We have created a three-step methodological design where we first identify, secondly represent, and thirdly confront dominant imaginaries of sustainability. Confronting involved actors with the nature of the dominant imaginaries of their fields, the way in which they may be in conflict with other imaginaries, and the way they act on the present, is central to ensure that IMAGINE has an impact beyond academic advancements and policy implications. Our aim is to elevate dominant imaginaries from their institutionalized form to a state of reflexivity.
The first step, to identify dominant imaginaries,is accomplished in WP 1-2. This step is particularly attentive to the diachronic nature of imaginaries; how past, present and future times are interlinked and restrict or enable ways of thinking about the future. WP1 will construct a conceptual framework based on Ricœur’s concept of imagination. The framework enables us to gather data about the imaginaries of the past. We will mine 10 existing written policy documents (White papers, strategy papers, policy reports), and business strategy documents from three time periods (1980-2000-2020) for each of our three cases of eating, dressing, and moving (30 in total). However, most people do not actively engage with public documents. Thus, we will also identify imaginaries in the 10 most visited movies, 10 most sold novels and cartoons and 10 most viewed advertisements over the past 20 years explicitly dealing with the sustainable future (30 in total). We will use multimodal analysis to grasp the textual, visual and audial representations of futures, and discourse analysis to identify conflicting imaginaries.
In WP2, we explore current narratives about the future by gathering short essays from the three actors (consumers, businesses and policy influencers). In 1998, NEG asked the Norwegian population to write down their thoughts about the future.This list is our starting point. We will issue a new question list, asking 100 people from a diversity of communities 20 years later to reflect on the future again. Participants are encouraged to share their imaginaries in the shape of written stories, images, drawing or recordings, allowing respondents to use the elicitation technique they find suitable. Participants will be recruited through digital and community specific platforms that enable multiple forms of story-sharing. It is also crucial to account for the different abilities and resources of organised (business and policy) and unorganised (consumers) actors in expressing their imaginaries and identify how dominant discourses exclude consideration of alternative, less mainstream perspectives by framing what is considered possible and plausible. Often unintentional, such influence might disregard non-hegemonic discourses. Self-reflection, reciprocity, dialogue and refiguration will therefore play a central role in the analysis of the material from WP1-2. The first step of our methodological design, identify, leaves us with a rich empirical material about imaginaries of sustainability, which will feed into the following two steps of making imaginaries tangible and to confront society with them.
Imaginaries research has not pushed forward to represent imaginaries in tangible ways, or to confront the involved actors with their own and others’ imaginaries. Therefore, the second and third steps of IMAGINE, accomplished in WP 3-4, are to create representations of identified imaginaries, and to create a space for involving and confronting actors with these imaginaries. Representation is accomplished in WP3, where we will make imaginaries tangible using methods from the field of design. By producing film, images, products, models, system maps, installations, radio, and podcasts, we seek to make explicit possible implications of dominant imaginaries – bringing to light a multitude of imaginaries of sustainable futures both tacitly and consciously present in the minds and worlds of contemporary culture. These representations will be created on a continuum between industrial design and conceptual art and displayed in an open exhibition at DOGA – Design and Architecture Norway, showing a minimum of 10 pieces of tangibles. The items will be produced through a series of design lectures and design assignments developed in the project and conducted with design students at the Eindhoven University of Technology and OsloMet.
The WP3 tangibles will be used in WP4, which engages in confronting participating actors (consumers, businesses and policy influencers) with the dominant imaginaries of their fields by introducing them to the exhibition produced in WP3, and by engaging them in workshops. Through the participation of the Æra Strategic Innovation we will develop and apply workshop methodology to create a space for such language, based on their experience with workshop techniques and stakeholder collaboration in innovation projects. The Confront workshops will be addressing future imaginaries of eating, dressing, and moving. 3 workshops will be organized, each workshop will include 3-5 participants from each stakeholder group (consumers, business, and policy influencers), 9-15 participants per workshop, and 27-45 participants in total. Recruitment of business and policy actors will be done through the extensive networks of Æra and SIFO established through previous sustainability projects. The Confront workshops will facilitate discussions about previously unarticulated implications of dominant reproductive Imaginaries of Sustainability (IoS) across societal spheres that will surface through WP1-3. Furthermore, to develop common productive IoS, and help participants think about what kind of opportunities these may represent for policy development, consumer practices and business innovation. The workshops will have three sequential phases: 1) confronting participants with diverging IoS, 2) key insights are derived from reactions to the confrontation, and 3) shared imaginaries are developed. Resulting in 3 shared IoS and several key insights paving the way for future innovation in business and policy. Academically, the outcome will provide data on how divergent imaginaries are discussed, negotiated, marginalised and re-framed, and shed light on how different actors confront and engage with diverse imaginations.
The empirical investigation in IMAGINE will be supported by ground-breaking knowledge developed by two of the partners in IMAGINE; the research cluster Future Everyday at Eindhoven University, and the research project Imagined futures of consumption at the University of Manchester and their existing international networks. Through this collaboration, we will facilitate a knowledge exchange hub in WP5 that will produce a sound theoretical, methodological and dissemination framework for the overall project.