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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


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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).

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News

Project update

New IMAGINE researcher and project coordinator

Sociologist Atle Wehn Hegnes will join the IMAGINE team from the 15th of August 2022. Atle will be responsible for coordinating the project in the coming year.

WP1 – Mine – Identify dominant imaginaries in documents, media and essays

•An initial list of what the team members suggested as useful objects to study

•Narrowed down the movies for the analysis to those who deal with space travel. Work in progress to systematize findings from the movies

•The WP1 team has gathered and read different theories of imagination and sorted them into categories

•Emphasis on Ricoeur’s theory through a feminist Marxist perspective has been initially developed and will be presented to the team in the workshop on the 9th June

WP2 – Explore

•Developed questionnaire for the data collection of everyday stories about the future – inspired by a similar data collection at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm (January-February)

•Finalisation of the collection site at www.minner.no

•Application to and ethical approval from the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD) (April-May)

•Pilot testing of the questionnaire (April)

•Public dissemination about the data collection (May)

•Launch date 19th May

•Collection period: May 2022 and until we get 100 stories

WP3 – Design

•New WP3 team member: James Lowley, PhD Candidate at OsloMet.

•Masters course MAPD5000, Technology and Design at OsloMet will start in November and includes 15 students. A pilot has been conducted

•10 Master students at TU/e are working on representations of futures of “moving”

•4 Bachelor students at TU7e are working on representations of “dressing” and several more on “eating”.

•Master and Bachelor students working on how we relate to time and how that affects our thoughts about the future

WP5 – Exchange

•Present workshop is the first of three during the project period

•Second half of the workshop will be arranged on the 30th August

ESA conference roundtable discussion

Anticipation conference in November

WP6 – Disseminate

•Established and updated this website

•Established and updated social media profiles:

Imaginesustainability on Instagram

@ImagineSustain1 on Twitter

Contact: ingridha@oslomet.no / harth@oslomet.no

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Publications

New article – Skinny as a Bird: Design fiction as a vehicle for reflecting on food futures

IMAGINE-researchers Marie Hebrok and Henry Mainsah have published a paper about design fictions, Skinny as a Bird: Design fiction as a vehicle for reflecting on food futures, in the journal Futures (sciencedirect.com).

Abstract

This article explores the use of design fiction as a vehicle for critically reflecting on the complex issue of sustainable food consumption and production. The paper presents the design fiction Bird, a food delivery service that provides food rations to its customers based on their exact nutritional needs and self-improvement goals. The service makes food consumption sustainable by design, leveraging individual lifestyle ambitions to circumvent the need to translate sustainability awareness into action. We discuss what it means to embed provocation, critique, and reflection in a design fiction that highlights potential preferable and non-preferable trajectories of change related to imaginaries of technocentric food futures. Through a design fiction artefact that reflects a complex set of ethical, social, cultural, political, and environmental issues related to food consumption, the aim is to examine how design fiction can serve as an entry point for imagining and critiquing possible futures.

Click here to read the full article (sciencedirect.com).

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Events

Workshop – Towards a Conceptual Framework for Contested Imaginaries of Sustainability

Work package 5, EXCHANGE, arranged a workshop on Zoom over the span of two days last week. The workshop’s theme was ‘Towards a Conceptual Framework for Contested Imaginaries of Sustainability’.

The workshop on June 7th started with an introduction by Dan Welch and Nina Heidenstrøm with an update on all of the work packages. The first session was Jo Cramer‘s presentation on Fashion and Imaginaries. She introduced literature on contested futures, theories and definitions of fashion.

The second session of Tuesday’s workshop was about speculative design and design fiction, and was led by Dan Lockton, Marie Hebrok, and Nenad Pavel. They discussed how speculative design can be used to make imaginaries tangible and open for critical discussion, and argued that speculative design has the potential to democratise future imaginaries by involving more people and distributing the power to define. After a presentation by Dan, Marie, and Nenad the attendees imagined an ordinary Tuesday in a more sustainable future in groups and visualised and presented it by using an online whiteboard. The aim was to increase our own awareness of how we are influenced by imaginaries of sustainability.

Examples of results from the session

Day 2 of the workshop, Thursday, began with an introduction of Ricœur through the concepts of memory and imagination, by Rick Dolphijn. Tamalone van den Eijnden followed with a presentation of (re)productive imagination as processes with different economic and social values and the (Marxist) feminist critique of this. The session ended with a discussion of how a theory of careful imagination could enrich the project. We also discussed how the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey reproduced older narratives and influenced science fiction movies, and used an online whiteboard to examine how space odysseys are (re)produced.

