Aubrey Yee, John Sweeney and Gaming with the Future(s)

Gaming with the Future(s) is one of the most interesting research projects I’ve come across in a long time. The research will involve an “experiential scenario-based game”  in which players will weave their way through the streets of Honolulu engaging in four alternative futures. The research is fundamentally about power, and in this to understand “how communication technology impacts power relations in four alternative futures” and to “integrate Futures thinking into popular and public discourses on power, technology, and social change.”

This is a crucial endeavor, as communication technologies in our maturing network era, are anything but neutral, rather they are instruments of values, expressing great tensions, ambiguity and indeterminacy. On the economic front, emerging network conglomerates, or what Michel Bauwens’ calls Netarchical Capitalism, have established powerful collaborative platforms through which to extract surplus value, while emerging peer-to-peer industries drive hard to establish alternative commons oriented economic systems. On the political front, we are faced with bloated classes of government apparatchiks hell-bent on creating panoptic states, while transnational cyber activists aim to pry open the veil of government secrecy and unaccountability. The futures of the network era have yet to be written. Communications technologies lie at the very heart of power, and it is here where the great struggles for the futures will be waged.

The game will be played on Saturday, December 1st, 2012. 

While I understand to play the game one must be in Honolulu, I also expect the game and gamers to be  followed by various forms of social media.

Enter two of the coolest emerging futurists I’ve met, Aubrey Yee and John Sweeney, who are running this research project / game. I was fortunate to meet both them and many of their Manoa School of Futures Studies colleagues at the Penang WFSF miniconference in 2011, and have the great pleasure of introducing both of them through two very short  interviews I conducted and some biographic data. I hope you enjoy both their research and interviews.

Why Futures Studies? An interview with Aubrey Yee from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

Born and raised on Oahu, Aubrey Yee is a freelance writer, photographer and professional futurist. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Futures Studies at the Political Science Department, UH Manoa under the guidance of Professor Jim Dator. Aubrey received her undergraduate degree from UCLA in Los Angeles. She founded her own business in 2004, a successful 10,000 sq ft. interior design showroom in Honolulu, Pacific Home, which she sold last year. Aubrey and her husband Brady helped to found the Hawaii chapter of After School All Stars, a non-profit serving Hawaii’s at-risk middle school youth by providing free after school enrichment programs. She also currently serves on the board of Kanu Hawaii, a grassroots social change non-profit. Recently, her futures consulting work has been expanding. She has co-facilitated foresight workshops for the State Office of Planning, West Maui Neighborhood Board, the Hawaii Futures Summit, Samsung Corporation, Kamehameha Schools and other businesses. She is currently a writer for the foundation Sustainable America, which seeks to create food and energy security in America. In her scant free time, she enjoys writing for Green Magazine Hawaii, working on her fine art photography and relaxing with her family in Kaneohe on the island of Oahu.

Why Futures Studies? An interview with John Sweeney from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

John A. Sweeney is also a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he also serves as a Researcher at the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies. John’s interest in urban creativity centers on the political and affective presence of street art, which served as the focus of a paper on representations of hijab in European street art published with Continent: A Topology of Thought ( Linking street art with the performative aspects of religious identity, John’s research examines the nexus between political economy and political theology in both present and future(s) contexts. Additionally, John’s research examines the ways in which media technologies affect experiences of urban space, and this trope served as the central theme for an article centered on Google’s myriad products and urban space published by John received his Master’s degree in Religion in 2007 and instructs courses in World Religion, Contemporary Religion, Christianity, Buddhism, and Indian Religions at Kapiolani Commuity College while finishing his PhD at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he serves as a lecturer for courses on Media and Politics, Political Design and Futuristics, and Introduction to Political Science. At present, he is also a principle researcher on a grant project analyzing the impact of communication technologies, from the impact of the printing press to the advent of social media, upon power relations across various socio-cultural contexts with an emphasis on the affective and material assemblages mutating experiences of urbanity. He graduated magna cum laude from Kennesaw State University in 2005 with a major in the History of Ideas and a minor in Philosophy. John’s keen interest in the two things one is not supposed to talk about at cocktail parties—politics and religion—stems from his somewhat hasty decision to drop out of high school at the tender young age of 15, which rather than cementing him as someone without a future ironically put him on a decidedly circuitous pathway towards becoming a futurist. He tweets regularly about his research and various other things using the handle @aloha_futures.

