Programme

(T028)
Futures in the making and re-making
Location 120
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 4

Convenors

  • Richard Tutton (Lancaster University) email
  • Nik Brown (University of York ) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This track invites STS scholars to critically reflect on their conceptual and empirical approaches to futures, imaginaries and the promissory. It encourages contributors to think about 'our' own place in the academic literature on futures.

Long Abstract

With its thematic focus on spaces and futures, this conference offers an opportunity to highlight the unique contribution of STS to making potentially desirable and even affirmative futures possible. Therefore, this track will bring together contributions that recognise the possible place of STS in re-making 'the future of the future'. In the 1960s, social scientists on both sides of the Atlantic sought to create a new intellectual space for engaging with the future. That engagement, however, was short-lived. Urry (2008) claims that social scientists have tended to retreat from playing a role in articulating imagined alternative futures. However, since the late 1990s new strands of scholarship on the future have emerged out of STS, and in parallel to STS, that offer new challenges and opportunities for conceptualising the onto-epistemological status of the future and for making interventions into 'lived futures'. Following Adam (2011), we argue that it is difficult to defend a 'future-less' STS given the long term and often unknown effects of contemporary technoscientific practices.

How might we engage with the future as both an imaginary and material process of unfolding, projecting and extrapolating, as both temporal and spatial? What is the relationship between imaging and intervening, promising and delivering, representing and materialising? Through this track speakers can debate and discuss a range of themes including latency and legacy, disasters and disaster planning, techno-utopianism and dystopianism, the promissory imaginary, the performativity of the future, memory and nostalgia, extrapolation and projection, and many more themes neither predictable nor anticipated.

SESSIONS: 4/5/4/5

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Habitus and prospectus: a socio-technical history of business futures in the Dupont de Nemours family (1797-1802)

Author: Martin Giraudeau (London School of Economics)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores the social origins of futures, and more specifically of so-called rational business plans. It focuses on the relations between personal habitus structures and prospectus production practices, through the conjoint study of the Dupont de Nemours family’s social trajectory and plans.

Long Abstract

This article articulates two usually separate notions: the Bourdieusian concept of habitus and the Latourian concept of script. It does so through the conjoint and detailed study of both: 1) the business plans written by the Dupont de Nemours family between 1797 and 1802 when, in their flight from post-Revolutionary France, which eventually led to the foundation of the DuPont company; 2) the personal biographies of the authors of these plans, Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, a French statesman and economist, and his son Eleuthere Irenee Dupont de Nemours, trained as a chemical engineer by chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. The article shows that the differences between the plans of the father and those of the son, the latter being typical utopian plans of an early modern projector and the latter being the typical calculated plans of a modern entrepreneur can in great parts be explained by the respective temporal dispositions, and more specifically the respective attitudes towards the future that the two men acquired through their respective social trajectories. The article draws the theoretical consequences of this observation on our understanding of the concepts of habitus and of script. Further, it provides a novel explanation for the rise of "rational planning," often considered as consubstantial to modern capitalism.

Science fiction as a path to explore ecological futures and worlds in preparation: representations and imaginaries of the habitability of the (technologized) planet

Author: Yannick Rumpala (Université de Nice)  email

Short Abstract

The contribution will show how science fiction deals with ecological dimensions and planetary habitability. It will especially seek out adaptation pathways that appear closer to the register of hope.

Long Abstract

Should humanity prepare for life on a less and less habitable planet? If, given the magnitude of human activities, the challenge is to think about their consequences, it is useful to explore what imaginative foundations can be used as a basis for collective reflections. From this point of view, science fiction may have the advantage of having anticipated the movement. By initiating and accumulating thought experiments, it offers a cognitive reservoir and a reflexive medium. Its representations are also a vehicle for interpreting the world. One of the few places where one can see "future generations" live, act and organize is science fiction and its imaginary constructions.

