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.