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Short article appearing in The Economist's annual look at the year ahead, "The World in 2016", outlining the potential of Experiential Futures practice for enabling public imagination and foresight in organisations, as well as in the wider culture.
Minds on the future
Experiential futures
Show and tell
Stuar t Candy
Fly me to tomorrow
ithin a generation, those unable to afford time
outside Toronto’s dense urban environment will
resort to Nature Deficit Disorder Clinics, where
they will get essential dietary supplements along with
simulated rainforests and birdsong.
In Singapore, a popular museum exhibition will
chart the startling social transformations over the previ-
ous few decades in romance, sex and marriage, includ-
ing the introduction of state-subsidised love robots to
maintain well-being across the population.
Mexico City will be subject to severe flooding, and
a peer-to-peer emergency service called Operación
Axolotl will emerge as citizens help meet each other’s
basic needs.
By 2044, young people in North Carolina will face a
critical choice at the age of 18: whether to let life’s slings
and arrows take their natural course, or to accept the
wonders of modern medical technology and become, in
effect, immortal.
How can anyone possibly claim to predict all this,
you may ask? Actually I’m not predicting that these
things will happen—even though I witnessed them all
As an experiential futurist my job is to create, and
to help others create, transmedia situations where such
possibilities can be thought, felt and used to make better
decisions. In this practice, all media are fair game for
bringing futures to life, from interactive performances to
physical artifacts, from video to food: whatever enlivens
a future scenario as a potential reality-in-waiting.
If Andy Clark, a cognitive scientist at the Univer-
sity of Edinburgh, is right, thought isn’t confined to the
boundaries of our skulls. We think with our environ-
ments. The map or smartphone in your pocket is a de-
liberate extension of your thought processes.
We can design situations that help us understand
possible futures by visiting them. How much more pow-
erful this is than the white papers and slideshows that
are the typical focus of future-gazing in boardrooms and
Driven by the irrepressible human urge to bring our
inner worlds to life, the culture of public imagination
is set to make a leap: in coming years we can expect to
see more and more companies, governments, advocacy
organisations and communities creating and sharing
experiential futures. The sooner we learn to use and de-
mocratise collective imagination to dramatise our alter-
natives, the more powerful will be our capacity to shape
change towards just and worthwhile ends.
Stuar t Candy : director of the Situation Lab and assistant professor of strategic
foresight and innovation at OCAD University in Toronto, and fellow of the Long
Now Foundation
We can design situations
that help us better understand
possible futures by visiting them
We may end up with the
best of both worlds
Hal Varian:
chief economist,
Martin Fleming:
chief economist, IBM
in aggregate the data they record can be useful in understanding the pace of activity in the
economy as a whole—and some companies now provide such data.
For example, Intuit offers a small-business employment index. Zillow releases property
Commerce tracks retail trends daily.
’s Billion
Prices Project offers price indices based on online data. Goog-
le’s data on searches for “jobs”, “hiring” and the like are used
to extract good estimates of the current unemployment rate.
These data series are not as extensive or as detailed as the
official government ones. But they are much more timely. Over the next decade, we will see
increased use of such sources by governments and central banks. By using statistical methods
to combine the low-frequency but carefully constructed government numbers with the high-
frequency private-sector data, we may end up with the best of both worlds: figures that are
both accurate and timely. Combining the public and private data won’t give us a crystal ball to
predict where the economy is going, but it will give us better information about where we are
right now—and that should be a big step towards better economic policy.
... The entire sensory and semiotic context of the body is the relevant canvas -and not just for the individual, but also for groups. 'The Time Machine' , a room where you can inhabit a pocket of (say) the year 2040 for (say) 20 minutes, is one example of a pattern for immersive scenario creation that becomes possible through this lens (Candy, 2013;Candy, 2014). Consider the philosophical concept of the 'extended mind' (Clark, Chalmers, 1998;Dunagan, 2015): thought isn't contained exclusively inside our skulls, but it occurs in and with our environments. ...
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Las “visiones de futuros sostenibles” se han propuesto como un componente clave del diseño para la transición, “un medio a través del cual los estilos de vida contemporáneos y las intervenciones de diseño pueden evaluarse y criticarse contra la visualización de un futuro deseado” (Irwin et al, 2015a, p. 8). Tales ambiciones son necesariamente de amplio alcance, y requieren unir líneas sobre el diseño y la especulación de diversas fuentes. Aquí buscamos aumentar el impulso explorando un conjunto de conceptos que se relacionan particularmente con este papel de visión en el diseño de transiciones. Sobre la base de perspectivas y proyectos de otros campos, presentamos elementos de un vocabulario visionario, que abarca diferentes escalas y grados de eliminación del presente, y la ubicación de estos términos en relación con los desafíos específicos y las oportunidades para el pensamiento y la práctica de la transición. // “Visions of sustainable futures” have been proposed as a key component of Transition Design, “a means through which contemporary lifestyles and design interventions can be assessed and critiqued against a desired future state” (Irwin et al, 2015a, p. 8). Such ambitions are necessarily wide-ranging, and call for drawing together strands on design and speculation from diverse sources. Here we seek to add to the momentum by exploring a set of concepts relating particularly to this role of vision in designing for transitions. Building on perspectives and projects from other fields, we present elements of a visionary vocabulary, covering different scales and degrees of remove from the present, and situating these terms in relation to specific challenges and opportunities for transition thinking and practice.
... These activities in the first seven weeks comprised the first half of semester. The latter half revolved around experiential futures projects co-created in small groups, each producing a "Time Machine," an immersive scenario at the scale of a room, whereby a group of visitors is invited to visit a future scenario for fifteen minutes, and spends the period immediately afterward unpacking and exploring that experience (Candy, 2013;Candy, 2014). The three-hour weekly studio format was adopted for the Futures incarnation of the course with a view to supporting deeper peer-to-peer and group-based design exploration. ...
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Change is exponential. Products and services are developed faster, hold a shorter shelf-life disrupted by new offerings, and exist in the wider environment with global challenges emerging such as climate change and sustainability. Thus, design for the 21st century requires different skills; design educators are challenged to adapt. In this paper, we compare two versions of a futures studies course developed for design students: one uses a flipped classroom pedagogy (with interactive online pre-work and in-class workshop activities, meeting for two 80-minute sessions per week); and the other uses a hybrid studio approach (making more use of in-class lectures followed by hands on-studio activities, meeting for 170 minutes once per week) focused on experiential futures practices of tangible artifact and immersive scenario creation. We use four measures: learning activity inventory, course quality with faculty course evaluations, student experience with a post-course survey, and time and feedback on final projects. We discuss design trade-offs for learning: format of reflections is linked to transfer activities, time on learning activities shapes perceptions, less (interference) is more, more (scaffolding, feedback, links to practice, active learning) is better, and timing is everything.
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Visions of sustainable futures have been proposed as a key component of transition design, offering a way for today's situations and design proposals to be compared and critiqued in the light of desired future states. Such ambitions are necessarily wide-ranging, and call for drawing together strands on design and speculation from diverse sources. Here we seek to add to the momentum by exploring a set of concepts relating particularly to this role of vision in designing for transitions. Building on perspectives and projects from other fields, we present elements of a visionary vocabulary, situating these terms in relation to challenges and opportunities for transition thinking and practice in design research.
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