The contribution will first show how science fiction, when it deals with ecological dimensions, can be in its way a problematization of planetary habitability and of related technoscientific issues. The second will show the limits of the classical divide between utopia and dystopia and propose a reopening of the possible modes of apprehension of imaginable futures, precisely by considering the science fiction narrative as a vector of projective exploration of the future. While defending the idea that it is better to take science fiction productions as lines of flight (in the sense of Gilles Deleuze), the third section will aim at identifying and classifying science fiction that, in environmental matters, searches for new or different directions (particularly compared to the currently dominant model). The contribution will thus seek out adaptation pathways that appear closer to the register of hope.

Towards a visual sociology of expectations: the case of Mars One

Author: Richard Tutton (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

Using the case study of Mars One, this paper explores how to do a visual sociology of expectations and to think further about how visual experience is embedded in social and cultural practices of futurity in contemporary societies.

Long Abstract

The sociology of expectations literature tends to conceive of expectations in discursive terms, mediated through various specialist and more general media forms to different audiences. However, some authors have argued for a shift away from a focus only on metaphors, key terms and scripts and narratives to develop a 'visual sociology of expectations' (Losch 2006). We are presented with innumerable visual images of what the future could or would be like in our 'hyper-visual' culture, in which visual experience is embedded in cultural and social practices. For STS scholars, the study of the visual is central to their interest in knowledge production in sites such as laboratories (Burri and Dumit 2007). However, for visual sociologists their interest in the visual is linked to concerns with embodiment, affect and the sensory (Rose 2014). I engage with these conceptual and analytical questions about the visual through the case study of Mars One, which has the ambitious and controversial plan to create a permanent human settlement on the planet Mars. I analyze digital images and videos which Mars One has commissioned to introduce the venture, to crowdsource funding for one of its robotic missions, and to relate details about its astronaut recruitment and selection programme. This case study offers a way to to think about how the visual experience is embedded in social and cultural practices of futurity in contemporary societies.

'Are we just giving patients more years of anxiety?' Time, futures and expectations and an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

Author: Julia Swallow (University of Leeds)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at earlier stages, affects the construction of a future with AD in the present. Early diagnosis produces uncertainties around patient futures, and for healthcare practitioners when there is a lack of treatment options and cure for the disease.

Long Abstract

Efforts to diagnose Alzheimer's disease (AD) in its earliest stages dominates scientific research and healthcare policy in the UK. Focus on early diagnosis has led to the development of biomarker technologies in scientific research, and the development of initiatives including the National Dementia Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) Framework in healthcare policy. The CQUIN aims to increase and therefore govern early diagnosis rates for AD by screening individuals for cognitive decline in the hospital setting. It is anticipated that early diagnosis will maximise treatment options and enable patients to 'prepare for their future' in terms of care. Drawing on qualitative ethnographic data, this paper examines the extent to which the discourse of hope embedded in early diagnosis as governed in initiatives such as the CQUIN, affects the construction of a future with AD in the present. Developing the analytical standpoint of the sociology of expectations (Michael 2000), this paper shows how the kinds of hopeful futures rhetorically enacted by the CQUIN and early diagnosis, downplays the role the CQUIN has in constituting particular expectations about a future with AD. Early diagnosis produces uncertainty for patients as to what the future might bring, and for professionals in terms of treatment options and care. Examining the promissory claims of the CQUIN through an STS lens, casts light on the expectations, anticipations and anxieties the future of an ageing population with AD produces: important for reflecting on how the governance of early diagnosis in healthcare policy might be (re)imagined in the future.

Co-Constructing Futures of Care-Crisis And Techno-Fix

Author: Leo Matteo Bachinger (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Gerontechnologies are increasingly considered as potential solutions to the looming “care crisis”. Promotional videos, portraying a future of technologies stepping in and improving care, serve as case to exemplify how crisis and techno-fix get co-articulated in the making of “the future of aging”.

Long Abstract

In this talk I pay attention to the role of "crisis" in the making of futures. On the case of promotional videos portraying the "future of aging", I critically examine the co-articulation of crisis and techno-fix and, in that, bright futures and problematic presents.

