Our practices of research, design, and strategy create landscapes of possibility. Anticipation, an approach that has informed much of the recent ethnographic work on the future, is shaped by how these symbolic and material landscapes, and the forms of agency they make possible, are distributed. This makes anticipation politically significant, prompting an empirical question of when and with respect to whose experience broader future visions occur. Seeking to bring attention to processes of future-making that capture these disparities, we ground anticipation in lived experience. Drawing on two long-term fieldworks, we recognize significant variability in how the future manifests in the course of practical and reflective engagements in everyday life. To explore these engagements, we turn to “future senses” of memory, foresight, voice, optimism, and yearning. We then demonstrate how “future senses” can be productively integrated within conversations about advancing not only more diverse...
In the last decade, Future Studies have developed a very important corpus of theory and methods aimed to analyze the future of cities. Meanwhile the world is confronted with major challenges like climate change, global pandemics, migration, inequality and poverty, government agencies, professional urbanists, academia and other organizations, concerned with strategic planning, are looking for new ways to provide insight into how we approach unforeseeable challenges and integrate complexity and novelty for better futures.
In this paper we reviewed the notion of “weak signal” as a retrospective exploratory method to think of cities as anticipatory systems (Boer, Wiekens, and Damhof 2018) of future emerging problems. Using qualitative retrospective analysis and secondary research we focused on three urban innovations in transportation, workplaces and food domains at different cities to understand how to anticipate unforeseen scenarios and explore new ways of generating...
The COVID19 induced lockdown in India and consequent migration of workers severely affected the economy. When the migrants returned to urban areas, newer challenges surfaced around the scale and nature of jobs on offer, as well as the skills and aspirations of workers. In this paper, we follow a social impact project focused on livelihoods and post pandemic rebuilding, to explore the trails of ethnography and how its engagement along multiple networks shapes its possibilities as a research method that helps foreground emic perspectives. In doing so, we analyse agencies and social relations from the field, and their role in shaping project imaginaries. Anchored in original, long-term participatory ethnographic research, our paper thinks alongside Appadurai (2013) to surmise that anticipation is imbricated in the coming together of a grounds-up ‘ethics of possibility’ and a top-down ‘ethics of probability’. Importantly, we turn to Actor-Network Theory as a framework...
Prediction can create a false sense of certainty – at great cost. Can uncertainty establish a more effective foundation for product development?
by HELI RANTAVUO, Spotify
Foresight. Tends. Megatrends. Forecasting. Speculative design. Predictive modelling. Impact estimating.
These are some of the established methods that researchers and analysts use in trying to understand what the future might look like, and how the organisations we work for and with approach the future. A variety of research and design techniques are available for us to make sense of the future in a structured way. Ethnographers and anthropologists know how to study the present in order to speculate on the future; design teams employ futurecasts and speculative design; futures research employs a wide range of methods that cut across disciplines. With the availability of big data, forecasting and predictive modelling is growing more and more sophisticated.
Sometimes I wonder, does the maturity of our methods and frameworks make us feel too confident about...
by DINA MEHTA & STUART HENSHALL, Convo
Ethnographic context helps people see alternate possibilities and situations where decisions may play out—and create better futures.
The future, of course, is inherently unpredictable. As the EPIC2021 theme Anticipation begins, “There are no future facts. Yet we humans constantly create potential futures.”
People create futures when they begin to see alternate possibilities and situations where their decisions—and those of others—may play out. This creates choices and potential options, while also identifying risks, implications of operating in a different world, and new areas for research and exploration. To do this, organizations need to be able to learn about the world “out there,” as well as understand and shift their own positioning within it.
How can ethnographers facilitate this quest to anticipate the future? Our work has focused on the organizational change needed for our clients to see and create new potentials. As ethnographers we bring stories into the organization,...
RICH RADKA, Chair
This panel explores the specific reasons organizations generate ideas about the future, the methods they choose, how they act on foresight, and consequences for both business and society. Panelists address the theme of scale in various dimensions, such as how to appropriately scale our imaginings, scaling to multiple time horizons, scaling breadth vs. depth of focus, and thinking of scale in terms of organizational value creation.
Rich Radka has 20+ years of providing deep human insights to corporate, scale-up and public sector clients in the arenas of innovation, customer experience, strategy and forecasting. He brings inspired design thinking, and a practical human-centred approach to co-create solutions that involve customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders.Wendy Chamberlin serves as the Global Program Director for the BOMA Project, a livelihood development...
San Jose State University
Institute for the Future
San Jose State University
This tutorial introduces Ethnofutures to ethnographers who want to integrate forecasting methods and tools into their current professional practices. The goal is to translate ethnographic material into imaginative, but grounded, scenarios of their future users, services, and products. Practitioners, such as designers and business strategists, must imagine futures based on existing signals of change. Those signals can come from the activities of individuals, the organizations in which they work, as well as the larger social events around them. The forces fomenting change can be highly localized, such as a specific municipal policy on gig workers or also be global in scope, pointing to the role of gig work as a facet of contemporary transnational capitalism. Moreover, the future itself is scalable: Organizations toggle between data-rich forecasts that extend less than a year, to more speculative...
Challenging measures of scale is possible through listening to stories of how people value a product, and envisioning ways to measure success beyond typical metrics like Monthly Active Use (MAU) or Daily Active Use (DAU).
Understanding what people value is somewhat complex for a product like Firefox because people might use Firefox every day without thinking much about it. In this case study, we detail how we used Futures Thinking and participatory design methods to elicit stories of how people value Firefox.
This case study demonstrates that a relatively small number of meaningful ethnographic insights can be powerful enough to influence business strategy. By creating the space for listening to stories and encouraging stakeholder involvement, we were able to make the case to save one of our mobile browsers, Firefox Focus, despite its lack of scale.
Keywords: Diary Study, Firefox, Futures Thinking, Interviews, Mozilla, Participatory Design, Remote Research,...