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For futures studies to impact mainstream culture and contribute to civilisation-scale “social foresight” it must be capable of bridging the “experiential gulf” between abstract possible futures, and life as it is directly apprehended in the embodied present. Some suggestions are offered for core skills and sensibilities to be cultivated by futurists in order to engage the experiential register.
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DECEMBER 2016 2726
by Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan
in foresight work, an idiom given to
abstraction because it is about things
reasons for what we would say has
mainstream thinking about the future
over the past half-century. By contrast,
the grounding of forethought in both
material and emotional reality very much
increases its potential impact on thought
motivation and rationale of which is to
rience as the palette of engagement.
catalyse insight and change” (Candy,
2015), has a deliberately wide compass,
editions of conventional design outputs
(print material, concept images, proto-
types, physical artifacts, etc), but also
installation, mail art, advertisements,
immersive theatre, guerrilla interven-
tion, digital simulation (VR/MR/AR), and
games. Tangible, immersive, interactive,
live, and playable modes are all in scope.1
futures are described in detail elsewhere
(Candy, 2010), but to provide a sense of
how far and how fast this area has de-
veloped over the past decade, and with
growing numbers of other practitioners
authors have worked on projects ranging
for a group of 550 people at a public
policy-oriented sustainability event, to
guerrilla street art campaigns, to nation-
al-level museums of future possibilities.
Partnering organisations have included
local, state, and federal governments,
community groups, educational and
cultural institutions, private enterprises,
the practice through teaching in the
at design schools, at OCAD and CCA.
What then are some of the challeng-
es for futurists making, or contem-
They include becoming transmedia
producers as well as the transdisciplinary
thinkers that we already try to be. This
in turn entails not only participating in,
but likely often facilitating, collaboration
across even more diverse skillsets, and
broaching new boundaries – such as
tive arts and analytical scholarshipin
addition to the disciplinary siloes which
Enabling group thought and creative
processes has been an important part
Mullert, 1987; Dator, 1993), and the
stakes may be obvious to many already,
augmented toolset, and the details of
what works best in what circumstances,
are only now beginning to be worked out.
Tu r n *
towards meeting this challenge.
1. The original article (Candy and Dunagan, 2016) deals in detail with the blossoming romance between futures and design, including parallel areas of practice
For futures studies to impact mainstream
culture and contribute to civilisation-scale
social foresightit must be capable of bridging
the experiential gulfbetween abstract
apprehended in the embodied present.
Plastic Century: interactive installation at
California Academy of Sciences. Project
by Stuart Candy, Jake Dunagan, Sar-
ah Kornfeld and Wallace J Nichols,
San Francisco 2010. Photo by Mike Estee.
* This is an edited excerpt of a full-length article and case study of an experiential futures project
undertaken by the authors at Arizona State University’s inaugural Emerge festival (Candy and Dun-
agan, 2016). The original piece appeared in a special issue of the journal Futures on “Experiencing
Futures”, guest edited by Cornelia Daheim and Kerstin Cuhls.
DECEMBER 2016 2928
for core skills and sensibilities that need
to be developed further; among them
certain competencies already widely
accepted and understood, alongside
others that may be less familiar.
riential futurist, you should:3
• Become a student of the history, culture,
and present situation of the places and
people with whom you are co-creating
– in order to empathise with and build
• Become a perceptive mindreader
– in order to understand the mental
models of participants or audienc-
or challenge those models.
habit of long-zooming and scale-tog-
gling – in order to venture, with your
transdisciplinary readiness to roam,
wherever the inquiry may need to go.
• Become a master of situations – in
order to facilitate the co-creative
processes of groups, which includes
recognising what to nail down, what
to leave open, and when and how
to improvise changes in response
to the needs of the moment.
bridging the gap between the ground
of present sensation and islands of
abstract possibility – in order to be
prepared to use whatever it takes
to catalyse heightened creativity,
thoughtfulness, engagement, and
action, in yourself and others.
Become a fastidious documen-
tarianin order to capture the
materials, feedback, and insights
created during what is a singular,
• Become a willing collaborator with
others you meet along the way – in
order to be poised to join forc-
es with those who have skills that
you don’t, since no social foresight
can be accomplished alone.
