Images of the future

What do Norwegian consumers think about the future of eating, dressing and moving?

This summer, the project note “Images of the future. Reporting on the data collection”, was published. Written by Audun Kjus, Harald Throne-Holst and Atle Wehn Hegnes, it is based on a collection of stories about the future from Norwegian consumers.

This is a deliverable from Work Package 2 – “Explore” in the research project IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability. The aim of the WP is to collect narratives about the future from the Norwegian population through a questionnaire distributed in collaboration with the Norwegian Ethnological Research (NEG). The note examines 123 stories, collected from May 2022 to June 2023.

We asked one of the authors, Atle Wehn Hegnes, to tell us about the report.

The report is in Norwegian, citing the Norwegian consumer stories, can you give an overview of what it contains for English-speaking readers? What can they expect to find in it when they use Google Translate?

The project note is divided into three main parts. The first part concerns background, objectives, methods, and sources. The second part, titled “Narratives,” looks into overarching themes and ways that people talk about the future, which include “the crisis ladder,” “modernity and morality,” and “frugality.” In the third part, “Dimensions,” we have identified some recurring themes in the material that appear across multiple narratives. The appendix presents the results in a matrix, showcasing the breadth of narratives about the consumption areas of food, clothing, and transportation. In sum, English-speaking readers, if they use Google Translate, will hopefully find a general presentation of future scenarios based on responses from 123 contributors. We hope that the narratives and themes can be understood as relevant to the ongoing discussions about the future of sustainability in Norway and insights into how the Norwegian population perceives and imagines different aspects of their future, especially related to consumption and sustainability.

What kind of stories did you find?

The stories we collected ranged from optimistic to pessimistic, shaped by contributors’ attitudes towards for example modernity, technology, and humanity’s potential.

Some optimistic stories embrace modernity and technology, seeing them as tools for positive change. Contributors expressed faith in technological advancements, such as implants for health monitoring or sustainable textile production, as a way to support freedom, reason, and global development. Some believed that people inherently desire cooperation, safety, and harmony, and that with time, they would overcome restrictive traditions and ideologies to create a better future.

Pessimistic stories, on the other hand, focused on the challenges posed by cultural, historical, as well as the influence of capital forces. They saw these obstacles as formidable counterforces against progress. While some acknowledged that renewal through research and idealism could lead to a better society, they expressed doubts that humanity would overcome ingrained greed and ignorance. They identified humanity’s inherent negative qualities as the fundamental problem, highlighting issues such as overconsumption, population growth, and the abuse of power by certain groups.

In the report, you describe how the topics of the stories shifted over time. What were these shifts?

The report reflects work that was carried out in the spring of 2023, using material that was collected from the spring of 2022 to the spring of 2023. A lot has happened during this period. The world was emerging from a pandemic but was at the same time entering into a war when the collection began. Around halfway through the period, ChatGPT was launched, electricity prices in Norway increased drastically, and the interest rate was on the rise. Our material shows that our imaginings of the future are shaped by these events and by the state of society today.

Were there findings that surprised you in particular?

In this early stage of analysis, the optimism about the past, and how it impacts our understandings and hope for the future, is something I find interesting. Although it may not be particularly surprising.

So then, what are the visions of the future of eating, dressing and moving among the respondents?

They are numerous and complex, and that is what makes IMAGINE, this material, and this project note exciting to work with further. We already now see that there are more people with visions for travel and food in the future than about clothing. This is interesting in the sense that it can tell us something about which areas of consumption are getting attention, and that this might change. However, it’s difficult to give a good answer to this question now, but I will hopefully give a more nuanced answer if you ask me the same question again in a few months.

The full report can be found here.

The questionnaire on remains open during the whole project period, so should you like to contribute as well, this is still possible.


Visit to TU Eindhoven

From 22nd – 24th of May, Marie Hebrok and James Lowley went to Eindhoven University of Technology to visit Dan Lockton. The purpose of the visit was both to share experiences and to work with the students at TU Eindhoven.