Emergent technologies for (geriatric) care ("ICT for aging well", "Ambient Assisted Living") are increasingly considered as potential solutions to a looming "(elder-)care crisis". As "solutions" to the "crisis" of (elder-)care, both are only emergent in a near(ing) future. Themselves products of the future in this twofold sense, the new devices offer "bright" alternatives to problematic and contested outlooks.

In this context I ask for the role of crises in making techno-futures: Subscribing technologies (and research programs evolving around them) to crises-futures as "solutions" creates research opportunities, facilitates investment, secures resources and forges alliances and support.

Simultaneously the crisis is itself retrofitted towards the techno-fix, articulating interpretation of futures and pasts that bring challenges and problems into accordance with the technological solution.

The promise of technology-as-fix, I argue, is less an articulation of "bright" futures that are yet to come, than it is a problematization of the present - portraying care as e.g. "unfit", "insecure", "uncertain", or "insufficient" to the challenges "the future" holds (and thus making its "fixing" necessary). Such crisis-framings can arguably assist coordinated action and stimulate focused intervention. Yet, the ways crisis (and with it hazards, vulnerabilities, risks, …) get stabilized and localized have critical political implications for the socio-technical worlds we build.

Parkinson's disease, biomedicine, and hope in contemporary Germany

Author: Ingrid Metzler (Vienna University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how narrative of hope sustained by the "regime of promising" surrounding stem cell research in Parkinson's disease (PD) enters into conversation or conflict with other narratives of hope in the field of PD in Germany.

Long Abstract

Narratives of hope shape contemporary engagements with Parkinson's disease (PD). On the one hand, a "biomedical narrative of hope" promises that biomedical research in the present will contribute to transform the currently treatable yet uncurable disease into a curable one in the future. On the other hand, a more "individual narrative of hope" encourage patients to influence the course of PD through practices of self-care and positive thinking. This article asks how these two narratives of enter into conversation or conflict. It bases its argument on an analysis of data from 13 focus groups, in which PD patients and their relatives were asked to share their thoughts and emotions on two clinical trials for advanced therapies for PD. Three "modes of being" were distilled from this body of data: a mode as "users on stand by", a "distanced" mode and a mode as "experimental pioneer". Each of these modes was characterized by a different understanding of PD, the course of PD, and one's biosocial self. Both narratives of hope were important in these modes of being. Yet, while the biomedical narrative of hope was deemed an important "dream of the future", which participants had to passively support without having to make it their own, the psychological narrative of hope took an interpellative form: having PD implied the need to keep a positive attitude.

Future invocation - economic and immunitary imaginaries in anti-microbial resistance (AMR)

Author: Nik Brown (University of York )  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines the way AMR is made to perform certain 'economic imaginaries' (Jessop & Oosterlynck 2008) and 'imagined immunities' (Wald 2008) for envisioning future markets, for the reform of healthcare, for the control of national borders, and for the securitisation of the body politic.

Long Abstract

The paper focuses on recent political and economic interventions in anti-microbial resistance (AMR), the seemingly limitless potential of microbial life to outcompete generations of antibiotic toxins. It examines the way AMR is made to perform certain political and 'economic imaginaries' (Jessop & Oosterlynck 2008) becoming a vehicle for envisioning future markets, for the reform of healthcare, for the control of national borders, and for the securitisation of the body politic. These economic imaginaries are also expressed through certain kinds of 'imagined immunity' (Wald 2008) projected into patterns of future invocation.

It explores two key political and cultural moments in the AMR debate. In the first, AMR is politically expressed as the 'British Disease' in the UK general election of 2005. Here, resistant infections are projected into anxieties surrounding race, migration and public-sector neoliberal market reforms. Almost exactly a decade later, the UK prime minister foretells a future 'return to the dark ages of medicine' and appoints a leading monetary economist to reinvigorate the market in antibiotics. The paper explores the way 'resistance' is absorbed into the material and imaginary logics of markets. Resistance is not to be 'overcome' or 'transcended' as such. Instead resistance becomes a 'limitless invocation' (Brown and Nettleton 2016) of the future, a form of 'anticipatory evolution' (Cooper 2006) that hastens and actualises the very thing that is feared, resistance.

