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  • Ecole des Ponts Business School; University of New Brunswick; University of Stavanger


Futurists are haunted by an unresolved problem – how to deal with the unknowable and novelty rich future. Most futurists in the APF and elsewhere have accepted for some years now that prediction and probability are limited ways of thinking about the future. But knowing what does not work is not the same as knowing what does. The paradox of futures is that we can’t find ways to ‘know’ the future, but rather we need to find ways to live and act with not-knowing the future. This requires the discipline of anticipation (DOA).
Dr. Riel Miller is
one of the world’s
leading strategic
foresight designers
and practitioners. He
has recently been
appointed Head of
Foresight at UNESCO
in Paris. For further
details see:
by Riel Miller
Futurists are haunted by an unresolved
problem – how to deal with the
unknowable and novelty rich future.
Most futurists in the APF and elsewhere have
accepted for some years now that prediction and
probability are limited ways of thinking about
the future. But knowing what does not work is
not the same as knowing what does. The paradox
of futures is that we can’t find ways to ‘know’ the
future, but rather we need to find ways to live and
act with not-knowing the future. This requires the
discipline of anticipation (DOA).
What is Disciplinarity?
Discipline is by definition an encounter with
constraints. In this sense the development and
description of a discipline, be it the mastery of
a stonemason or the expertise of an economics
professor, is based on how practice confronts and
works within the limits imposed by the discipline.
Once a discipline is well established, the terms
and institutions that define and limit the practice
become familiar and obvious. For instance, in the
mid-twentieth century economics as a university-
based discipline was consistently defined in
introductory textbooks (such as Samuelson) as
the study of the “allocation of scarce resources
amongst competing ends.” Such formulations,
as well as the systems that reproduce and alter
disciplinary knowledge, evolve over time. This
short essay is not meant to offer a comprehensive
analysis of the theory and practice, debates and
experience, power and history that give rise to
and reshape the contours of a discipline. Rather,
considering the contributions of the APF and the
experiences of futurists around the world, the
focus is on the need for disciplinarity and an initial
sketch of what such a discipline entails.
Why Disciplinarity?
The motivating hypothesis of this piece is that
the time has come for futurists to collaborate to
develop a discipline concerned with the nature,
role and use of the future, both in human systems
and more generally as part of our efforts to
understand our anticipatory universe. There is
a number of reasons, summarized briefly here,
that justify an effort by futurists to elaborate a
 Philosophy and science have opened
up new ways of defining the universe and
understanding what is the future.
 Due to specific attributes of the present,
success in using the future without a discipline
is reaching its limits – both in terms of the
quality of the processes and outcomes.
 Values and tools, aspirations and daily
practices are generating the potential to use
the future differently, but this potential cannot
be grasped without the assurance – depth of
knowledge, trustworthiness, legitimacy,
visibility – afforded by disciplinarity.
 The emergence of a discipline of
anticipation, focused on defining and using
the future more effectively, is already
underway. By making an explicit commitment
to this project futurists can both enhance the
speed and quality of the work.
A discipline offers at least three advantages:
1. Depth: that by circumscribing what
is legitimately included within the claims of
knowing, a discipline can focus on developing
an expertise (specialization), deepening its
theory and practice;
2. Identity: through such specialization, and
the specialized language that goes with it, both
the practitioner (from apprentice to master)
and the outsider (layperson) can identify the
discipline as concerned with a specific subject
matter and why it is trustworthy;
3. Legitimacy: depth and identity help
to foster responsibility and legitimacy
– the foundations (but not a guarantee) of
trustworthiness and motivation for investing
in the stocks/flows of a discipline (which
include reputational assets and attention
to excellence).
The Discipline of Anticipation
When framed as a discipline, ‘anticipation’
entails the acquisition and use of a set of design
principles for thinking about the ‘later-than-
now.’ When someone becomes more capable
at anticipation they become better at using the
future to understand the present. They are more
capable because they are better able to do three
general tasks. They can (1) clarify the specific
purposes of thinking about the future;
(2) establish a consistent relationship between the
aims of futures thinking and the methods used to
do so; and (3) achieve greater sophistication, as is
to be expected when disciplinarity brings greater
depth, clarity and legitimacy. These are accepted
attributes of mastery acquired through learning.
My initial propositions for general design
principles for the Discipline of Anticipation
(DOA) fall into four categories:
1. A descriptive proposition that defines what
is the future.
