Unscripted futures: Making room for the openness, uncertainty and radical potential of tomorrow

Session hosts

  • Marikken Wullf Wathne, PhD Student at OsloMet and KTH (contact person. Send abstracts to: marikken@oslomet.no)
  • Cecilie Sachs Olsen, Postdoctor at Royal Holloway, University of London

We have less than 10 years to act to avoid the cascading tipping points of multispecies disaster, so we are told in the recent IPCC report (2018). With the advent of the Anthropocene, we now see the full horror not of the past but of what is to come. In modernism time was linear, flowing from the present to the future. Now we are increasingly experiencing time coming towards us, from the future to the present. Although the form and shape of the future is not easily predicted, it is clear that socio-ecological transformations are coming and also that socio-ecological changes are necessary if we are to avoid planetary collapse. Although a significant amount of interdisciplinary critical literature has helped us understand how we have arrived at this juncture, it has been less successful at imagining just and sustainable alternatives to the existing socio-economic order. This is partly due to a particular concern with how by understanding the past we might be able to anticipate and shape the future. The past is certainly important, but there is a risk of only looking for immediate answers that seek to maintain existing systems and practices rather than changing them. This session argues that to bring about change we need to attend more closely not only to what is – focusing on analysing and understanding processes of capitalist accumulation, urban restructuring and impacts of crisis – but also to what could be: the potentialities for more socially just, democratic and emancipatory spaces and ways of living.

While imagining radically different futures is perhaps more necessary than ever, it is arguably also more difficult. It has been claimed that for the last 30 years we have been living in the ‘end of history’: an epoch where radically different alternatives to the contemporary socio-ecological system are produced as impossible. What is possible today is predominantly constituted in terms of current conditions, and what operates beyond these conditions is often treated as unrealistic and utopian in a derogatory sense. Within such a limited space of opportunity, what kinds of futures is it possible to construct? In this session we seek to explore how radically open futures can be constructed and how we can secure that future scenarios are not locked into the premises of today. The aim is not to simply celebrate the openness of the future, but to create a space for developing experiments, for proposing alternative possibilities and constructing new futures, and then studying and discussing their implications and consequences “on the ground”.

We welcome contributions that challenge the traditional conference format alongside more “standard” presentations. Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Future scenario thinking
  • Play as radical politics
  • Digital imaginaries and utopias
  • Conceptions of time and transformation
  • Architecture / CGI renderings and visualizations of future urban space
  • Utopian thinking
  • Science fiction / Climate change fiction
  • The role of art in urban development
  • Urban interventions
  • “Artivism”