Introducing Shermon O. Cruz and the Center for Engaged Foresight

I met Shermon O. Cruz through my capacity as the consulting editor for the Journal of Futures Studies. He wrote an excellent article on the futures of liberal arts, something of keen interest to me, my B.A. was in comparative literature. I’ve been horrified in Australia over the past decade to see one liberal arts program after another slashed because it couldn’t compete financially with engineering/business/technical programs bloated by full fee paying students from abroad. An article showing a resurgence in liberal arts, not only in the West, but around the world, was certainly worth taking notice of. Shermon also challenged the hegemony and dominance of the Western framework for liberal arts, showing that it indeed has diverse civilizational manifestations. Here is the abstract for his article:

This paper peers into the futures of liberal arts and articulates numerous contexts engaged in shaping the futures of liberal arts. It sought to answer the following questions: Is liberal arts likely to face extinction? Are there other liberal arts contexts other than the Western liberal arts model? Is there such a thing as a non-Western framework of liberal arts education? And can it be renewed, reinterpreted, redefined or translated in the context of the other, beyond the Western tradition? If so, what are its nuances, constraints, intricacies, hopes, and futures? What are the futures of non- Western and Western liberal arts models?

Debates and discussions about the future of liberal arts have been going on mainly in the net and its future is being seen in the way that its Western proponents want it to be – a liberal arts that is useful in the workplace and promotes individualism and freedom of choice as well. Non-Western academics, however, see different patterns and values as liberal arts now becomes culture bound. Additionally, they insist that it must go beyond the current view and accentuate liberal arts that cultivate one’s identity and nurtures skills for life.

Last year when I attended the mini WFSF conference in Penang, Malaysia, I was fortunate to catch up with him and we had many good discussions. I was able to catch him for a video session as well and just finished editing it:

Shermon O. Cruz and the Center for Engaged Foresight from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

Shermon is professor of political science and public administration at Northwestern University and Northern Christian College in the Philippines and served as a policy consultant and chaired several technical working groups in the formulation of key legislations in environment, investment, poverty reduction and teacher empowerment at the local government level. He also served as a policy and project consultant in the areas of environment, community development and agriculture in various non-government and government projects. Prior to joining the government, he was global secretary for the Volunteers for Social Services, A UN NGO based in India and is currently a member of the International Advisory Board of the PROUT Research Institute of Venezuela.

The three important themes that come out for me in his vision for futures studies are:

  • the need to indigenize Futures Studies toward the needs and characteristics of the Philippines. Indigenization of futures studies / research is an emerging theme I’m tracking from a variety of advocates.
  • compassion for communities and people being overwhelmed by economic globalization, and the need to envision and enact alternative futures that respond to the needs of the majority world.
  • the importance of creating new narratives for who we are and for where we are going, which are both indigenous (e.g. Philippines) and which address deep structures of colonization / neo-colonization

Over the past few months Shermon has hatched plans to create a Center for Engaged Foresight. CEF aims to promote futures studies in the Philippines and South East Asia and pioneer new narrative development practices for the region.  I’ve been supporting Shermon with some basics, and he has already pulled together an impressive advisory board. CEF was:

Established to advance a spectrum of futures strategies and methodologies, the CEF aims to intensify the aptitude of persons, systems and society’s to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. The CEF believes that by engaging and exposing individuals and collectivities to engaged foresight, the present can be reinterpreted and the future reinvented. The CEF posits that when more time and effort is invested into understanding and conceptualizing alternative and transformative futures, the wealthier and healthier our options and collective futures will be.