2. A sensemaking proposition that calls
for an anticipatory systems point-of-view for
the discipline as a whole.
3. A taxonomic proposition that distinguishes
the three distinct but practically overlapping
forms that conscious anticipation can take in
the present.
4. An organizational proposition that offers
rules for conducting and organizing
anticipatory processes according to the
principles of the scientific method (hypothesis
testing and external review).
The Discipline of Anticipation –
An Initial Specification
1. The future defined. The DOA assumes
that the future is defined by four fundamental
attributes of our universe: the practical
irreversibility of time; birth and death –
difference and repetition; unforeseeable
novelty; and connectedness.
i. Time is irreversible and continuous/
contiguous. ‘Time travel’ cannot be done.
Despite the multi-dimensionality of time/
space there is no way to leap from the
present into the past or future. So, in
practical terms, the future does not exist
outside of the present. The future is a
presently imagined ‘later in time.’
The Components
of the Future
“I believe it is useful to assume
that ‘the future’ will derive from
three components. One will be the
continuation of things found in the
present, and also found in the past
The second component will be
things that existed in the past, but not
in the present, that will appear again in
the future – and their opposite: things
that did not exist in the past but are
very much a part of the present but
that will not exist (or be as important)
in the future. These things often appear
as cycles or ‘spirals’.
The third component will be novelties
– things that do not exist now and never
existed before, but will in the future.”
- James Dator,
Alternative Futures for KWaves
reality. As a result we live in a universe
where there can be inertia and rupture,
continuity and transformation as well as
inter-dependence. This means that the
future (i.e., what we imagine in the
present) can be about preservation,
destruction, and the capacity to perceive
and act on emergence.
Planted on this foundation the
Discipline of Anticipation can offer
practical ways to describe, locate and track
change in its many guises, while consistently
and effectively understanding that the ‘later
than now’ is always imaginary.
2. Anticipatory systems. Anticipation
is a ‘real’ attribute of the present, embedded
within the functioning of physical and social
phenomena as they re-emerge and emerge into
the present. The anticipatory systems
perspective explicitly seeks to take into
account the full range of inanimate and
animate anticipation. This is critical for
disciplinarity because it sets the general
framework for trying to understand and use
the vast range of specific forms of anticipation
– forms that are also context specific.
Taking an anticipatory systems perspective
assists the discipline to make distinctions
across forms and context, linking tasks
and tools according to consistent principles
and observations.
3. Categories of the potential of the
present. Categorization of different ‘kinds’
of anticipation, distinct definitions of what
is the future in the present (‘being without
existing’), facilitate the practical task
of imagining the future. The three types of
future that exist in the present, and need to be
distinguished by futurists in order to enhance
the sophistication of anticipation, are:
(1) contingent futures that can be imagined as
the outcome of external forces;
(2) optimization futures that assume systemic
continuity and implicitly or explicitly
‘colonize’ the future by assuming that specific
outcomes will pertain; and
(3) novel futures that have no imminent cause
but spring into existence, altering the present.
Of course, all three categories interact and are
inter-dependent. These categories are
particularly helpful in applied anticipation,
taken up in the next principle.
ii. Birth and death, difference and
repetition. In our universe new entities and
entities of entities (assemblages) can come
into existence, emerge in the present, be
born and can also disappear or die.
Without this basic premise dynamics or
change cannot exist and the ‘later than now’
would just be the same as ‘now’. Continuity
also occurs, as what is now is then repeated
in the after. This gives rise to a number of
categories of the future in the present,
including ‘latency’ which is the potential of
phenomena to become and to repeat,
manifesting emergence and inertia
over time.
iii. Unforeseeable novelty, the determinants
of which do not fully exist in the present,
means that the present only partially
determines what happens ‘later than now.’
Novelty, something from nothing, emerges
in ways that can fundamentally alter the
present. Even if we had perfect knowledge
of all aspects of the present, and perfect
models of how all aspects of the present
interact, the emergent present would still
contain surprises. This means we live
with creative causality as well as
continuity causality.
iv. Connectedness takes many forms, but
what it means for the ‘later than now’ is that
there are connections and interactions that
span time, acting across different levels of
Anticipation is
an attribute of
the present that is
embedded in physical
and social phenomena
as they emerge.
first category); and the third is a more normative
and sometimes imaginative image of hoped-for
tomorrows. In practice, though, the predominant
response is to seek out lines of probable cause
using trends, drivers and other sources of ‘likely’
(or unlikely) outcomes – that attempt in one way or
another to discover ‘how the future might unfold.’