Overall, perhaps the central emerging
challenge for foresight practitioners has
less to do with generating and broad-
casting ideas about the future than with
designing circumstances or situations
in which the collective intelligence and
imagination of a community can come
the future(s) is one class of activity. To at-
tend to the design of processes whereby
scalable structures of participation, is
unending quest toward “a truly ‘integral’
approach to inquiry” (Voros, 2008).
Finally, we emphasise that the out-
come of all this is not simply to create
better futures. To catalyse better futures
is “the work” we futurists are called to
do, and being willing to recognise the
tions, as these become apparent, and to
evolve towards new horizons in how we
operate and cooperate––just as we urge
and aspire to help our clients, audienc-
es, students, and other constituencies
to do––is a critical part of that duty.
Candy, S. (2010). The Futures of Every-
day Life. University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Candy, S. (2015). The Thing from the Future. In:
Curry (Ed.). The APF Methods Anthology. APF.
Candy, S. and Dunagan, J. (2016). De-
People Who Vanished. Futures.
Dator, J. (1993). From Future Workshops
to Envisioning Alternative Futures. Hawaii
Research Center for Futures Studies.
Dator, J. (1996). Futures Studies as Applied
Knowledge. In Slaughter (Ed.). New Think-
ing for a New Millennium. Routledge.
Jungk, R. and Mullert, N. (1987) Future
Worksh ops . Institute for Social Inventions.
Ramos, J. (2006). Consciousness, culture
and the communication of foresight. Futures.
Slaughter, R. A. (1996). Futures Studies: From
Individual to Social Capacity. Futures.
Voro s, J. (200 8). Integral Futures: An
approach to futures inquiry. Futures.
Stuart Candy combines futures with design,
media and performance as a writer, producer,
speaker, educator, and consultant to diverse
organisations. He is Mitchell Visiting Professor at
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Fellow
of the Museum of Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro, and
advisor to the International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva.
Jake Dunagan is an experiential futurist,
governance designer, and teacher. He is
Director of Design Futures at, and
adjunct professor in the Design Strategy MBA
program at the California College of Arts (CCA).
Jake’s work has been centered around social
invention, and creating novel methods to help
individuals and institutions design better futures.
Futurematic Vending Machine: design jam at
future artifacts created by participants. Project by
Situation Lab and , Toronto
2014. Photo by Stuart Candy.
: Most
traditional futures practice and scholarship
operates at a high level of abstraction, while
manifestations of futures –– possible,
probable and preferable.
gap between the ground of present sensation and
islands of abstract possibility.”
The outcome of all this is not simply to create
interesting experiences; it is to make experiences
that lead to the creation of better futures.”
... It allows for participatory worldbuilding in real-time, and for users to immerse themselves in aspects of a preferred future state. By interacting with "situations and stuff from the future", we can engage in critical discourse about what a preferred future is and how to get there (Candy, 2015). Not only that, we may be able to design transitional experiences that take people through time rather than to a future state (a journey rather than a destination). ...
... There is something powerful about seeing a fictional world come to life, where it is no longer a figment of our imaginations, but a visceral real-world possibility. Whereas we addressed creating 'situations from the future' as inspired by LARPs, here we need to engage in creating 'stuff from the future' (Candy, 2015). The term visual futurist was a "unique and unprecedented film credit" given to Syd Mead, who designed the world of Blade Runner which was, at the time, the "most heavily designed cinematic world that...wasn't fantasy but a realistic future" (Bankston, 2017). ...
Full-text available
The worldbuilding practices of science fiction authors have the potential to play a key role in society, given that they involve the design and depiction of complex, alternative realities set in the future. This potential is acknowledged by Transition Design--an emerging area of practice that melds futures-based narratives, foresight, and systems-thinking, amongst other disciplines. Transition Design goes beyond social innovation to envision radically new images of the future, and pathways towards more sustainable systemic states. To facilitate the design of and transition towards sustainable futures, this Major Research Paper introduces the Seven Foundations of Worldbuilding: a model that integrates a new superstructure of complex systems with backcasting methodology.
... Further research is needed to include the design of a strategic plan for the implementation of the proposed changes within the organisation, including the application of foresighting techniques generating scenarios and narratives to foster increased participation and engagement within the company. This will ensure sustainability of the proposed practices, stimulate discussion and harness collaborative practices towards enhancing the engagement in future oriented behaviours (Candy & Dunagan 2016). ...