Packing the Past to Anticipate the Future: The Science of Resilience Post-War Communities

Authors: Kelly Moore (Loyola University Chicago)  email
Nathalia Hernandez Vidal (LUC)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the temporal logics of the psychological science of resilience, which teaches participants to develop a set of ongoing actions on memory and body in which future suffering is anticipated, and past harms cannot be laid to rest.

Long Abstract

Aid agencies, community organizations, and clinicians increasingly rely on the cognitive and psychological science of resilience to assist people who have experienced interpersonal violence, disaster, war, and other deeply disturbing events. In earlier eras, psychological sciences organized around repression, which encouraged people to leave experiences in a particular temporal position: the past. This paper investigates how contemporary psychological sciences of civilian wartime trauma reorganize temporality and suffering. Neurosciences and clinical tests are used to show that those who have experienced serious harms will continue to be haunted them in the future, and that they can expect more harms to come. They thus disrupt older temporal logics build into the psychological science of repression. "Recovering"—that is, living in the present rather than experiencing the endless looping of the experience—is not intended to result repose or closure, but rather, to engage people in continual actions of overcoming. Practices of overcoming can be used, again and again, to face the anticipated problems of the future, and to incorporate experiences along the way. Anticipating the future is not therefore a practice of open-ended speculation, imagination, or the possibility of disappearances of trauma, but an expectation of bringing packaged pasts forward as projects of continued management. These temporal orderings and disorderings soothe, constrain speculative futures, and limit the use of pasts as never-to-repeated or sources of unknown imaginaries and speculations. The temporalities of "resilience" for civilians who have experience war are thus both potentially comforting, and deeply disruptive of the imaginaries of the future.

After science: Consumerist populism in the hype and controversy around the crowdfunded GoBe glucose/calorie monitor

Author: Paula Saukko (Loughborough University)  email

Short Abstract

Presentation on the hype and controversy around the crowdfunded GoBe wristband, allegedly measuring glucose/calories, discussing how backers were addressed as consumers and tech and consumer reviews became evidence. It is a case of erosion of scientific authority giving way to consumerist populism.

Long Abstract

This presentation discusses the recent hype and controversy over the GoBe wristband, which allegedly non-invasively measured glucose and translated it into calorie intake. The GoBe was not funded by research funders or investors but attracted a million dollars on the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, its developers were Russian entrepreneurs and the evidence backing the device took the form of technology and consumer reviews. The presentation analyses the controversy as it folded in mainly the digital media. Two phases were identified. First, during the IndieGoGo campaign in 2014 the media, spearheaded by a technology website PandoDaily, accused GoBe of 'scamming' its backers. Throughout the backers were addressed and responded as such (on the backers' forum) as consumers, who had potentially bought a faulty future product. Second, after the launch of GoBe in 2015, technology and consumer websites filled with contradictory but generic reviews, which assessed the wearability and accuracy of the device (by comparing its measures with those of other calorie counting devices). The GoBe case illustrates the way in which the erosion of scientific authority has not resulted in greater democracy but California hype, underpinned by commercialist populism and exclusivism. The backers were not addressed or behave as co-innovators of the device but as consumers purchasing a future product. The contradictory tech and consumer reviews were written mainly by male geeks or fitness enthusiasts, evaluating the usefulness of the device for this narrow, affluent market, sounding a warning about drivers of medical innovation in this new commercial and digital configuration.

Imagining a Genetic Community of the Future: The Establishment of the Taiwan Biobank and National Identity.

Authors: WanJu Lee (Academia Sinica)  email
Yu-Yueh Tsai (Academia Sinica)  email

Short Abstract

please see long abstract.