As a result the purpose and methods of
anticipatory thinking tend to be dominated by
probabilistic analysis. Which, as is generally
accepted, must rest one way or another on
continuity-type causal explanations. This excludes
novelty that cannot be imagined through causality
and cannot be identified from within a rigorous
probabilistic framework. The search for causal
continuity narrows both the definition of the
future and the methods for apprehending it.
It is worth noting that the DOA does not
constrain how we go about imagining the future.
Today’s futurists have access to a wide and
refined panoply of tools. Professional futurists
have an impressive toolkit, ways of undertaking
anticipatory thinking that range from Jay Ogilvy’s
‘scenaric stance’ and Sohail Inayatullah’s Causal
Layered Analysis to the Ken Wilber-inspired
Integral Futures and the Global Business Network’s
four-quadrant scenarios. (The last two are discussed
elsewhere in this book). All of these techniques
and many more are potentially useful, depending
on the context. The point is that disciplinarity
can help practitioners to insist on embracing the
fundamental unknowability of the future and
4. The practice of the DOA as a capacity.
Since the Discipline of Anticipation is a way
to use the future to learn (creating knowledge)
it is therefore a form of research or cognitive
engagement/construction. Consequently
the DOA as practice consists of activities that
always involve narrative (sense making),
collective intelligence, and framing/reframing.
This is a scientific meta-framework for sensing
and making sense of the present that ensures that
the way we use the imaginary future is consistent
with the three preceding principles.
Each of these premises is necessary, and
all are inter-dependent. Taken together, these
are design principles for using the future. Or,
to put it in different terms, building a more
complete and rigorous connection between the
definition of what is the future, as emergent,
rich, and unknowable novelty, and how to gain an
understanding of the imagined future, through
the narratives we invent in the present, calls for a
set of design principles that take into account the
four premises of the Discipline of Anticipation.
Of course, the conventional position in much
of the futures community is to use a threefold
categorization that distinguishes probable, possible
and visionary, or preferred, futures. The first is
based mostly on models and data that forecast
the future probabilistically using the past; the
second is rooted in scenarios that tell more or
less imaginative stories about different ‘possible
futures (often difficult to distinguish from the
The Creative Mind
In The Creative Mind (1911), Henri Bergson
argued for turning on its head the common sense
view that possibilities precede actual choices. He
argued that it is experience that precedes possibility
and that we ‘see’ the options in the past once we
know the present.
The following thought experiment helps
to illustrate this hypothesis: Imagine you come to a
fork in the road without knowing which one to take
to reach your destination. You turn left and discover
it is the wrong direction. It is then – at that moment,
constructed in the reflexivity of our actions and
inter-actions, that you know that you made a
mistake. Only now, the possibility of turning right
exists in the past.
Novelty can be understood in a similar way, it
inspires the identification of possibilities in the past.
These are possibilities that could not be known in
the present because the future of complex realities
is unknowable. Such possibilities arise not because
of ignorance (something that could potentially be
known) but because creative novelty happens and
changes what we know and reflexively construct in
the present, including possibilities in the past.
to include anticipatory methods and goals that
are liberated from the reductionist constraints
of probability, continuity and the reductionist
projection of existing frames into the future.
Few aspects of our conscious reality are as
powerful as the imagined future for determining
what we do. For organizations like governments
and firms, and families and communities, the future
is often the primary reason for doing (even being).
By helping to use the future better, in particular
by diversifying the use of the future away from
heretofore dominant methods – such as probability
and planning – and embracing the ambiguity of
creative novelty, the development and diffusion
of the Discipline of Anticipation can change what
people and organizations do. It offers one way
to reconcile the way we use the future with the
aspirations we have for our capacity to be free.
There is no way to know if this will be ‘better’ or
‘worse,’ there is no way to know what will happen,
but at least human hubris may be tempered by the
exigencies of a discipline that seeks to enjoy the
amazing creativity of our universe.
With thanks to my colleagues in the APF, the
FuMee group, and the editor of this volume,
Andrew Curry.
Further reading
Curry, Andrew and Wendy Schultz, (2009),
“Roads Less Travelled: Different Methods,
Different Futures,Journal of Future Studies,
May, Vol. 13, No. 4.
Fuller, Ted and Krista Loogma, (2009),
“Constructing Futures: A Social Constructivist
perspective on foresight methodology,”
Futures, Vol. 41, Issue 2.
