the present forms of technoscientific organization and praxis and which sites, practices, infrastructures, scenarios, imaginaries and politics are involved in attempting to make futures thinkable, imaginable and actionable.

SESSIONS: 4/4/4/5

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Construction of a "climate change problem" in forest modelling studies

Author: Antoine Dolez (Institut National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l'environnement et l'agriculture)  email

Short Abstract

Modelling practices have a key role in how scientists foresee and anticipate the responses of forests to climate change. This paper aims to identify the network of technological knowledges, research practices, and collaborations, by which scientists assess the future of French forests.

Long Abstract

In today's research agendas the concept of "climate change" prevails in any assessment of the future of French forests. Forests modelers have developed technological devices and practices, networks of collaborations and ways of reasoning and justifying their activities so as to elaborate conjectural representations about how French forests could evolve in the future. This paper investigates how scientists construct a "climate change problem" in their forest modelling studies. How do they design their studies and in particular their models so as to integrate the consequences of climate change? How do scientific practices (graphs, maps, results, ways of knowing or world views) construct and embody the reality of "climate change" which is partly invisible and not happened yet? The paper is based on semi-structured interviews with scientists. It first explores how scientists build tangible images, visions and representations of the evolution of French forests through the development of modelling processes, and new collaborations and skills in statistics and computer sciences. The paper also aims to characterize the modalities and the principles of a "conjectural" knowledge which create several visions of the future of French forests which both scientists and end-users will base their recommendations and decisions on.

BURNING ANTICIPATION: WILDFIRE, RISK MITIGATION AND SIMULATION MODELLING IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA

Author: Timothy Neale (Deakin University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses a pilot in Victoria, where practitioners have utilised a model to measure and intervene in wildfire risk. The pilot presents this calculative collective device at a moment of what I label ‘calculative rearticulation,’ wherein figurations of the future are rebooted or recalibrated.

Long Abstract

Wildfire is a global environmental 'problem' with significant socioeconomic and socionatural impacts that does not lend itself to simple technical fixes (Gill et al., 2013: 439). In Australia, a country with a pronounced history of disastrous landscape fires, these impacts are expected to increase as the peri-urban population continues to grow and the climate continues to change. This paper draws upon the burgeoning literature on anticipatory regimes to analyse an in-depth case study of a government pilot in the highly fire-prone State of Victoria, where practitioners have utilised a simulation model to measure and intervene in the distribution of wildfire risk. The pilot presents the 'calculative collective device' (Callon and Muniesa, 2005) of wildfire management at a moment of what I label 'calculative rearticulation,' wherein figurations of the future are rebooted, reconstructed, or recalibrated; such moments, I suggest, can reorient the institutionally conservative spaces—such as environmental or risk management—providing opportunities for practitioners and others to interrogate the existing distribution of hazards and anticipatory interventions, and through which 'hazardous' more-than-human landscapes can be imagined otherwise.

When space research meets composting. The future of Melissa.

Authors: Celine Granjou (University of Grenoble-Alps (IRSTEA))  email
Jeremy Walker (University of Technology Sydney)  email

Short Abstract

Melissa is a European Space Agency project of micro-ecological plant for spaceflight, providing crew with air, water and food and recycling waste using microbes. We unpack the eco-futurist politics of anticipation at stake in this vision of a minimal, earthless, and thoroughly human-controlled biosphere.

Long Abstract

The history of intersection between space research and the life sciences includes a number of attempts to build closed artificial ecosystems that anticipate space travel and colonization using infrastructures able to sustain human and non human life outside Earth. Our presentation focuses on the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (Melissa) which has been orchestrated and funded by the European Space Agency for 25 years and whose pilot plant is in Barcelona (UAB). Melissa consists of a succession of bio-reactors harnessing the capacities of microbial strains and communities to treat waste and produce biomass and oxygen, with the aim of providing astronauts with the amount of air, water and food they require for many years. Drawing on a socioethnographic investigation (interviews, observation of the infrastructure), we will account for how Melissa paradoxically intertwines a future of space conquest (i.e. emancipation from terrestrial resources) and a future of sustainability (better management of the limited terrestrial resources). We propose to depict the eco-futurist politics of anticipation at stake by suggesting that Melissa is about building a minimal, earthless and human-controlled biosphere which still provides humans with all the "services" they need. Far away from the composting practices described by Abrahamson and Bertoni (2014) in terms of multispecies contamination and co-learning, Melissa suggests the utopian anticipation of a synthetic biosphere that would exclude all the opacity, diversity and future-making capacities of microbial life to the profit of the sole expansion of human control - with critical consequences for collective futures well beyond the Melissa project.