The three researchers discussed their experiences with and the outcomes of the design courses that they have been running at OsloMet and Eindhoven as part of the IMAGINE project. They also made plans for the development of the planned IMAGINE exhibition toward the end of 2024.

James and Marie hosted a lecture and workshop on food future imaginaries with MA design students attending the course Researching the Future Everyday.

Together with the students they reflected on and visualized how futures of food and eating are imagined – how imaginaries manifest in the present – and what the role of design is.

They also got the chance to visit the RetroFuture exhibition at The Evoluon – that “explores how we envisioned the future in the past, while reflecting on our understanding of the future today”.

We all dream about the future. Do we dream about the Earth, the Moon, or the universe? About how we can all live together peacefully, or how we might end up living in a nightmare? Or about all of the things that will be made possible thanks to technology and science? And how do past dreams and the here and now affect the way we think about the future?

Text from the RetroFuture Exhibition

News People

Guest researcher from Utrecht at SIFO

We would like to welcome Justyna Jakubiec to SIFO!

She joined the project recently and this is her first visit of two during the IMAGINE project. She is visiting from our partner Utrecht University, where she is currently a Research Assistant, after having finished her RMA thesis on “Science Fiction Film and Becoming Otherwise: Woundedness, Posthuman Performativity, and Reinventing Subjectivity”.

Her visit kicked off with a workshop between WP1 and WP2 on the 29th March and she is working closely with Virginie Amlien and the other SIFO researchers in the project during her stay.

Working on the IMAGINE project since February, together with Rick Dolphijn I am part of WP1, focusing on identifying dominant imaginaries of sustainable futures. This is my first visit and research stay at SIFO: until April 30th I will continue our research on policy documents and business strategy documents, with a special focus on Oslo municipality. I will continue WP1’s role to negotiate how Humanities-based perspectives (esp. Media Studies and Philosophy) are important for IMAGINE.

Justyna Jakubiec


MA Fashion and Society IMAGINE clothing futures

Building on the workshops/kick-off this autumn, the MA Fashion and Society students ventured on a dedicated project to explore fashion’s role in imagining sustainable futures.

The project, MEST4700 Project in Practice, is a six-week subject part of the Master’s Degree Programme in Fashion and Society, and Course leader, Dr Jo Cramer, kicked the project off by asking:

  • How can we use design to imagine sustainable futures?
  • What is the role of fashion within that?
  • Because if we can’t imagine sustainable futures, then how can then begin to build them?
  • The dominant imaginaries become so infused into our societies and become invisible, we take them for granted. Who gains and who does not from these dominant futures?

Then followed presentations and group tasks by IMAGINE researchers Marie Hebrok and James Lowley.

Exam – oral presentation

On the morning of the 23rd of March, the 5 MA students presented their projects to external sensors and some of the IMAGINE team.

Kinga Zablocka & Eva Celine Lynau: Hyper-productive sharing

The projects grappled with materiality as well as cultural meaning in the future, examining the current issues that the fashion industry is facing.

Maria Kupen With: Precious Plastic

You can read more about the student work in our upcoming project gallery.


GreenMet Seminar about narratives

IMAGINE researcher, James Lowley presented at the GreenMet seminar “The role of narratives for sustainability” on Friday the 17th of February 2023.
The seminar was a collaboration with the Henrik Steffens Professorate at the Europa-Institut, University of Hamburg and the GreenMet group at Oslo Metropolitan University.
GreenMet is a self-organised group of researchers, academics and students at Oslo Metropolitan University. They organise bi-annual seminars on different sustainability themes.

This seminar presented work from both students and researchers in an open, hybrid seminar.

The first presenter, Dr Dörte Linke’s presentation “Imagination and force of actions – the role of fiction within ecological discourse”, underlines that humans have to create narratives to orient themselves but that the ecological discourse is a large and specific narrative in itself about humanity that has ruined nature and a vulnerable planet. This not only has ontological implications but also structural.