FuMee 3, “Unfolding the Present, Spontaneity
and Mercury’s Arrow,”
Mermet, Laurent, Ted Fuller and Rudd van der
Helm, (2009), “Re-examining and renewing
theoretical underpinnings of the Futures field:
A pressing and long-term challenge,Futures,
Vol. 41, Issue 2.
Mermet, Laurent, (2009) “Extending the
perimeter of reflexive debate on futures
research: An open framework,” Futures,
Vol. 41, Issue 2.
Miller, Riel, (2011), “Being Without Existing:
The Futures Community at a Turning Point?
A Comment on Jay Ogilvy’s Facing the Fold,”
Foresight, Vol. 13, No. 3.
Miller, Riel and Roberto Poli, (2010),
Anticipatory Systems and the Philosophical
Foundations of Futures Studies,Foresight,
Vol. 12, Issue 3.
Poli, Roberto, (2010), “An Introduction to the
Ontology of Anticipation,” Futures,
Vol. 42, Issue 7.
Rossel, Pierre, (2010), “Making Anticipatory
Systems More Robust,” Foresight,
Vol. 12, Issue 3.
Tuomi, Ilkka, (forthcoming), “Foresight in an
Unpredictable World,” Technology Analysis and
Strategic Management.
... In contrast, social science methods oriented toward the future issued from anticipation (Adams et al. 2009;Miller 2012), speculation (Auger 2013;Ross 2017Ross , 2022, and critical future studies (Miller and Sandford 2018;Oomen et al. 2022) are in this respect promising for the qualitative research of emerging ADM practices in education. We call these methods future-oriented social science methods -or just future-oriented methods -as they are oriented toward crafting futures and enticing people 'to become conversant with futures-in-the-making' (Light 2021: 1). ...
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Emerging automated-decision making (ADM) technologies invite scholars to engage with future points in time and contexts that have not yet arisen. This particular state of not knowing yet implies the methodological challenge of examining images of the future and how such images will materialize in practice. In this respect, we ask the following: what are appropriate research methods for studying emerging ADM technologies in education? How do researchers explore sociotechnical practices that are in the making? Guided by these questions, we investigate the increasing adoption of ADM in teachers' assessment practices. This constitutes a case in point for reflecting on the research methods applied to address the future of assessment in education. In this context, we distinguish between representational methods oriented to recounting past experiences and future(s) methods oriented to making futures. Studying the literature on speculative methods in digital education, we illustrate four categories of future(s)-oriented methods and reflect on their characteristics through a backcasting workshop conducted with teachers. We conclude by discussing the need to reconsider the methodological choices made for studying emerging technologies in critical assessment practices and generate new knowledge on methods able to contribute to alternative imaginaries of automation in education.
... The responses from both questions (future relevance and clairvoyant) were compiled and categorised using Dator (2006) components of the future as a method highlighted in Miller (2012) to aid in anticipating the future. Specifically, the first component consists of a future with the 'continuation of things found in the present and also found in the past'; the second component being 'things that existed in the past, but not in the present, that will appear again in the futureand their opposite: things that did not exist in the past but are very much part of the present but will not exist (or be as important) in the future'; and the third component being 'novelties things that do not exist now and never existed before, but will in the future' (Miller, 2012, p. 41). ...
This paper presents key ideas from a Futures study relating to part-time (PT) Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programmes. The objective of the study was to determine the likely nature of PT MBA programmes approximately 30 years in the future, i.e., 2050, and to do so in the context of an assessment of possible long-term impact of disruptions caused or accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The research involved strategic conversations with ten PT MBA Programme Directors or equivalent across seven countries and each of whom was based in Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)-signatory institutions. The findings suggest that MBA programmes of the future are likely to be significantly different to current PT MBAs. To close the learning loop associated with the original term of strategic conversations, higher education institutions (HEIs) are invited to consider the findings to inform strategic conversations within their own institutions in respect of future PT MBA design and provision.
... For this reason, the methodological framework of the research is placed in the broader area between the Discipline of Anticipation [16] and Design, aiming to push the boundaries of yacht design practices. Furthermore, this context of investigation compels the research to continuously shift from field exploration and interpretation (surveys and case studies) and forecasting activity (participatory scenario-building workshop), opening up to several tangents or critical matters that position the study at a conceptual level to be verified with on-site practices. ...