Nina Heidenstrøm and Dan Welch led the next session, where they talked about sociology and the future historically, and through practice theory and socio-temporal rhythms. They also presented results from the project Imagined futures of consumption (manchester.ac.uk).

Thursday’s final session was led by oral storyteller Heidi Dahlsveen, and it was a combination of storytelling and practical exercises like memory games and reflections on first time experiences – Kairos moments, that touched upon and summarized the themes from the previous sessions.

Through the workshop, we also talked about the next steps, reading lists and groups sessions and our next meeting and roundtable at the ESA midterm conference in Oslo this fall.

Program

June 7th Day 1: Design and Fashion

12.15 – 12.30pm: Welcome and Introduction to the Workshops – Dan Welch and Nina Heidenstrøm

12.30 – 1.15pm: Fashion and Imaginaries – Jo Cramer

1.15 – 1.45pm Lunch

1.45 – 2.45pm: Design Fiction/Speculative Design – Dan Lockton, Marie Hebrok, Nenad Pavel

2.45 – 3pm: Concluding Thoughts

June 9th Day 2: Sociology, Philosophy and Storytelling

10.20 – 10.30am: Welcome – Dan Welch and Nina Heidenstrøm

10.30 – 11.30am: Ricœur: Ideologies and Utopia (Philosophy) – Rick Dolphijn, Virginie Amilien, Tamalone van den Eijden

11.30 – 11.45am: Break

11.45 – 12.45pm: Practice Theory and Imaginaries (Sociology) – Nina Heidenstrøm and Dan Welch

12.45 – 1.15pm: Lunch

1.15 – 1.30pm:  Storytelling and Imaginaries: Heidi Dahlsveen

1.30 – 2.30 pm: Concluding Thoughts and Next Steps

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Events

EU Design Days Brussels

IMAGINE researchers Marie Hebrok and Nenad Pavel are currently in Brussels for the EU Design Days arranged by ERRIN – European Research and Innovation Network.(errin.eu).

Together with a group from the Department of Design at OsloMet they are there to promote ongoing research projects. Head of studies, Julia Jacoby, included IMAGINE in her presentation «Innovation for sustainability – design research initiatives from Norway».

The EU Design Days are connecting to the New European Bauhaus (NEB) Initiative (europa.eu) and the NEB festival (europa.eu) that is going on these days.

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Conferences

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 PavelAssociate Professor, Department of Product Design, OsloMetropolitan UniversityAbstract

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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Conferences

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. 

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News

Imagine your future life

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

The future is unknown – but how we imagine it, affects the choices we make in our daily lives. In collaboration with Norsk Folkemuseum, we invite you to share some of your thoughts:  

When you think about the future, what do you imagine? How do you think people will live 30 years from now? How will they travel, eat, dress and work? Which future do you fear? And which future would you aim for?  

We welcome you to participate with your own views in an ongoing conversation about our possible futures. Submitted texts and images are stored in the museum’s collections and will be available to researchers today – and in the future.  

Click here to submit your story (minner.no).

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Events People

IMAGINE kicked off on Zoom

Screenshot of Zoom meeting including images of all participants.

The IMAGINE consortium gathered for the first time on Zoom on the 26th of January 2022. We would have preferred to be present in the same physical space, since getting to know each other on a screen is not the same. Hopefully the pandemic will allow for such a meeting in the near future. Nevertheless, we had an inspiring day of listening to and discussing each others perspectives and experiences, and are looking forward to embarking on the numerous tasks of IMAGINE. This was our agenda:

09:00Welcome and introduction to IMAGINENina Heidenstrøm
09:30Theories of imaginationRick Dolphijn and Virginie Amilien
10:00Ethnological methods and archive question listsAudun Kjus
10:3010 min break 
10:40Research through design and art – tangible imaginariesDan Lockton, Nenad Pavel, Joanne Cramer
11:10Creating a space for critical discussion, mutual understanding and co-creationMarie Hebrok and Æra innovation studio
11:40Platforms for knowledge exchangeDan Welch
12:1030 min lunch break 
12:40Communication and disseminationHarald Throne-Holst and Henry Mainsah
13:10Summing up, discussion, practical issues, and planningNina Heidenstrøm and all
14:00End