200 young people from 70 countries around the world with different cultural and educational backgrounds have been invited to be part of the Festival University – a joint initiative between Ars Electronica and Johannes Kepler University Linz. The project takes place within the Ars Electronica Festival „Welcome to Planet B – A different life is possible! But How?“ and aims to explore and define new pathways towards transformational change.
Time’s Up had the pleasure to facilitate a Futuring Exercise with some of these young people, considering possible futures behind the backdrop of:
What if: Quality of Life was a decision point.
We had scheduled two sessions for this workshop. The first of them in our harbourside Labs – which in retrospect was a good idea. After all, the point of this first session was to fundamentally propagate the idea that we all can train our “sense of possibility“, a sense, being a powerful base for thinking out loud and starting to shape preferred futures. Well, – our studios already offer an extensive platform for inspiration for such a „training“.
What we ourselves often no longer perceive, because it is simply our (as in Time’s Up’s) reality, often appears remarkable to outsiders. A smorgasbord of artifacts, some of them sketching futures, others containing the past or simply representing a very now. All of them full of stories, offering a great base for introducing a „sense for possibilities“.
The second sessions was held at the Johannes Kepler University, where most of the events of the Festival University are taking place. We invite the participants, all of them with outrageous, inspiring and sharp minds as well as sometimes rather clear visions of how „a“ or „certain“ futures should be, to leave their pre-built visions behind.
What we find interesting in particular, when running futuring exercises, is something that could be termed as „unlearning“ the future. We continue developing, by grafting and retrofitting existing methods, techniques supporting this process of “unlearning futures”. We integrate exercises during the sessions, using methods which allow the detachment from precast future visions carried in participants minds and leaving them behind by applying processes featuring playful explorations of “what else within a what if”. An approach supporting unexpected, not yet thought of and surprising scenarios of possible futures.
The main process began with the collective collection of drivers which would play a role in future developments of a wellbeing for all instead of a few. Then groups of participants chose four factors they find the most decisive, most interesting, most intriguing and decide whether the factor would increase or decrease in a future.
Three sets of „factor – collections“, becoming some sort of a “surrounding or basic scaffold” for a scenario of a future, have been found:
In Scenario 01 one found an increase of the world population and a higher decentralisation combined with the decline of technological unemployment and also a decrease in „mistakes“ made by a biased Artificial Intelligence.
Scenario 02 had a growing global governance (globalization) combined with an increasing ocean level rise and a plus of infrastructure whereas the level of self-actualization would be decreasing in the center of the scenario to be developed.
Scenario 03 in turn assembled growing energy consumption and a growing access to education, while decentralisation and circularity (circular economy) would decrease.
Ready, steady go: take those drivers in the center and recall some, all, or none of other drivers previously collected and start shaping and fleshing out a scenario led by a number of orchestrated steps and questions …. referring to the characteristics, the feeling, the challenges, the inhabitants,.. of a future world…
There will be a lot of discussion – in the best case a lot of laughter ….
…. and hopefully someone taking notes…
Towards the end find an expressive title for the future scenarios ..
Scenario 01 turned into “Magical Co-Reality”
Scenario 02 became “Aqualand”
Scenario 03 grew into a “Worshipping society of hybrid inter-communicating species”
Even though we would understand if the participants don’t find time during their busy days at the Festival University, we keep hoping for more written descriptions, or “narrative probes” of the future scenarios sketched during this workshop.
Juan Felipe Fernández Medina, one of the co-author/developers of Aqualand – has taken some moments to send us his perspective on the History of Aqualand – which we are happy to publish here with his consent:
Aqualand is the new version of the earth after the climate emergency was unrepairable and all the earth was flooded, the icebergs melted and the ocean level rises above 30 meters all around the planet, lots of lives were lost and after 5 years the hunger levels were the highest cause of death. Most of the people lost their homes, their technology devices and food. Humanity was at the border of extinction and the future seemed hopeless. The big cities were covered by water, there was no possibility to get back inside since the sea creatures started to repopulate so fast and that was a sign of danger for the people overall, creatures from the deep ocean started to show up and we discovered a lot of species that were never seen before.
7 years after humanity decided to become 1 country to help everyone, there was a light of hope in the distance. Everyone decided to help each other and started to create new technologies using the water, plants, sea creatures and the sun to start building their homes above the sea level and also at the bottom of the oceans, people started to use more their bodies to transport themselves over the waters, also boat technologies advanced and there was new way to communicate using the water as the main connector to all the planet.
40 years after the new water age started, the humans were already adapted, they started to grow abilities to breathe underwater, the sun and the oceans were used as renewable energy systems, people started to eat more plants and fish, and became a new race of humans. But sadly the humans were still humans, and there were 2 types of humans on earth, the one that lived above the water, used boats as transportation methods and ate fish and animals that could fly. On the other hand, there were the humans that lived inside the water, they had abilities to swim very fast and were friends of the ocean animals. A new war started between them, no one ever thought that after globally becoming 1 nation the things started to separate, and now they’re blood enemies. Humans, like always, are humans.
Time’s Up is supported by BMKOES, Linz Kultur, Land OÖ & Linz AG. Futuring exercises such as the one described here is feeding Curiouser and Curiouser, cried Alice: Rebuilding Janus from Cassandra and Pollyanna (CCA), an artbased research project from the Institute for Design Investigations at the University of Applied Arts Vienna und Time’s Up. It is supported by the Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK) from Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR561.