Long Abstract

In the completion of the Human Genome Project, the rapidly increasing bio

banks on regional, national, and ethnic levels focus mainly on the genetic variation rather than on genetic similarities. In this context, new biomedical technologies create new possibilities, facilitating the development of new identities - the emergence of imagined genetic communities. The Taiwan Biobank is one of national genetic projects in the world. Focusing on the global diffusion and influence of the "bio-political paradigm," this article analyzes the relationship between the establishment of the national genetic project and national identity in Taiwan. It examines how local biomedical scientists have employed the discourses about 1 the importance of sear

ching for Taiwanese particular genetic attributes, 2 the potential contribution of biomedicine to the national economy in the globalizing competition, and 3 the significance of a national genetic project to the health of Taiwanese future generation to justify the project of Taiwan Biobank. By exploring how the dis

course of "theTaiwanese genome as a niche " has being constructed, the article points to the significant role of socio-technical imaginaries in the establishment of Taiwan Biobank and shows the local experience shaped by the global diffusion of the bio-political paradigm.

Doing the future in smart imaginaries and infrastructures

Author: Willem Schinkel (Erasmus University Rotterdam)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper, I look at smart imaginaries and infrastructures in the context of smart cities and the Internet of Things. I ask how time is configured in such imaginaries, particularly in the entanglement of imaginaries and infrastructures.

Long Abstract

Smart city technologies are usually considered in terms of the efficiency of urban processes and the optimization of the city. As such, they exhibit a concern with flow and circulation typical of a logistical logic. On the one hand, this promotes just-in-time logics in which the past is erased and the future becomes an open-ended series of technological refinements, optimizations and tests (Halpern et al. 2013). On the other hand, the technologies involved often exhibit forms of techno-utopianism and promise enhanced quality of life and democratic participation.

I argue that looking at the algorithmic character of smart technologies helps reveal the particular ways in which time is 'done' in smart technologies. In particular, the use of Markov Chains erases the past of urban processes, including a variety of political choices and struggles. It enables the configuration of futures as independent from the past, dependent only on the current condition of the city as measured in continuous monitoring systems. Along the way, both the outcomes of political struggles in the past and alternative futures are excised. I argue that to imagine the future differently means to bring back the social and the political. Practically, this means asking questions that cannot be addressed in the logistical logics of smart technologies. STS research therefore has a task in making futures public by scrutinizing the entanglements of smart imaginaries and infrastructures.

Futures in the making:'Vernacular future' in smart technology makers

Authors: Debora Lanzeni (RMIT)  email
Elisenda Ardèvol (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)  email

Short Abstract

Embracing that ethnography, in its way to produce knowledge, is an active part of world-making, we propose that instead of thinking of future as a consequence of technology development, we can grasp the ‘vernacular future’ by thinking with the smart technology makers and the things that they do.

Long Abstract

In STS studies future is often placed at the core of technology development. On the one hand, images of the future feed the practices that compound design processes (Nowotny, Williams, and Chun). On the other hand, the future is embedded in the design processes through anticipatory actions of what the world would be (Suchman, Anderson, and Kinsley).Finally, we can also say that actual design practices are future-driven practices, where the future is negotiated through different potential futures; so that the images of the future are talking about the present conflicts about what kind of society we want (Dourish, Bell, and Wajcman). This paper responds to the recent calls to embrace the analytical challenge posed by grasping "forms of action and agency through which the future is performed"(Brown and Michel, 2003). Future operates/acts in the construction of meanings, as a component of everyday practices, as a goal in the present, as a vector in the development of technology, as a descriptor of conflicting and hegemonic discourses, and so on. In this paper, we discuss the "vernacular future" in the process of smart technology design by drawing on ethnographic research with developers. We describe how embracing the "vernacular future" also actively produces it in the analytical and ethnographic practice. In this world, future emerges in the making. Instead of thinking the future as a consequence of technology development, we propose to think the future with the people and the things that they do.