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The huge transformation fostered by the current industrial revolution is changing each side of our society. In the design field, the use of digital and connected technologies improves not only the representation but also the formal references and the creative process itself. The research investigates the role of the digitally enabled technologies in modifying the disciplinary approaches to yacht design, a particular field of industrial design in which engineering and design approaches are mixed and overlapped. Through case studies and forecasting workshops, the research proposes a journey toward a more digitally conscious and virtually collaborative environment, highlighting as the traditional process of the yacht design discipline is no more valid. The research results, presented in the form of three roadmaps, show as 4.0 digital technologies are deeply transforming not only the representation of a design project but also its formal references and tools. For this reason, the three possible shifts in the yacht design practices are highlighted—input data are moving from analogic to digital reframing the focus from the measuring to inferring, the use of parametric and generative tools is shifting the “digital doing” from drafting to logic, digital twins are modifying the approach to communication media toward more collaborative strategies.
... In the Discipline of Anticipation (Miller 2018) various studies has been done. In Poli (2010) he refers to various references to anticipation including but not limited to, theory of anticipatory systems (Louie and Poli 2011;Louie 2009), resilience (Rossel 2012;Almedom 2009), Future literacy (Miller 2012); anticipatory governance (Fuerth and Faber 2012) and anticipatory policy (Bali, Capano, and Ramesh 2019). For a more exhaustive list (cf. ...
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In Rosen’s Anticipatory systems theory, it is generally accepted that modelling relations correctly is important to improve anticipatory capacity. Recently it was accepted that social systems can also be seen as anticipatory systems in which their internal predictive models are generally meaning facilitated through information. However, it is not clear how these externalised models in social systems are measured, thus how “good or bad” they are before deciding on a course of action. Drawing on the Science of Conceptual Systems, these models are regarded as conceptual systems, which include, policies, theories, code of ethics, etc. that guide human decisions and action. In this study using the Integrative Propositional Analysis methodology, the structure of the models provides a useful measure for their anticipatory capacity. The more structured models encode the natural environment more accurately, enhancing their social utility. This research is expected to support inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinary scholars and practitioners.
Scenario planning developed as a practice and a process almost twenty years after the first modern futures practice, yet it has become a dominant discourse within the futures literature. Within this discourse, the “intuitive logics” school—closely associated with the Global Business Network [GBN] and SRI, and also if less so with Royal Dutch Shell—has become influential. Literature reviews of scenario methods can even overlook other scenarios processes. In doing this, it has pushed to the background other futures methods that were rooted in philosophical approaches, were oriented towards visioning and agency, and adopted more critical epistemologies. This chapter traces the emergence of scenario planning in the late 1960s and the 1970s, from its roots in more quantitative approaches to futures originally developed for the US Department of Defense. It was adopted at that time because of the crisis of planning then being experienced by large corporations because of the end of the long post-war economic boom. A second wave of corporate scenario planning followed in the 1990s after GBN published a simplified process for developing scenarios using the double uncertainty (2x2) matrix. Several characteristics of corporate scenario planning follow from this history, including the “decision focus” referenced in the literature and assumptions about the relationship between the business and its broader environment. There is also a correspondence between types of methods (for example, deductive or inductive) and the epistemological base of scenarios practice. Finally, the chapter draws on Tibbs’ (1999) model of the psychological basis of futures work to locate mainstream scenario planning work in the body of business strategy, and to understand the business question that scenario planning emerged to address.
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How do people become conversant with futures-in-the-making? This paper explores speculative design from the position that futures have agency in the present and therefore forms of speculation – as well as futures - need to be inclusive. Regarding this as a democratic right throws attention on engagement processes, noting that speculation is often centred on the designer’s interests rather than seeding appropriation by publics. I argue that situating speculation in a way that is accessible for negotiation requires careful attention to the hybrid process + object artifacts that result from designing both a provocation and a process for encountering it. My central case study describes one such hybrid artifact, a counterfactual workshop for considering futures by exploring different imagined pasts and making a journey towards alternative presents. This play of temporalities – and the accompanying methods for opening and narrowing the creative work of taking these journeys – suggest a means that speculative design might be situated with participants, thereby simultaneously reflecting on and mitigating the anticipatory nature of the materials. I deconstruct this instance of curating speculative artifacts to reveal not only its mechanisms, but the many points where engagement processes reflect political choices.
