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IMAGINE at the Anticipation Conference

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory hosted Anticipation 2022 (anticipationconference.org), the 4th International Conference on Anticipation 16th-18th November 2022 at the Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, and a virtual conference on 4th November 2022. It set out to explore

how ideas of the future inform action in the present. With an emphasis on just futures, we seek contributions that explore equity and fairness and question who imagines futures and with which impacts. We invite researchers, scholars and practitioners engaging with anticipation and anticipatory practices to come together to deepen their understanding and create productive new connections.

IMAGINE was represented with two papers at the virtual conference.

Marie Hebrok, Nenad Pavel and James Lowley presented the paper «Speculative critical design as a means for interrogating imaginaries of sustainable futures» discussing the challenges of developing a master’s level course in speculative critical design approaches (SCD) at the Department of Product Design at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet), in the context of the research project IMAGINE.

Dan Welch and Dan Lockton presented the paper «Towards a Conceptual Framework for Contested Imaginaries of Sustainability» presenting the conceptual foundations of IMAGINE, informing understandings of the performative—and counter-performative—nature of anticipatory thought in processes of contestation between cultural imaginaries of sustainable futures.

You can read the extended abstracts on pp. 134-40 in the book of abstracts here (dropbox.com).

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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, imaginaries 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, particularly 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


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Accepted abstract at Anticipation

More good news! The abstract submitted by Marie Hebrok and Nenad Pavel for the Anticipation 22 Conference (anticipation.com) has been accepted! The conference is both virtual and in-person in Arizona.

selective focus photography of multicolored confetti lot

Imaginaries of sustainability – creating spaces for critical anticipation through speculative design approaches in design education

Dr. Marie Hebrok(corresponding author) Senior Researcher, Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University

Dr. Nenad Pavel, Associate Professor, Department of Product Design, OsloMetropolitan University

Abstract

This paper will reflect on the process and outcomes of involving design students in the recently commenced research project IMAGINE –contested futures of sustainability, through assignments to make current imaginaries of sustainability tangible and open for public critique by applying speculative design approaches. This is part of one of the three major steps defined in the research design of the project: identify, represent and confront. The tangible representations produced by students of how and by whom sustainable futures are imagined, will contribute to facilitate communication between relevant actors confronted with a multitude of contested imaginaries in order to expand the space for critique as well as for mutual understanding. Furthermore, to engage diverse stakeholders in crafting common imaginaries of sustainable futures that can work on the present to shape trajectories of change. We will base our paper on the outcomes of student involvement within two master-level courses in product design education conducted in 2021 and 2022 at Oslo Metropolitan University. Our aim is to discuss the value of our approach in fostering capacities for anticipation in design education, as well as for creating spaces for public anticipation through designerly and artistic ways of making complex issues tangible to the senses.

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Accepted abstract at ESA

The abstract submitted by Nina Heidenstrøm and Dan Welch to the European Sociological Association (ESA) conference to be held in August/September at OsloMet has been accepted!

fireworks illustration

Roundtable on IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability

Session panel:  Nina Heidenstrøm (SIFO) and Dan Welch (University of Manchester. Additional panellists TBC.

The Roundtable will introduce the recently inaugurated research project IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability (PI: Nina Heidenstrøm, SIFO), the conceptual foundations of the project and the project’s relevance to the study of consumption. The project resonates strongly with conference theme of “consumption, justice and futures [and] what it means to live and consume well in future societies”. IMAGINE is an interdisciplinary research project (humanities, social sciences, design and arts) that investigates the power of cultural imaginaries of sustainability to influence societal change, and guide and legitimize actions taken by different societal actors to establish possible futures. IMAGINE looks specifically at imaginaries tied to three currently unsustainable areas of consumption: food, clothes and mobility, and their associated practices. The Roundtable will be initiated with two presentations (10-15 minutes), followed by a chaired discussion of the issues, topics and concepts introduced. The first presentation (Heidenstrøm) will introduce the IMAGINE research programme, and its ambitions: to advance the theoretical and methodological approaches towards the scientific study of imaginaries; to convey imaginaries by making them tangible through visual, tactile and audial spaces; and to confront three types of actors—consumers, policy influencers and businesses with imaginaries of sustainability. IMAGINE’s interdisciplinary perspective mixing ethnography, philosophy, anthropology and sociology with design and art will provoke novel ways of seeing and understanding contemporary culture by creating fictional visions of alternative futures. The second presentation (Welch) will discuss the emerging conceptual framework from this interdisciplinary collaboration, drawing on results the project’s first Conceptual Workshop. The Conceptual Workshop develops theoretical dialogue between the three key disciplinary-theoretical foundations of the IMAGINE. Firstly, Ricoeur’s theory of cultural imagination, and the “utopian mode”. Secondly, sociological theories of practice, and their relation to understanding “social futures”. And thirdly, future-oriented design studies, such as speculative design and design fiction.