Shaping the future through flood risk: EPS and the politics of anticipation

Author: Sebastien Nobert (University of Leeds)  email

Short Abstract

The paper pays attention to the temporal modalities generated by EPS and highlights what kind of futures this new technology produces, but perhaps more crucially, what kind of relationship to time is created and maintained through those new forecasting capacities.

Long Abstract

Drawing on science and technology studies, this paper looks at the implication of the so-called Ensemble Prediction Systems (known as EPS, which are medium-term forecasts (4-15 days ahead) that are now central to extreme weather predictions worldwide), for the future of the political. Although the development of EPS has been a catalyst for research in climatology, computer science, meteorology and hydrology, their social and political dimensions have received very little attention from the social sciences and humanities. Thus, the paper seeks to understand what probabilistic forecasting at the heart of EPS means to the definition of 'being in common' in the wider context of the Anthropocene. By looking at the development and application of the European Flood Awareness Systems (EFAS) developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the paper pays attention to the temporal modalities generated by EPS and highlights what kind of futures this new technology produces, but perhaps more crucially, what kind of relationship to time is created and maintained through those new forecasting capacities. Finally, by looking more closely at EPS and their applications to flood risk management in Europe, the paper argues that not only risk instruments such as forecasting tools are materialising the modern ideal of grasping the future, but that they are also contributing to the creation of a quantificational locked-in syndrome, whereby imagining the future outside the confinement of risk is preventing the interrogation of collective actions to take place.

City futures: Speculation, urban planning, and the anticipatory gaze

Author: Rachel Weber (University of Illinois at Chicago)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from a study of downtown development in Chicago, I compare the concepts of speculation and planning. Statistical and visualization practices validated both, providing experts with the confidence to predict future trends while simultaneously manipulating those same trends.

Long Abstract

My paper places into dialogue two ways of confronting future uncertainty: speculation and planning. Speculation is behavior that allows individual capitalists to anticipate and outwit short-term uncertainties while planning involves intentional action taken to reduce uncertainties for the collective. Both play a role in the development of cities as technological systems as well as in the construction of the markets that underpin the space economy.

The anticipatory gaze—what some call "expectancy"—is highly formalized in urban development. Future-oriented practices like modelling, impact analyses, and forecasting forge an operational path for both the financialization and state management of cities. Statistical foresight and visualization tools gave new respect to speculation and planning, both of which embody a confidence in the capacity of experts to predict future trends while simultaneously offering opportunities to manipulate those same trends. However, while capitalists generally laud speculation and vilify planning, planners do the opposite.

I answer the questions: How do professionals view the distinction between speculating and planning? Do speculators plan, and do planners ever speculate? What kinds of tools do agents use to convert urban futures into objects of knowledge? How do they maintain their detachment from possible futures while also producing them?

I base my analysis on a case study of office development in Chicago between 1998 and 2009. I conducted over 80 interviews with professionals in the urban development field to understand how these market actors' conceptions of time intersected with their activities.

Making future sustainable cities - the importance of collectively held visions in guiding the work and avoiding conflicts

Author: Lina Ingeborgrud (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I address Norwegian national and local government's visions of the future sustainable city, expectations regarding responsibilities in order to make these cities, and visions of the future citizen - and how to manage and mobilize these.

Long Abstract

Making sustainable cities are high on the agenda in many countries, but a major challenge is to identify what actors should contribute and how. Previous literature has been concerned with how to govern the sustainable city, but in this article I highlight the importance of examining national and local government's visions of the future city, responsibilities, and how to mobilize the public.