In the energy transition process, Grassroot Initiatives (GIs) are increasingly recognized by both researchers and policy makers as new actors. GIs aim to create a sustainable society in both generation and consumption of energy, responding to the local situation, interests and values of the communities involved (Seyfang and Smith, 2017). Looking at this definition, it appears that GIs anticipate certain futures when they initiate and develop their projects. For example, they steadily increase the production of renewables such as solar and wind to make a profit. The aim of this paper is to broadly explore the futures anticipated by GIs. To investigate this topic, we analyse anticipated futures of GIs communicated in the media, using a futures framing approach with athematic categorizations (probable, possible and preferred futures; optimistic and pessimistic futures; and the time horizon) and thematic aspects: environmental, political, economic, social and technical. The results show connections between certain thematic frames and the types of futures. For example, the desired futures anticipated by GIs are dominantly environmental and social futures, while the expected future is mainly economic and technological. The environmental desired future has a long time horizon, while the social desired futures were anticipated in the very near future. Interestingly, politics play a relatively small role as anticipated future of GIs.
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This exploratory project emerged from the question, "do different scenario building methods generate distinctively different outputs?" Using base data from a completed scenario project, the authors and volunteer participants re-processed the raw and filtered drivers and interview data through four different scenario build- ing methods: the 2x2 matrix approach; causal layered analysis; the Manoa approach; and the scenario archetypes approach. We retained the issue question from the original project ("what are possible futures for civil society?") as our focus. This exploratory comparison confirmed that different scenario generation meth- ods yield not only different narratives and insights, but qualitatively different participant experiences.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to put the paper by Jay Ogilvy in the context of current debates around the philosophical foundations of future studies. Design/methodology/approach The paper takes the form of a review and analyzes the current literature on foresight and philosophy of the future. Findings The paper finds that the practical challenge of taking a “scenaric stance”, as articulated in “Facing the fold”, cannot be addressed without going beyond the typically epistemological solutions proposed by most futurists. Research limitations/implications The challenge is not finding ways to “know” the future, rather to find ways to live and act with not‐knowing the future. Practical implications The “scenaric stance” points to a way of embracing what Henri Bergson calls “the continuous creation of unforeseeable novelty.” Social implications The “scenaric stance” offers one way of addressing the difficult, often deeply painful challenge of reconciling the desire for certainty with the desire to “be free” – in the Senian sense of capacity – by providing a way to embrace ambiguity and spontaneity. Originality/value The emergence of new solutions to how people think about the future rather than what kind of future reflects a confluence of events in the realms of theory and practice. The reason why one needs to and can rethink how one thinks about the future is original to the present conjuncture.
Theoretical and methodological crossover between the field of Futures Studies and environmental research has proven instrumental in understanding environmental long-term dynamics. However, the scale taken today by studies and research on such dynamics creates a new challenge for futurists and environmental scientists, as many set patterns of thought or research in both communities will have to be re-examined. For futurists, it will be necessary to go beyond attempts to standardize Futures Studies methods. The alternative is to promote theoretical and methodological reflexion within the rapidly expanding life-size (and not workshop size) fora of scholarly and policy debate. It will also mean overcoming the regime of metonymical hustle whereby once and again, a new school of thought tries to redefine the entire field and reduce it to its own purpose, concepts and toolkit. This paper proposes an “open” framework as a guide for each study on futures to make explicit the specific and fundamental choices it rests on. It is meant as an invitation to step back and consider new beginnings in a workspace open to the widest possible diversity and scale of approaches, as will be necessary if studies on futures are to rise to the challenges of research for sustainable development.
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the relationship between a particular epistemological perspective and foresight methodology. We draw on a body of social theory concerned with the way that meaning is produced and assimilated by society; specifically, the social construction of knowledge, which is distinguished from its near-neighbour constructivism by its focus on inter-subjectivity. We show that social constructionism, at least in its weak form, seems to be implicit in many epistemological assumptions underlying futures studies. We identify a range of distinctive methodological features in foresight studies, such as time, descriptions of difference, participation and values, and examine these from a social constructionist perspective. It appears that social constructionism is highly resonant with the way in which knowledge of the future is produced and used. A social constructionism perspective enables a methodological reflection on how, with what legitimacy, and to what social good, knowledge is produced. Foresight that produces symbols without inter-subjective meaning neither anticipates, nor produces futures. Our conclusion is that foresight is both a social construction, and a mechanism for social construction. Methodologically, foresight projects should acknowledge the socially constructed nature of their process and outcomes as this will lead to greater rigour and legitimacy.