Each time a story helps me remember what I thought I knew, or introduces me to new knowledge, a muscle critical for caring about flourishing gets some aerobic exercise. Such exercise enhances collective thinking and movement in complexity. Each time I trace a tangle and add a few threads that at first seemed whimsical but turned out to be essential to the fabric, I get a bit straighter that staying with the trouble of complex worlding is the name of the game of living and dying well together on terra, in Terrapolis.

Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble. Making kin in the Chthulucene, 2016, p. 29

Drawing on the work of Donna Haraway, Charlotte Weitze, and Josefine Klougart, Linke reminds us how we live in and with our narrative and that how they are performed and lived by us can and should be changed.

Tempelhofer Feld is a closed airfield in Berlin. Since its closure in 2008, it has been open to the public, for cycling, skating, etc., and multicultural concepts and gatherings. It also provides protection for several species and is protected by referendum – a politically determined assemblage.

Following, the four students from Hamburg University, Jacqueline Peterhans, Ramona Tyler, Sara Vaders and Tabea Ylä-Outinen, presented “Humanistic Ecology and the carrier bag theory”.

Teufelsberg got its name from its origin – made up of 70 million tons of (contaminated) war waste – the devil mountain is now home to wild boars and other species. Its old spy tower and buildings provide more dynamic living conditions.

Drawing on Donna Haraway’s concept of “making kin”, Orsola Le Guin’s carrier bag theory (the carrier bag of fiction and natural history) and Tsing’s concepts of assemblage (ecological community, open-ended gatherings between multispecies) and coordination (the unintentional coordination that develops patterns in assemblages), the students presented case studies of four places in Germany where the narratives of human and nature interacting is breaking with the habitual idea of humanity as a destructor, where human action has given room for something new, a new interaction between species.

Spreepark, the famous abandoned amusement park, left to be taken back by nature after its closure in 2001. The park provides room for particular biological niches and a mixture of exotic and local species among the remains of human activity.
Beelitzer Heilstätten has been a clinic, bathhouse, army hospital and sanatorium, used last by the Red Army during WW2. Its construction displaced the natural environment but now the building provides cover and support as nature reclaims it.

Last, but not least, James Lowley’s presentation “Provotypes & Mediations: Engagement in, through and with Speculative Design”, challenged the narrative of design as problem-solving, both through examples of how it changes, and has always changed cultural practice, and how it can be used to ask questions.

Cultural practices are diminished or replaced when heat becomes a radiator.

Albert Borgmann’s Device Paradigm discusses the loss of cultural practice and multisensory rituals connected to the use of devices. They are seen as just a means to an end, and other effects are ignored, namely that through actions we shape the world and it shapes us. To challenge this, speculative design creates means to provoke, i.e., provotypes: “ethnographically rooted, technically working, robust artefacts that deliberately challenge stakeholder conceptions”.

The prime objective of speculative design is to force an aspect of the future into the present so that it demands a response

Tonkinwise, How We Intend To Future, 2014.

By making futures imaginable, tangible, we potentially make them possible. Asking questions such as:

What happens if humans adapt to ecological circumstances rather than the opposite?

The student work to the right asked the question: What if global warming and increased CO2 lead to plants growing extremely large?


IMAGINE at the Anticipation Conference

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory hosted Anticipation 2022 (, 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 (


Student Workshop – Provotypes and Mediations

Wednesday 16th November, James Lowley led the student workshop “Provotypes and mediations” for the MA Product Design – Design in Complexity students at OsloMet.

The workshop is both a part of his PhD research and the MAPD5000 Technology and Design subject, a 6-week subject running till mid-December, that kicked off the week before. In the course, the students are tasked with making imaginaries of sustainability tangible to create reflection and discussion.

The goal of the workshop was to work on performative and mediative aspects of speculative design.

