Network Foresight (NF)

The most recent development, Network Foresight (NF), involves approaches that use networked ICT systems on web based, open, “web 2.0” style interactive platforms. Some of these engage in crowdsourcing and collective intelligence (principle of the wisdom of crowds), others employ large scale scanning systems and interactive processes for idea generation and visioning:  TechCast, developed by William Halal, was one of the first forms of collaborative virtual expert based forecasting. Shaping Tomorrow has become the biggest user group for crowdsourced trends. iknow is the European Union’s collective scanning and analysis system. Finpro is one of the best examples of organizational crowdsourcing of foresight data, where employees form an important part of the scanning capacity that leads to business / industry intelligence.

The Institute for the Future runs a variety of Massively Multi-player Online Games (MMOGs) which engages thousands of people in creatively engaging with scenarios and situations. The Open Foresight Project, created by Venessa Miemis, was an open source project, relying on off the shelf social media platforms, to conduct social foresight inquiry. FutureScaper, created by Noah Raford, is a scenario planning platform that uses crowdsourcing and collaborative interaction. Each of these, and other notable examples unmentioned here, have experienced different levels of success in engaging online audiences in foresight processes. Because this form of engagement is still young, it is expected to develop significantly in the years to come (Ramos, 2012). Network Foresight approaches are part of a broader shift into a network intensive era, typified by a number of key changes. Eight of these key changes are highlighted here:

  1. Funding – NT can draw on public / distributed crowd-funding opportunities
  2. Audience – NT can engage a global public citizen sphere of interest
  3. Legitimacy – peer publics become moderators of the validity of anticipatory truths
  4. Instantiation – activity can be highly localized, swarms or flash mobs, using mobile networking for instantaneous or improvisational self organization
  5. Replication – NT platforms can be copied or franchised from one locale to many
  6. Participation – NT can engage a broad public
  7. Ownership – as citizens become key contributors there is an emerging expectation for a global knowledge commons (e.g. “it belongs to all”)
  8. Transparency – contributors want foresight approaches to be ‘naked’, that is, the process should be open for people to understand, critique, replicate, etc. (Ramos, 2012)

There are some similarities to Integrated Governmental Foresight (IGF), as IGF strategies usually employ large scale and robust ICT system to coordinate knowledge sharing and management. IGF approaches usually differ, however, because they are ‘in-house’ systems that are closed off from wider internet participation. Network Foresight is generally open to anyone who has the capabilities to contribute. For example the Singapore government’s RAHS system uses a sophisticated crowdsourced data development strategy. However, it remains closed to all except a select few organizations outside of government, with little intention to engage a global audience in participatory sensing and analysis.