Shermon and I invite all those interested in joining the circle of  friends of CEF make contact.

Futures of Work

Together with colleagues Gareth Priday and Tim Mansfield, I’ve embarked on a rather novel journey into the frontiers of foresight, combining open participatory web technologies with conversations and explorations of the futures. Its called the foresight epidemic.

Our fearless leader, Gareth Priday, is leading us into round 2 on an exploration of the Futures of Work. I’m really enjoying everyone’s posts.

I welcome anyone with an interest to join us.

Below the ongoing discussion is embedded for interest.

Why Futures Studies: An Interview with Jim Dator

Why Futures Studies? An Interview with Jim Dator from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

I had heard so many things about Dr. Jim Dator, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The ‘father of futures studies in north america’, one of the ‘pillars and inventors of the field’, that it felt intimidating to be about to meet him on my trip through Malaysia in late 2011 (the WFSF mini conference). Would I meet an arrogant man who would snub his nose at a mere mortal such as I? Would I be grilled for any theoretical inconsistency I naively express?

Well, I was really and pleasantly surprised by Jim’s way of being. Yes he is one of the founders of the FS field, but he was very approachable and had an amazingly warm and inviting demeanor. Of course he was brutally honest about how he saw FS and the futures of the planet in general, but done so in a way that connects and inspires.

I had decided I would do a series of interviews with WFSF members at the WFSF mini conference in Penang on ‘Why futures studies’ – short snippets on what FS is and why it is important. I was totally demoralized when all my computer equipment was stolen from my hotel room at the YMCA Penang on the second day of the trip. Fortunately, I had my canon 7d with me on my body the first day of the conference as my goods were looted from my room. So despite being rather distraught, I still had the technological wherewithal to continue. After licking my wounds for a few days, on the last day I finally mustered the energy and focus to do some interviews with whoever was left.

And I am really glad I did, because Jim gives the most concise and powerful 8 min articulation of ‘Why Futures Studies’ I’ve heard in a while. It made me want to study in the field yet again! So a very personal thanks to Jim.

So here I kick off the ‘Why Futures Studies?’ series with Dr. Jim Dator. There are about 4-5 more to come in this series over the next month of so. All short but sweet. Hope you enjoy.

Venessa Miemis: Open Foresight and the Future of Facebook

This is the third interview in this series on foresight in the network era. Venessa Miemis is one of the originators of the Open Foresight concept. In some regards it is a re-iteration of an older idea, Anticipatory Democracy, developed by Clement Bezold, Alvin Toffler and others, but the deliberative and generative nature of the anticipation is squarely situated in our current peer to peer revolution. Venessa is an outstanding proponent of developing new anticipatory processes for societal transformation.

In this interview she discusses the origins of the concept, she details the methodological approaches she has used to make foresight a public processes, and she reflects on the deeper principles involved in creating Open Foresight as an inclusive and replicate-able processes.  There is a very strong organic connection between the Open Foresight approach and the drive / listening for societal transformation. As the complexity and challenges of the 21st century deepens, this is one approach that will provide people with ways to make sense of their worlds in empowering and creative ways.

Jake Dunagan: The Institute for the Future and Gamification for Social Foresight

This is the second part in a series on network based approaches to foresight. I was fortunate to catch up with colleague Jake Dunagan, director of research at the Institute for the Future (IFTF). IFTF is doing absolutely remarkable work bringing together social media, gaming, and foresight (among many other things). Significant is IFTF’s social focus, on addressing sustainability, poverty, security, food, and many other important issues. Jake is a brilliant mind and eloquent voice, and gives us a great window into the work at IFTF. In interviews to come, I really hope to follow up with him on his Doctoral dissertation work in neuropolitics, governance design, alternative futures, and the communication of foresight,  and looking forward to learning about other works in progress.