For the workshop, the students were asked to bring food items and based on this, to imagine future eating utensils.

Below are some of the outcomes of the workshop.

James is a PhD. Candidate at the Design, Culture and Sustainability Research Group at the Department of Product Design at the Faculty of Technology, Art and Design at OsloMet.
His PhD project is called: Senses of Coherence: Future Perspectives on Design, Technology and Everyday Eating

The aim of the project is to bring together perspectives from Salutogenesis and Philosophy of Technology to explore Engagement in, through, and with Speculative Design. A Postphenomenological lens can position human-food relationships as instances of Technological Mediation; a transactional dynamic occurring through actions and experiences. In this theoretical landscape, designed artefacts are key determinants of sustainability outcomes by shaping ways of being and becoming in the present, and this has implications for the cultural practices they seek to support and replace, as well as the types and conditions of health they participate in creating.

You can see some of James’ previous work, called E.A.T (Edited Aesthetics of Taste), here (


Student Course Kick-Off at OsloMet

On the 7th-8th of November, WP3 DESIGN, led by  Dr. Dan Lockton & Dr. Nenad Pavel, organised a 2-day kick-off seminar for the student course designed by IMAGINE researchers for OsloMet students.

The course, MAPD5000 Technology and Design is a six-week subject part of the Master’s Degree Programme in Product Design – Design in Complexity

Day 1 included information and introductory sessions about the IMAGINE project and speculative design and was held at the OsloMet Kjeller Campus.

Day 2 included a morning session where the students were introduced to the theoretical underpinnings of imaginaries and some of the findings so far in the project, and an afternoon workshop where they got to start playing with the materiality of futures through objects. This day was held at the central Oslo Pilestredet Campus and was open also to students from the Department of Art, Design and Drama, where the IMAGINE themes are being integrated into their course-specific subjects.

We will be following the student work and are excited to see what they come up with.

The course will also be repeated next academic year at OsloMet and a parallel version, DCM100 Constructive Design Research runs at TU Eindhoven this autumn (

About the course

Various forms of technology are intrinsically woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Technology also holds a central place in how we imagine and anticipate the future. Particularly in how we imagine more sustainable futures to be and come about. Processes of developing, introducing, and using technologies, as well as of imagining future ones, are often filled with ethical dilemmas, assumptions, and power struggles. This course explores how to use speculative design approaches to critically engage with current technological developments and imaginaries of sustainable futures, in order to shed light on and provoke critical reflection on present trajectories of change.

The course is taking place within the frame and scope of the research project IMAGINE– contested futures of sustainability ( Candidates will be included in the network of project participants and encouraged to find their own role and perspective. The learning outcome of the course includes participating in interdisciplinary research by applying prototyping and visualization skills to make imaginaries of sustainable futures tangible and therefore more accessible for critical reflection. These materializations of imaginaries we call provotypes. A number of projects will be exhibited at the IMAGINE exhibition at DogA. The course gives students the opportunity to develop anticipatory skills and to conduct research through design in the context of an international research project.


DAY 1:

09:00-11:30 am:

Nenad Pavel: Presentation of the course

Marie Hebrok: Presentation of the IMAGINE research project

12:30 – 15:00 pm:

Marie Hebrok and James Lowley: Lecture on critical speculative design approaches

DAY 2:

09:00-11:30 am:

Dan Welch: What are imaginaries and why are they important

Rick Dolphijn and Tamalone van den Eijnden: Imaginaries of sustainable futures – findings from IMAGINE

12:30 – 15:00 pm:

Dan Lockton: Engaging with imaginaries through design – Workshop


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? (“. 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 ( and Project Coordinator Atle Wehn Heggnes and Dan Welch led a Roundtable Discussion ( 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’ ( 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 ( as well as his current work with IMAGINE.

You can read the full keynote abstract here (

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 (
  • Carbon ruins: museum for the fossil age (
  • Embodied futures


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, 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.


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).