My case study is a multi-actor program, 'Cities of the future', initiated by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment in 2008, aiming to get the largest Norwegian cities to act and learn from each other, in terms of cutting GHG emissions and developing physical urban environments. This case is supplemented by fieldwork in two planning agencies in Bergen and Trondheim, and analysis of document- and newspaper articles.

I depart from an understanding that national and local government's visions were different, and I examine what these differences consisted of. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies and Future studies, I explain that due to a lack of a collectively held vision of future cities - what Sheila Jasanoff calls sociotechnical imaginaries - conflicts emerged. Thus, I argue it is important to examine visions, and responses to these, in order to locate potential areas of conflict in urban sustainable development. I also point to an ignorance of such anticipatory practices within the multilevel governance perspective.

'The paper relates to track 9s emphasis on future making, by addressing urban governance of climate change through visions and expectations of the future.

Embedding futures in public policy: why does foresight become institutionalized?

Authors: Maxime Petit Jean (Université Catholique de Louvain)  email
Catherine Fallon (University of Liege )  email
Christian DE VISSCHER (Université catholique de Louvain)  email
Jean-Luc Guyot (IWEPS)  email

Short Abstract

Following a socio-historical institutionalist approach, this paper retraces how foresight has been institutionalized within energy policy and health policy in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom. It then highlights factors of institutionalization of foresight within public policy.

Long Abstract

In many European countries, the study of the long-term future has often been a concern for public authorities since the 1970s. Several tools allow to explore the futures and this contribution focuses on one of them: foresight. It is understood as a long-term systemic and interdisciplinary policy-making tool aiming at identifying possible long-term futures and including trends disruptions and surprises. Following a socio-historical institutionalist perspective, this paper diachronically retraces how foresight has been institutionalized within public policy in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom between 1970 and 2010. Based on a broad literature review, a large-scale document collection and 53 semi-structured interviews in both countries, this contribution focuses on energy policy and health policy in both countries. Through a Nvivo-assisted analysis of the data, it highlights factors of institutionalization of foresight within public policy and comparatively discusses them in regard to the four case studies. Such factors encompass for example the adequacy of foresight practice vis-à-vis the policy advisory system and legitimacy issues related to practice theorization and success. By doing so, our aim is to contribute to both the futures studies and STS literature on how particular tools emerge and are embedded in governance processes as an informative policy tools in a specific context.

Evidence, Future, Accountability

Author: Richard Rottenburg (University of Halle)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses the paradox that projects to increase predictability and accountability reduce ontological multiplicity, while in the long run this reduction raises the risk to become locked in one version of reality that might turn out to be erroneous and have radically unpredictable consequences.

Long Abstract

This analytical and conceptual paper addresses the paradox that projects to increase predictability and accountability reduce ontological multiplicity, while in the long run this reduction raises the risk to become locked in one version of reality that might turn out to be erroneous and have radically unpredictable consequences. The paper starts from the assumption that although the future cannot be predicted, it can be designed to become as predictable as possible. It inquires into the ways this anticipatory endeavor implicates accountability in human affairs. It asks in what way these anticipatory projects implicate a specific notion of the individual human being and of entities with agency (like organizations) constructed around regularity, reliability and accountability for their own actions. It looks into the onto-epistemological and political effects some established and globally circulating techno-scientific and juridico-political protocols of evidence-making have on emerging futures and the making of accountable entities.

Back to the Present. Anticipating the unexpected via ICT?

Author: Antonia Langhof (Leibniz Universitaet Hannover)  email

Short Abstract

Despite continuing enthusiasm for preparedness for unexpected events they strike society regularly with severe damages. ICT is regarded as adequate tool to anticipate potential future events. The adherence to the myth that future unexpected events can be managed via the use of ICT will be analysed.

Long Abstract

Although there is continuing enthusiasm for planning and being prepared even for unexpected events in the future, unexpected events in form of crises and disasters strike society with awesome regularity and severe damages. In the field of civil security Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are regarded as adequate tools to anticipate potential future events and for their management. Firstly, examples of designing futures in the development of ICT will be examined based on empirical data. Secondly, theoretical considerations will be put up for discussion which highlight the question why the unexpected will still remain a "Black Swan" (Taleb 2010) often with serious or catastrophic effects on organisations and/or society regardless of all attempts of preparedness and prevention. Third, the adherence to the myth, idea(l) and expectation that unexpected events in the future can be 'managed' and its societal and organisational consequences will be analysed mainly on the basis of a systems-theoretical approach.