Elina Hiltunen: Finpro and Crowdsourcing Foresight

This is the first in a series of interviews with futurists using state of the art network based approaches to foresight work. Network based approaches can be seen as those which utilize ICT technologies together with collaborative cultural frameworks (e.g. peer to peer) to co-generate futures thinking, strategy and policy. In this first part, I interview Elina Hiltunen, director of What’s Next Consulting.

I consider Elina Hiltunen’s work outstanding in this regard. In her recent article in the Journal of Futures Studies, called Crowdsourcing the Future, Elina Hiltunen discusses the impressive foresight initiative at Finpro. Finpro has run a crowdsourced foresight program for a number of years, which helps inform decision making for Finnish industry. She writes “When an organisational foresight process is linked to the strategy process, foresight becomes a serious asset.” What I find intriguing are new metaphors and language discussing collective intelligence and the wisdom of crowds:

The wisdom of crowds is a concept that has become more popular in public discussion because of a couple of bestselling books: the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. The idea behind the wisdom of crowds is that a crowd of people, without knowing each other’s opinions, make better choices than selected experts. According to Surowiecki (2004: XVII) “[if] you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to ‘make decisions affecting matters of general interest’, that group’s decision will, over time, be ‘intellectually [superior] to the isolated individual’, no matter how smart or well-informed he is.

In this interview she discusses her work, how she helped create Finpro and the crowdsourced foresight model, its strategy, key principles, the rationale that drives the approach, and the ideas, authors, books, theories that  guide her work.

The consistent question that is raised in my mind and that I raise here is, can such approaches be used to enable popular foresight engagements and channeled into action projects which address the world’s great 21st century challenges? What can we learn here toward building super-charged approaches to large scale collaborative inquiry and action that will help us to navigate a turbulent 21st century?

Occupy Wall Street and the Peer-to-Peer Revolution: a discussion with Michel Bauwens Part II

This is part II of Occupy Wall Street and the Peer-to-Peer Revolution, a discussion with Michel Bauwens, founder of the The Foundation for P2P Alternatives. How does Occupy Wall Street prefigure wider changes? Bauwens talks about the failings of the current system: artificial scarcity and ecological crisis. Peer production prefigures a way of life which is based on sharing and which is situated in communities, which addresses these failings. Bauwens argues thus that peer production is ‘congruent and convergent with the logic of the commons’. A number of existing alternatives outside of the dominant system needs to interconnect to form a system within a system which can resist capture by capitalist commodification and which can change the system from within.

Bauwens’ argument for the development of a system within a system is consistent with my thesis work on Alternative Futures of Globalization, which argued for emerging structural synergies of counter power in the context of the alter-globalization movement.


Occupy Wall Street and the Peer-to-Peer Revolution: a discussion with Michel Bauwens Part I

Michel Bauwens, founder of the Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives , talks about Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement as an example of peer production.

I was fortunate to catch up with friend and colleague Michel Bauwens in Chiang Mai in Nov. of 2011. It was truly inspiring to be with Michel, who I consider one of the most brilliant minds I have come across in my lifetime. For him, Peer-to-Peer is not just a few examples of web2+, but a macro-historical analysis combined with an integrative philosophy. I have met few people who can straddle diverse discourses while maintaining the raw energy of the creative global change agent, and an amazing vision for our common futures. Over the last half year we have had a few opportunities to engage in some of these discourses for global social change, or what I call ‘alternative globalisation’, in the discussion “From the Crisis of Capitalism to the Emergence of Peer to Peer Political Ecologies“. As articulated by Michel, peer production  / peer to  peer is a counter-hegemonic discourse that rests on the ancient and re-emerging philosophy of the (global / human) commons. As such it is squarely aligned with the aims and aspirations of OWS.

This is part one of this series. Parts II and III will come out over the next few days.

[audio:|titles=Michel Bauwens: OWS and the peer to peer revolution]