Repairing the grounds of future imaginaries: Transition Towns and the 'end of useless'

Author: Nicholas Beuret (University of Essex)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores repair as a practice that acts as a means of creating the grounds for imagining other futures. In exploring repair as a practice of thick justice (Papadopoulos 2010) I contend that repair offers a means of making futures in an era of imaginal scarcity.

Long Abstract

While fears of peak oil have been superseded by the terror of fossil fuel abundance, the idea that the more-than-human world might cease to sustain us has given rise to a series of novel experiments. Of these Transition Towns is notable insofar as it takes the material conditions of how we imagine the future as its locus of activity. Transition Towns' argue that the lack of future manifest in environmental politics vis-a-vis climate change reflects our inabilities to act on our own material conditions. We are 'useless' insofar as we lack the capacity to act on the infrastructure of our lives. To that end they advocate a practice of repair. Repair constitutes a mode of envisioning the present as broken and thus the future as open to intervention (Jackson 2013). It acts on the capacities of socio-technical infrastructure to sustain different forms of life. And crucially it suggests the need to alter our capacities as a part of any process of transforming the material basis of alternative imaginaries. Transition Towns argues that the future can be reclaimed as a terrain of activity once our capacities to engage with it are altered.

This paper explores repair as a practice that acts as a means of creating the grounds for imagining other futures. In exploring repair as a practice of thick justice (Papadopoulos 2010) I contend that repair offers a means of making futures in an era of imaginal scarcity.

Beyond proaction and precaution: nondualist ontologies and the reframing of future

Author: Luigi Pellizzoni (University of Pisa)  email

Short Abstract

The paper addresses an emergent approach to future based on nondualist ontologies, showing how the emancipatory import usually ascribed to the latter is unwarranted and how the classic proaction/precaution opposition is replaced by a new scientifically and politically pre-emptive polarity.

Long Abstract

Future, we know, retroacts on the present. Anticipations and visions produce results now, affecting what will actually be. This performative effect has been usually understood according to traditional accounts of the human subject and the world, by which knowledge allows the former to impinge on the latter, neither of them being completely plastic. Yet, a different view is gaining relevance, by which the agent can unlimitedly remould itself together with its own task environment. Any ontological 'thickness' vanishes, and the distinction between subject and object, actuality and desire, reality and will, future as extension of the present and as an unforeseeable state, lose any operational meaning. STS appears generally ill-equipped to make sense of this, to the extent that it buys into post-humanist and new materialist assumptions about the emancipatory implications of ontologies of difference and becoming, despite plenty of evidence (from biotech to geoengineering, to human enhancement) testifying how these can underpin unprecedented dominative thrusts.

To contribute to a more mature reflection the paper will address some implications of nondualist ontologies as a specific governmentality of the future. More precisely, its task is twofold: first, to examine how the classic polarity between proaction and precaution is being replaced by a new polarity (for which a name will be proposed), exemplified by the Breakthrough Institute's position and 'anticipatory governance' approaches, that pre-empts proper scientific analysis and actual political deliberation. Second, to ask which sort of reply (at scholarly and social level) may hope to be effective against this emergent governmentality.

Care and STS: re-embedding socio-technical futures

Author: Christopher Groves (Cardiff University)  email

Short Abstract

An approach equal to the imaginary & material aspects of socio-technical futures, it is argued, must take seriously a wide range of links between futurity & care, set out in phenomenology, care ethics, and objects-relations theory, thus enabling reappraisal of the implicit normative aspects of STS.

