Futures to Experience

Experiences devised to immerse in constructed futures.
1 Dec 2020

If the goal of futures is to help foresee challenges and debate change, then ideas of the futures must leave the realm of abstract talking points and be made relatable. While the plausibility of a concept plays a part in this, the way a vision of the future is formalized as a fiction is just as important to connect with its audience.

With that in mind, dif­fer­ent media offer dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties to inter­act with spec­u­la­tive set­tings. They can be rep­re­sent­ed in images, or test­ed through func­tion­al pro­to­types. Sto­ries are great to become inti­mate with fic­tion. And phys­i­cal exhi­bi­tions, or vir­tu­al ones, can pro­vide over­sight on dif­fer­ent aspects of a fic­tion­al world, lend­ing view­ers a bird’s‑eye view to engage with fic­tion on a sys­temic lev­el. But it’s the con­junc­tion of nar­ra­tives, imagery, sound, and inter­ac­tiv­i­ty that tru­ly forms the most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ences. Mul­ti­fac­eted media like video games, vir­tu­al real­i­ty expe­ri­ences, or inter­ac­tive audio walks are ide­al to let a view­er become part of a world, to the point of engag­ing emo­tion­al­ly with it. There, they can leave the pos­ture of a con­scious observ­er to instead act in con­struct­ed futures with­out a need for extra medi­a­tion — crit­i­cal insights can emerge lat­er, after the experience. 

A key aspect to mak­ing such expe­ri­ences engag­ing is to let the audi­ence not only inter­act with the world, but enter it ful­ly by becom­ing its actors, or bet­ter yet, co-authors. Regard­less of the cho­sen medi­um, role-play­ing best serves this pur­pose of con­nect­ing with the fic­tion on a more per­son­al lev­el. By mak­ing the audi­ence act freely in a spec­u­la­tive sit­u­a­tion — enact rit­u­als, pur­sue goals, come face to face with deci­sions — it requires that they look at prob­lems through an unusu­al lens. This sparks cre­ative think­ing and empa­thy, and invites to crit­i­cal­ly test the fic­tion. When one feels empow­ered to push the enve­lope, the enve­lope ends up being pushed.