Futuring is the process of analysing, speculating and taking action toward different futures. Inayatalulluh summarised the importance of future studies: “[it] allows individuals and organisations to better understand processes of change so that wiser preferred futures can be created.” (2008, p. 2) He argued that future studies have become increasingly vital as our world becomes more complex, disruptive and overwhelming, as it allows one to regain their agency to act toward their desirable futures. Riedy (2018) also expressed the need for futuring, noting the ‘great acceleration’ of socio-economic and environmental trends from the past to present day:
Riedy (2018) draws similarities between the discipline of future studies and story-telling, as telling ‘good’ stories about the future allow us to speculate, imagine and desire that future. ‘Bad’ stories warn about possible dangers going in the future, helping us make wiser decisions in the present day.
This speculative future immediately allows you to imagine the utopia and the actions needed to be undertaken on this path to the future (UK Government, 2014). The paper this belongs to can be found here.
Designers are storytellers. Designs inspire the imagination, spark critique and inform actions. Consequently, designers have the potential to shift the world toward more desirable futures – making futuring vital for designers. Designers also have a social and ethical responsibility for the designs they put into the world – i.e they are responsible for designs that contribute toward desirable and undesirable futures. Thus if designers do not consider the future, designs will be created that are incompatible with the future era – obsolescence is found where there should be innovation.
Alternate futures is key concept in the field of future studies, usually divided into three categories: possible, probable and preferable (Voros 2017). From this, the model of the ‘Future Cone’ was developed and adapted, seen here:
This model of the cone has 7 alternative futures. A more in-depth analysis of these futures can be found here. Voros states that the cone can be thought of as a ‘torch’, as it is “bright in the centre and diffusing to darkness at the edge—a nice visual metaphor of the extent of our futures vision” (2017, para 8). Thus, it is the designer’s job to widen the cone and move the ‘torch’ toward preferable futures.
Analysing and better understanding these alternate futures is the foundation of the futuring process. Sohail Inayatullah (2008) pioneered a framework and methodology to approach this in his article “Six pillars: Futures thinking for transforming”. He describes six foundational concepts, six questions and six pillars. The foundational concepts provide a framework and vocabulary to investigate the future. The questions force reflection and broaden perspectives, where these observations can be built upon to speculate and analyse the future using the six pillars and different methods.
Professor Riedy (2018) summarises the pillars succinctly:
The nature of human relationships is changing rapidly in the face evolving technology (for example: the government-citizen relationship, relationships involving children, education and primary care). Futuring allows us to take charge of how modern-day love evolves. In summary, “futures thinking does not wish to condemn us to hope alone” (Inayatullah 2008, p. 20).
Inayatullah, S. 2008, ‘Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming’, Foresight, Vol. 10 Issue: 1, pp.4-21, <https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/10.1108/14636680810855991 >.
Riedy, C. 2018, ‘Intro to futuring’, UTS Online Subject 85202, PowerPoint presentation, UTS, Sydney, viewed 7 Oct 2018, <https://online.uts.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-3037296-dt-content-rid-35484935_1/courses/85202-2018-SPRING-CITY/Intro%20to%20futuring_180810%281%29.pdf >.
UK Government, 2014, Living in the city, future research report, viewed 7 Oct 2018, <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/336660/14-801-living-in-the-city.pdf >.
Voros J. 2017, ‘The Futures Cone, use and history’, Joseph Voros’ futuring blog, weblog, WordPress, viewed 7 Oct 2018, <https://thevoroscope.com/2017/02/24/the-futures-cone-use-and-history/ >.