Conference Paper
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In this paper, we report on an organisational development project within a small-scale medical device company in Melbourne, Australia. Like many growing companies operating at the leading edge of innovation, success leading to growth creates new organisational problems, especially when internal processes hinder the overall company vision. This project supported the objective of improving the company's development strategy, by using a complexity-oriented strategic design approach. The project was carried out by students from the Master of Design Strategy and Innovation course in the School of Design at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia. There is an increasing interest in managing companies and organizations by considering them as complex living systems, because conventional linear, mechanistic approaches to change regularly fail to deliver desired outcomes. By using a holistic complexity-oriented approach to strategic design practice in organisational development and change, there is potentially greater capacity to respond to unpredicted emergent patterns and to activate the energy inherent in organisational networks. Such approaches enable development problems to be re-framed within the context of networks of social interactions. Because conventional design thinking has sustainability limitations in complex organisational development practice, a complexity-oriented approach to strategic design was proposed as a complementary practice to achieve meaningful innovation within the company. The investigation focused on the internal culture, processes and dynamics occurring within the company, using design research methods and participatory tools to map the informal network underlying the formal organizational structure, and to identify areas of improvement in order to enhance the effectiveness of the company's vision. Experiential scenarios for management and staff were prepared, with the aim to use foresight storytelling to enhance engagement and raise positive discussions around company growth and innovation. Findings indicate the crucial role of appropriate communication, with particular focus on bridging management and staff needs and on fostering the internal culture around a shared participatory strategy. The implementation of a reorganization of the company's working teams based on the company's informal structure has been proposed. Future research will include the design of a strategic plan for the implementation of the proposed changes within the organization, to ensure sustainability of the identified practices.
... Techniques and formats for producing experiential scenarios --'situations' and 'stuff' from times to come --are covered elsewhere; in particular the Experiential Futures Ladder may offer relevant scaffolding for this stage (Kornet, 2015, pp. 67-68;Candy & Dunagan, 2016). ...
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This article contributes to emerging hybrid design/futures practices by offering an orienting framework making images of the future more legible and concrete. The Ethnographic Experiential Futures (EXF) Cycle provides, practically, a way of inviting engagement with diverse participants, and methodologically, a generic process drawing on two traditions of foresight (ethnographic and experiential futures), with a view to promoting a more diverse and deeper array of scenarios for public consideration. The structure of the EXF Cycle is derived from hybrid efforts carried out by design/futures practitioners over some years, abstracted as scaffolding to serve future projects in a wide range of contexts. This piece first appeared in 2019 in the Journal of Futures Studies special double issue on Design and Futures <>, and was later republished in The Knowledge Base of Futures Studies <>.
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Immersive design fictions (IDFs) place participants in virtual reality and invite them to engage with interactive elements as if they were a character in a speculative storyworld. This approach offers a rich palette for crafting speculative experience through embodied interactions with environments, objects, and other agents. This paper illustrates a technique for incorporating IDF methods into the design classroom and argues that IDFs can be valuable tool for thinking speculatively in embodied and spatialized ways. Further, by situating speculative interaction in a virtual storyworld, IDFs also offer experiential anchors for considering the social implications and ethics of a design fiction scenario. These points are illustrated through a range of examples from student work, including projects that explore: climate futures, pandemic futures, speculative automation services, modular housing technologies, and a revolutionary speakeasy.
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Design and Futures is a major collection of essays, manifestos, interviews and peer-reviewed articles, edited by Stuart Candy (Carnegie Mellon University) and Cher Potter (Victoria and Albert Museum), documenting 'design futures' discourse and practice around the world. First published as back-to-back volumes in the open access Journal of Futures Studies, the present compilation preserves the original formatting while unifying all 30 pieces between covers for the first time. Forty-nine contributors from 16 countries write on topics ranging from worldbuilding and curriculum design to temporality and decolonisation, as well as new methods and processes that build on over a decade of experiential futures, speculative design and related practices. Design and Futures will be an essential reference for anyone working or studying in either field. Also available in a print-on-demand paperback, at cost:
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This paper sketches the broad outlines of the philosophical and methodological foundations of an emerging approach to inquiry—‘integral inquiry’—and how this form of inquiry may be applied to futures studies, leading to an approach which has come to be called ‘Integral Futures’.
Special issue of the journal. Page numbers are for the whole issue.