Future Conceptualization and Practice: Scenarios, Uncertainty, and Preparedness

Author: Limor Samimian-Darash (Hebrew University)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I analyze how scenarios work as technologies of uncertainty, both in their conceptualization of the future and, especially, in their enactment. I further argue that in their execution, scenarios generates uncertainty as a form of knowing and practicing the future.

Long Abstract

In this paper, I examine scenario planning as a central technology within the Israeli preparedness apparatus. I analyze how the scenario works as a technology-based uncertainty, both in its conceptualization of the future and, especially, in its enactment. Though designed to challenge responders, the scenario does not represent a worst-case event but a plausible one. Moreover, although the scenario is based on a preselected, well-designed event, I argue that once practiced, it is actualized as a multiplicity of subevents, or incidents, that the various participants sometimes enact with unexpected consequences. With this technology, participants are directed neither toward predicting the future nor toward discovering the best solutions for an unknown future. Rather, the technology generates uncertainty through its execution, from which new problems are extracted.

The analysis adds to recent studies of security and preparedness that track the emergence of forms of securing the future that speak to a nonquantifiable mode of governing, one that responds to the problem of future uncertainty rather than risk (O'Malley 2004; Samimian-Darash and Rabinow 2015). However, rather than focus solely on how the scenario, as an uncertainty-based technology, conceptualizes the future and approaches that problem (Samimian-Darash 2013), I examine how it works in practice. I thus explore how, in its execution, scenario planning generates uncertainty as a form of knowing and practicing the future.

Not if but when: calculating, imagining, and performing pandemic preparedness

Author: Meike Wolf (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

Pandemics are represented as a threat to health, and to economic and political wellbeing on a global scale. By drawing upon the examples of London and Frankfurt, the paper looks at how a not-yet future of virological emergence is calculated, imagined, and performed through pandemic preparedness.

Long Abstract

This paper deals with specific visions of a potential or not-yet future: that of an influenza pandemic. Pandemics are currently represented as a threat to health, and to economic and political wellbeing on a global scale. They seem to be not only of biomedical importance, but pandemic fears are drawn into the sociotechnical domains of resilience planning, surveillance systems, and into globalised expert networks. Within these rationales, a state of risk is made the rule rather than the exception. Countries like the UK or Germany have adopted the need to prepare for future outbreak events by designing preparedness planning systems.

Following Anderson's (2010) attempt to systematise the logics of anticipatory action, the paper will analyse pandemic preparedness as a practice. In order to understand how the not-yet future of an influenza pandemic is made present and tangible, the paper first discusses how pandemic futures are embedded in and calculated through specific spatio-temporal relationships. Second, the paper focuses on the construction of potential outbreak scenarios underlying pandemic preparedness. Third, it looks at the performance of a not-yet future through local emergency exercises. It will be argued that pandemic preparedness bridges spatial, technological and administrative gaps between globally circulating viruses and local areas of intervention, thereby enacting potential futures as a matter of local concern.

The paper is based upon ethnographic fieldwork among health professionals, resilience planners, and local authorities in London and Frankfurt; it combines a critical global health perspective with STS-informed insights into the socio-material contingencies of future-related expertise.

Imagined futures: Anti-aging technology and the technoscientific mappings of the ethical ageless subject

Author: Kirsten Ellison (University of Calgary)  email

Short Abstract

Examines the discursive construction of technoscientific futures of agelessness in seven North American popular science and technology magazines surrounding the discovery and invention of new forms of age intervention. The discursive assemblages of new forms of ethical self-government are outlined.

