Kategorier
Conferences

IMAGINE at the ESA Conference

The last week of August/first of September was a busy one for the IMAGINE consortium. The day after the ‘Negotiating Themes in the fiction of Futures and the Imaginaries of Consumption’-workshop in Oslo, The European Sociological Association (ESA)’s Research Network of Sociology of Consumption Conference, hosted by Consumption Research Norway at the OsloMet main campus started. The theme for the conference was “Consumption, justice and futures: Where do we go from here? (oslomet.no)“. 146 participants from all over Europe gathered for the event and among them, many from the IMAGINE consortium.

The leader of WP5 EXCHANGE, Dan Welch was invited as a keynote speaker (oslomet.no) and Project Coordinator Atle Wehn Heggnes and Dan Welch led a Roundtable Discussion (conftool.org) about the project.

Keynote: Social Futures and the Sociology of Consumption

Dan Welch presented the history of futures, imaginares and utopias in Sociology, reminding us that the focus on past and current situations is relatively new. The origins of Sociology, socialism and utopia were in fact fundamentally intertwined in nineteenth century Europe: H.G. Wells, a contender for the first Chair of Sociology in the UK, suggested in 1906:

“…the creation of Utopias – and their exhaustive criticism – is the proper and distinctive method of sociology”.

H.G. Wells is of course more popularly known for his science fiction writing, in particular War of the Worlds (1898). Through his utopian novels, he imagined aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web.

An example of previous imaginaries of the future of consumption, that was mentioned, came from a completely different realm – one of design and product development: the 1950s ‘kitchen of the future’ (digitaltrends.com). They did not get everything right, but they did foresee the robot vacuum cleaner, among other things.

Photo: Robot vacuum cleaner in the kitchen of the future (Source: Tumblr).

These are examples of how future imaginaries have somehow informed the future or become reality, that, along with contemporary imaginaries from various stakeholders are increasingly becoming an object of study for Sociology – developing a Sociology of the future.

Welch also presented his previous work with imaginaries in the project Imagined futures of consumption (manchester.ac.uk) as well as his current work with IMAGINE.

You can read the full keynote abstract here (oslomet.no)

Roundtable: IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability

In the roundtable session, project Coordinator Atle Wehn Hegnes presented the project and its underpinnings, and Dan Welch went on to present the theoretical framework, as discussed in the workshop earlier the same week.

The presentations were followed by lively discussions with not only questions to the speakers, but also conversations between people in the audience. Subjects brought up ranged from how to help students imagine future scenarios and go beyond what they already know – here polarity maps were mentioned as a possible tool – to interesting projects and approaches that the audience knew about.

Some concepts, projects and thoughts discussed:
  • Narratives in policy shaping the future
  • Sustainable consumption was «invented» to reframe capitalism in a light that makes it look feasible as the underpinnings of capitalism were being thoroughly contested.
  • What is radical change: A question of scale – new business models may seem like productive imaginaries on a micro-scale but on a macro-scale, they are only reproducing the current systems.
  • Solar punk
  • College core
  • Long perspectives – knowing about alternatives is not enough, you need to feel them.
  • Hydroponics and future food production
  • The sociology of hope
  • Lund University Climaginaries Project (lu.se)
  • Carbon ruins: museum for the fossil age (climaginaries.org)
  • Embodied futures


Kategorier
Events

Workshop – Negotiating Themes in the fiction of Futures and the Imaginaries of Consumption

In late August, the consortium had the pleasure of finally meeting in person. On the 30th of August, Work package 5, EXCHANGE, arranged a workshop at Kulturhuset in Oslo.

Contextual Framework Session

Negotiating Themes in the fiction of Futures and the Imaginaries of Consumption

In the first session, Rick Dolphijn and Tamalone van den Eijnden presented their findings from WP1.

Rick first presented the reasoning for the work with the contextual framework.  This is linked to Paul Ricoeur’s ideas of imagination as an ecological project, existing not just in the human mind but fluctuating between reproductive and productive imagination.  As a result of their explorations, Rick and Tamalone have come up with some proposals, common threads and ways to look at the imaginaries. These themes were presented for discussion and negotiation.