Long Abstract

STS has, in recent years, seen the foregrounding of concepts of care in attempting to understand the constitution of of socio-technologies, as in, for example, the work of scholars like Annemarie Mol and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa. Despite the explicit attention such research pays to temporality, connections between care and technoscientific futures remain under-explored. This paper addresses this issue by re-appraising the connections between care, socio-technologies and futures, drawing on phenomenology, the ethics of care, and objects-relations theories to explore the relationship between practices, technologies and complex subjectivity. Performing the future in the present, it is suggested, constitutes and is constituted by specific temporal relationships between past, present and the not-yet through which subjects exercise care for the future. These relationships can be lost, in certain circumstances, in the products of the performance itself, in the quest for socially-valorized and desired 'disembedded' knowledge of futures, as manifested in demand forecasts, cost-benefit analyses, profit projections and so on. I explore how restoring an appreciation for the 'artisanal' performance of futures is essential to how innovation, and indeed governance of innovation, can be re-embedded in society as part of the broader goal of reconstructing the contract between technoscience and the societies that depend on it. Normative dimensions in STS, as addressed by recent developments such as responsible innovation ('taking care of the future' through the stewardship of technoscience, according to Stilgoe, Owen & Macnaghten, 2013), are thus brought back into the analytical frame.

Flood Futures: hopeful plans and policy paralysis

Author: Maggie Mort (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

Research with children affected by floods uncovered fragmentation in UK policy. For survivors flood futures are visceral, relived when it rains heavily. They identified measures to address flood risk to find these falling into complex and contested jurisdictions and policy neglect of flood futures.

Long Abstract

During the UK storms of December 2015, more than 16,000 homes were flooded, with many residents displaced for up to 12 months. Some householders in the city of Carlisle, Cumbria were flooded out for the third time since 2005, yet the mantra of politicians was: 'unprecedented'. But as severe flooding becomes frequent, it must also become identified with what it means to live in the UK. Research with young people affected by the winter floods of 2013/4 uncovers the fragmentation of UK flood policy. As flood survivors, children have identified measures to address future flood risk, only to find that these measures fall into complex and contested policy jurisdictions. For the young people, flood futures are visceral, residing in the landscape, the mud, the drains and under their houses and are relived when it rains heavily. For them, being flooded is not a matter of bad luck or unprecedented rainfall, but of bad management; not a matter of calculation, but materialisation of poor care and revelation of injustice. Emergency response attracts more public attention than preparation, while spending on prevention is politically unattractive. Flood risk calculations act to make floods abstract and to order and organise them. They also act to undermine practices of mitigation and adaptation which the children have called for in pursuit of a more affirmative future. This paper will consider exhortations for flood plans at the household and community level in relation to wider policy neglect of flood futures and failure to acknowledge uncertainty.

Climate Stalemate as Crisis of the Imagination An Analysis of Cultural-Political Techniques of Futuring

Authors: Peter Pelzer (Utrecht University)  email
Maarten Hajer (Urban Futures Studio)  email

Short Abstract

‘Deep decarbonization’ of the economy is a widely supported societal future, but this transition is slow in coming. This paper analyzes this as a crisis of imagination. It applies the concepts ‘imaginaries’ and ‘techniques of futuring’, to analyse the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam.

Long Abstract

Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time. It suggests the need for what is called a 'deep decarbonisation' of the economy. While the consequences of inaction are well described and widely known, political action is still slow in coming. This paper examines this political deadlock as a crisis of imagination and considers what sort of cultural-political practice might help break through this situation. A crucial concept in this approach is 'techniques of futuring', which we conceptualise as a practice related to engaging with the future. After analyzing the mainstream employment of techniques in the domain of climate policy in terms of their appeal to the imagination, the paper explores alternative techniques of futuring in which 'imaginaries' play a critical role. The paper hypothesizes that innovative cultural-political practices are a relevant realm to analyze these imaginaries. This is then taken up empirically through an analysis of the 2016 International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). The IABR can be considered a cultural-political 'safe space' for new ideas (www.iabr.nl). The paper uses ethnographic fieldwork to present an in-depth analysis of the extent to which two particular installations are successful as (micro) techniques of futuring. Both are related to the transition to renewable energy. The first installation is a high-tech stakeholder-based installation that visualizes an imagined future of a decarbonized future for countries around the North Sea. The second installation is a mobile exhibit portraying a postcarbon economic future for the region of Groningen in the Dutch Northeast.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.