Long Abstract

In light of an aging North American population alongside an expanding industry of body modification, control and maintenance, recent scholarship has critically examined the implications of current advancements in anti-aging technology and bio-gerontology in terms of transformations of the aging body and new formations of ethical subjecthood. What underlies these explorations is the significance of both hopeful and alarmist futures in mobilizing new forms of ethical conduct, unified in their common telos of age intervention. As part of a larger project, this paper examines the role of these futures in assembling, animating and embodying new technologies of the ageless self. Of particular relevance to the present study are the types of ethical subjects that are discursively constructed within these hopeful futures, and the unsuccessful subjects that are mobilized as beacons pointing us to the alternative dire futures of unrealized potential. In the present paper, I examine the discursive construction of technoscientific futures of agelessness in seven North American popular science and technology magazines, published between 2010 and 2015. These include: Wired, MIT Technology Review, Popular Science, Scientific American, New Scientist, Science News, and Discover. The discursive 'promissory work' of these futures, I argue, functions to map out, construct, idealize, mobilize, advance, and animate new assemblages of ethical self-government and, as a result, new relations to the self.

Mapping uncertain, contested terrains for navigation - anticipation and interventions in design

Author: Ulrik Jørgensen (Aalborg University Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

Anticipation is an integral part of designing raising the question what type of knowledge is involved. Building on an arenas of development approach the article explores how design interventions are elements of navigating ordering processes.

Long Abstract

Socio-material design interventions are not only engagements with a completely unknown terrain and actors operating within this, but are based on considerations and repertoires of knowledge of similar terrains re-visited and analyzed as part of the engagement. Building on the arenas of development approach the article explores the relationship between anticipation and intervention as network and knowledge building strategies. The arenas approach takes the outset in established matters of societal concern that has provided the frame for actor's engagement in controversies as well as network formations and stabilizing activities including those of boundary formation. (see Jørgensen: 'Mapping and navigating transitions - the multi-level perspective compared with arenas of development', in Research Policy, 41(6), 2012) The arenas approach developed for use in situations of uncertainties and flux as it represents the performed actions of actors catering for both stabilizations, destabilizing actions and the emergence of new forms and relations in-between socio-technical entities that constitute the arena. The approach to the field of anticipation is the continued move between mapping actions that take outset in these, and the exchanges on the arena framing and reframing the actors and their performed actions. While the traditions in governance and in social learning tend to maintain stability concerning some of the involved entities, the navigational approach operates with a continual process of shifting between intervention and reflections on the responses resulting from these interventions. In this process, the anticipation provides the temporal experience base that provides the options for mapping and the interpretative framework to reflect on the responses resulting from the intervention.

Anticipating data artifacts for future archeologists: A collaborative intervention project

Author: Annette Markham (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

A ‘reflexive anticipation’ epistemology fosters experimental research design that intervenes as it explores possible trajectories. This framework is based in ongoing experiments training youth to be critical auto-phenomenologists of social media to speculatively intervene in their own data futures.

Long Abstract

This paper reports the findings of an ongoing methodology study with youth in EU and USA, where we've been teaching youth reflexive auto-phenomenology techniques to critically analyze how they engage with social media, generate various data traces, and through this process, create meaning that will be understood 10, 20, or 85 years from now as history and memory. In this paper, I focus conceptually on how our premises for inquiry influence the enactment of method and how shifting to a future making mindset can enable more conscious and reflexive research that opens up possibilities for better ethical futures. At the level of scholarship, I discuss integrating anticipation and speculation in methods of elicitation, analysis, and representation practices, so they fit better into the goal of exploring what 'could be' rather than what 'is' or 'was'. Beyond method, a 'future making' stance better recognizes that our decisions and actions have impact, whether or not we think we do. Embracing this premise enables us to shift our models from descriptive to speculative, as we both anticipate and experiment with the goal of inevitable intervention. At the level of everyday citizen activity, based on the findings of the author's study of lived experience of social media, this proactive stance of future impact can be facilitated by enabling people to become participant observers of their own lived experience, whereby they can then compile, analyze, or curate their own data with the idea of making, rather than just moving into, possible futures.

Future Emerging Technologies: Shaping the future through futuring, visioneering, and anticipating possible impacts of techno-scientific innovation

Author: Petra Schaper-Rinkel (Austrian Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

We will analyse 3 ways of creating techno-scientific futures. 1. futuring as exploring, predicting, and forecasting futures. 2. visioneering as the normative dimension of future technologies, 3. anticipating as the process & governance dimension.