Tamalone presenting the themes.

Tamalone then presented the findings within each theme, which was followed by a group discussion and feedback in plenary.

Their analysis of popular cultural imaginaries identified themes in films, novels, cartoons and advertising, specifically looking at the project’s three cases, dressing, eating and moving.

In the different themes, different aspects drive the future: technology, social innovation, de-colonisation, external factors like weather and catastrophes etc.

Stories around technology, where technology drives the future, dominate the findings,  but the other themes that might be considered more marginal should definitely be part of our project. The work shows that there are many narratives going on already which can help us de-territorialise and decolonise how we think about the future and capture other power structures and narratives. They may help us imagine other stories and ways of being, as well as objects and things influencing our imagination.

Thoughts about the future imaginaries

Some commonalities were found –  the sources always relate back to the nature of human beings and discuss this; in many of the catastrophe films it is almost irrelevant what the element is or why the catastrophe has come about, they serve as constraints for humans and reflections around human nature/behaviour.

It was striking how few utopian imaginaries are presented in popular culture – in our day-to-day, we usually think of technology as a force of liberation but in representations, it often represents a threat or constraints of some sort.

The ways in which some of our current practices resemble some of the imaginaries were also discussed, e.g., how protein shakes have become a common source of nourishment but that the highly processed food in some films does not seem so appealing.

Group Work Session

Group in deep discussion about one of the themes

This was an opportunity to discuss in person the ongoing and upcoming work and plan ahead.

WPs 1&2

The group discussed how the conceptual framework for the project consists of both the contextual framework from WP1 and the theoretical framework from WP5, and how these two frameworks interact. Rick and Tamalone’s summary report of their findings will give a contextual framework and a few directions for continuing the work with the theoretical framework.

So far, the work with both frameworks has shown that their development needs to be an ongoing negotiation, a dialogical process, starting from the online workshop in June. Furthermore, Dan Welch proposed to base it on Ricoeur and Practice Theory –  practice theory being the common ground for most of the project participants and Ricoeur being at the foundation of the project application, combining imaginaries and practices.

We were happy to learn from Audun Kjus that 71 stories about the future had been collected for WP2 on minner.no, approaching our goal of 100. The stories are not just about what the future is going to be but also about how, and they contain a lot of emotions. There is also much more heterogeneity than we are led to believe. The group then discussed how we can start to analyse these stories.

WPs 3 & 4

WP3&4 discussing the upcoming course

The group discussed the development and implementation of the upcoming 6-week course for the Product Design students at OsloMet, due to start in November. During the workshop, it was decided to engage students from Drama, Art, Fashion and Product Design together and make a joint exhibition. Here the inclusion of drama students will allow for performative confrontations that explore the future through other means than things.

Program

10 – 10. 15 am: Face to Face (!) Welcome by Dan

10.15 – 11.30 am: Contextual Framework Session  – Rick and Tamalone present work in progress and discussion

11.30 – 11.45 am: Coffee

11.45 – 1.15 pm: Group Work  

Group 1: (WPs 1 & 2) Atle, Harald, Virginie, Dan Welch, Rick, Tamalone, Audun, Lisbeth

Group 2: (WPs 3 & 4) Nenad, James, Marie, Dan Lockton, Henry, Joanne, Heidi, Niels Peter

1.15 – 2 pm: Lunch

2 – 3 pm: Feedback from Group sessions & Next Steps

Group Session questions:

– What are the upcoming activities and tasks this autumn?

– What are the main challenges?

– What do we need from other WPs?

– How can we collaborate within and across WPs?

– Does the theoretical framework work help us and in what ways (or not really)? Is there anything we would like to feed into the theoretical framework? (NB: the ‘theoretical framework’ is not intended to constrain WPs or set boundaries for theorising in IMAGINE, it is a WP5 work-stream in dialogue with the other WPs).