Posted 07 March 2007


These four short video clips are from the experiential scenarios designed and staged by HRCFS staff for the Hawaii 2050 kickoff on 26 August 02006. Each is pared down from experiences lasting about 20 minutes, that ran concurrently in four rooms at the Dole Ballrooms in Honolulu. The 530-or-so attendees were split up and given no clues as to what kind of future they would be entering, but facilitated discussions were held afterwards to draw out people's views about the possible, probable and preferable elements of each scenario. Feedback on this process was overwhelmingly positive and has encouraged us to continue developing other ways to communicate and provoke the consideration of alternative futures.

"Orange" Hawaii in 2050 is a result of continued economic growth.

The "Silver" alternative suggests possible conditions in 2050 some years after a socio-economic collapse.

The "Maroon" future exemplifies a disciplined or self-restrained society.

"Blue" depicts a society that has undergone a high-tech transformation.

The textual scenarios developed by HRCFS, which were used as a basis for these immersive versions, can be found here. But the experiential versions, captured in part by these short video clips, made a far more interesting starting point for kickoff attendees. The more comprehensive textual versions were used to deepen understanding of the scenarios during discussion, and they also refer to research into which interested parties can drill down as far as as they wish.

Since designing and staging these four experiential scenarios, which kicked off a statewide public discussion of alternative futures ("Hawaii 2050"), we at HRCFS were not quite aware of riding the crest of a wave. But this methodological shift from textual scenarios to richer use of media is rapidly occurring across the futures domain at the moment.

Our inspiration came partly from Manoa School alumna Wendy Schultz who made the point in a podcast recorded in 02005 that the artistic and sensory evocation of futures is a massively underexplored way of getting people out of what Dator likes to call, with apologies to C. Wright Mills, the "crackpot realism of the present".

Another influence has been the artifacts-from-the-future meme, probably best known from Wired Magazine's "Found" feature, but developed in no small measure by our futures colleague and designer extraordinaire Jason Tester at IFTF who recently wrote a very interesting blog post on "The case for human-future interaction". Our own Jake Dunagan has just produced a highly thoughtful piece around similar ideas, "User-friendly futures".

As Jamais Cascio, who presented to the Honolulu Futures Salon back in August on "immersive futurism", insightfully remarks in a blog post: "do not underestimate the memetic power of good photo editing skills and a quality color printer." Which leads us to desktop publishing as part of the technological reason why this change is happening now ... though of course, the trend is not confined to graphic design or print alone, but is concerned with using of the most engaging communication methods and media available, whatever the situation demands. (The words "anything but text" are being uttered increasingly often around the office...)

This shift in communicative strategy is quite simply a matter of using what works, as best as one can; hence the paradox that different futurists are converging on similar solutions to the problem of expressing the diversity of possibilities. We learned this week that the Belgian futures consultancy Pantopicon is developing many of the same approaches: viz. this blog entry, and this elegantly simple ad-from-the-future. We hope to hear of many other examples along these lines, so please draw them to our attention so we can all keep learning from each other.

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