Long Abstract

Anticipating future emerging technologies (FET) is a performative practice that creates a multitude of broader futures - mainly based on future technologies. The practices to produce hypothetical futures of techbased-societies is based on changing methods and techniques, ranging from the creation of visions and scenarios to modelling the economic impact of technological change upon the economy. The papers aim is threefold: First, we will show that anticipating future emerging technologies is a performative practice that constitutes agency, creates its subjects and shapes its objects. Second, we will analyse the specificity of future knowledge by analysing how future-making is based on the intermingling of arts, technoscience and politics. Third, that anticipation is a political practice where stakeholders aim at shaping the future by imaging, colonizing, taming, controlling futures. Based on two EU projects on the EU FET Program we will distinguish between different ways of creating techno-scientific futures.

Futuring is a set of practices of exploring, predicting, and forecasting futures by asking what is going to happen in the future. The explorative dimension of future technologies is mainly captured by scenarios to explore various futures.

Visioneering is about the normative dimension of future technologies, the framing of technologies and about developing desirable futures. Conflicts arise about desirable vs undesirable futures and the role technologies can play.

Anticipating (in the stricter sense) is about the process dimension and the governance mechanism to control the future.

Contesting Futures Different from the Past. Futuring in History Classes

Author: Josefine Raasch (Ruhr University Bochum)  email

Short Abstract

Based on the ethnographic research, this paper provides insights in how the future of the past is negotiated for a History high school curriculum in Berlin. It reveals how future histories are currently negotiated.

Long Abstract

Based on the ethnographic research, this paper will argue that considering both ontological politics (Mol1999) of our research practice and our epistemic practices (Hacking 1983, Law & Lien 2012, Verran 2010) are crucial practices when thinking about how to think of the past in the future.

In order to show how different ideas of future concepts of the past were put in practice and contested, the paper will start by presenting research results, arguing that the design of a History curriculum in Germany and their implementation of ideas of how to make use of historical knowledge were directed to an unspecified future knower of History. By applying the concepts of the ontic/epistemic imaginary (Verran 2001), the paper will argue that the students in a classroom contested this specific historical knowledge and the emerging history. Instead of re-ordering the previously ordered microworld according to the requirements of the curriculum, they re-negotiated how to think about the past in the future and re-made a future that was different from the past (Verran 2001).

Intervention by imagination - Towards an STS based futures approach

Authors: Bruno Gransche (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI)  email
Philine Warnke (Fraunhofer Institute of Systems and Innovation Research ISI)  email

Short Abstract

STS could help futures thinking to re-align imagination and intervention while recognizing the complexity of social systems. In particular STS could underpin a better understanding of the performativity of “the future” and the durability of socio-technical configurations.

Long Abstract

The contribution explores the possible place of STS in re-making 'the future of the future' from the perspective of the futures field. We argue that STS involvement is urgently required for enabling a deeper understanding of societal change and counteracting prevailing techno-deterministic paradigms. Moreover, STS perspectives may help to provide a much needed epistemological and ontological basis to futures work. In spite of constant assurances to the contrary, the field is still dominated by a prognostic notion of "the future". Even though most futurists recognise the complexity of social systems and reject the possibility of linear top-down interventions, there is a notable absence of alternative relationships between imaging and intervening. Increasingly, futurists focus on strengthening the "resilience" of social systems without claiming to underpin desirable trajectories. In contrast we do see inroads for futures-intervention. One is to address the performativity of the future i.e. the influence of future images on the ability to harness the potential of the present - a subject where STS research on expectations and promises has a lot to contribute. Secondly, we feel that with all the focus on change and disruption, the stability of power-laden socio-technical configurations, often emphasised by STS scholars, is largely neglected in futures work. We would like to discuss whether - with support from STS - futures work may be able to help "de-colonising" the future. Our hope is that - just like in jazz improvisation - the deeper the understanding of rigorous frameworks, the greater the freedom for venturing into the unknown.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.