Mutant Futures for Epic Times

We would like to invite you to share two days with mutant futurist, activist and action researcher José Ramos. He will be leading a group through his Mutant Futures Program (MFP). This program is designed to support people to develop the methods, strategies and approaches suitable to address the challenges and futures we encounter, and to inspire mutant selves that are in deep conversation with what our world is asking us to bring forth.

It’s apparent that humanity has created problems and challenges we do not fully know how to solve. How we respond to these challenges, both personally and collectively, will determine the kind of futures future generations inherit. We live in unprecedented, indeed “Epic” times, that comprise a myriad of stories that we can play a role in. The 21st Century is calling for radical, dramatic and transformational experimentation and innovation in how we engage with these challenges and our world. The goal of mutant futures thinking is to develop the hybrid methods, approaches and strategies that respond to the deep needs of the world and our futures challenges.

The one sentence summary of Mutant Futures is: a process of mutating our selves and practices to address the challenges of our Epic Times – indeed to mutate the future.

Please find a longer description below, along with several links to articles and other written material about the program.

We welcome applications to take part in this MFP. It will be held on the 9th and 10th of May, 2022 at the Angewandte Innovation Lab in Vienna. It will be held in English. The program is personal, experiential and relational, using methods of reflection, visualization and group work. It will run from 10 am through to 5pm, but participants should expect to spend some time in the Monday evening doing some reflection and journaling.

The program will be undertaken as part of the “Curiouser and Curiouser cried Alice” research project and thus there are no costs to participants. While there is no financial cost, we do expect all participants to be present and focussed for the two days of the workshop. We would like you to send a short motivational text of why you would like to participate, along with your CV, to by the end of March. Consider such questions as: what social challenges touch your heart? What is a vulnerability and/or need that you feel? Do you feel that “Necessity is the mother of invention” in these times? Please include something personal as well. Participation is open to all. We anticipate that early to mid career practitioners will gain the most from it, as will graduate students or those close to graduation. However we are sure that all can gain much in the workshop, from high school students to retirees. Futures need us all. Please do not hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions.

What is the Mutant Futures Program?

The mutant futures program is a course developed to support practitioners, change makers, professionals and innovators in stepping up their creative impact in the world, their communities, organizations and in their lives. Our capacity to align our sense of purpose to societal changes is critical. From this foundation we can forge new methods that can address our challenges and create change in new, more powerful ways.

Our images of the future which guide our assumptions for action and planning are often inherited unconsciously. Often it is the presumed or predicted future, or an unreflected vision. There are, however, many possible futures: probable, plausible and possible, with preferred futures scattered among them. By challenging old assumptions about the future and opening our awareness to alternative futures (such as through the futures cone), we move away from the predicted future and begin to move towards others. Mutating the future is finding a niche, a leverage point, a target where we want to create change: by mutating some small element of the present, seeing the present as a biological substrate, the DNA and all that stuff from which the future develops; by acting differently, we begin to change the sort of future we might end up in.

Humans are methodological beings. To be human is to create tools, methods, strategies and practices by which we shape the world and ourselves. We also exist in communities of practice, where we are able to discuss and hone our practices. We use our practices in order to work and play, to deal with everyday life and special situations. We are designers, builders, organisers, mathematicians, artists, sociologists, programmers and a thousand other roles. These practices have emerged over various time spans, we have created and learnt them in schools, workshops, manuals and from each other.

A mutant futurist is not a futurist with green skin and too many eyes, rather a mutant futurist is someone who has allowed the needs of the future and the challenges facing our world to mutate their practices. They have used the disjunctive, post normal and epic nature of our times to call forth new selves and new methods to shape the world and address the problems that touch us most deeply. They have also decentred their practice to open the space for methodological hybridity, to receive all the possibility for creativity to be found within a particular domain.

Our Selves are made up of a lot of smaller personality fragments, so-called personas. There is a persona who will speak in public, another for pillow talk, one for playing with small children and another for confronting injustice. Some of our personas get overridden by others; we are too quick to talk, so our listener persona gets ignored, or we take so much time listening and balancing that we forget to say what is important for us individually or to bring our expertise to the table. The class clown ignores their poet, the visual artist their mechanic. Mutating the Self, as part of the Mutant Futures approach, involves discovering ignored, latent and under-expressed personas and bringing to the fore those personas that will be most helpful.

But helpful for what? Once again we end up with the desired future mutations. Efforts alone are often less than useful, so the MFP refers to social and other movements that exist and that we can ally ourselves with. We live in Epic Times and the times are calling forth new selves from us.

The MFP learns a lot from the field of Action Research, encouraging practitioners to observe and determine processes within their practices, to share and amplify these observations and improvements, within the context of those practices. With new generations of activists and futures practitioners emerging with divergent bodies of background knowledge and practice behind them, this ability to share insights and to learn from the community of practice is vital.

Some references.

Mutant Futures Program LINK

Answering the Call of Epic Times LINK

Jose Ramos “Messy Grace: The Mutant Futures Program” in “Phenomonologies of Grace” M. Bussey and C. Mozzini-Alister, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. Dropbox download

Jose Ramos “Mutant Futurists in the 21st Century” 2013 LINK

“Anticipatory Experimentation” LINK

Stone H, Stone S. Embracing our selves: The voice dialogue manual. New World Library; 1989.

Bill Sharpe et al “Three horizons: a pathways practice for transformation.” Ecology and Society 21(2):47 LINK

Mutant Futures Program: What selves is the future asking us to grow?

The Mutant Futures Program: Self-Discovery and Alignment LINK

The Mutant Futures Program: Methodological Hybridity and Creativity LINK

Curiouser and Curiouser, cried Alice: Rebuilding Janus from Cassandra and Pollyanna (CCA) is an art-based research project from Design Investigations (ID2) at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and Time’s Up. It is supported by the Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK) from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR561.

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