I thought I should mention here that the Association of Professional Futurists (declaration: I am a Board member) is holding a virtual conference – the ‘V-gathering’ – at the end of October, following the sun, starting in Europe in the morning of 26th October and finishing in Australia 18 hours later on the 27th. That’s ‘virtual futures’ as in a futures conference held in virtual space, not a conference about virtual futures, although that issue might intrude.
It’s worth mentioning here because one of the benefits of being virtual is that it’s not expensive to put on (this is partly down to some valuable technical support from the University of Houston, which is providing access to its e-learning platform for the event), the cost of attending is low, and it is open to non-members.
I’ve added a link to the current programme below, but in summary, there are four themes and an impressive array of speakers. The themes are:
- Futures/Foresight Methods
- Insights from Art/Design/Architecture
- Crazy Futures
- Building a Futures Career
Some highlights from the programme for me: in the European session, Sohail Inayatullah is contributing (from Taipei, as it happens), on the topic of ‘Does Culture Eat Strategy for Breakfast’, the French futurist Emile Hooge is talking (in English) about the use of Lego in urban design, and Wendy Schultz, who’s been championing the Crazy Futures strand, is challenging the notion of the ‘plausible future’. During the US session, Cindy Frewen is talking – in the Design strand – about ‘Mega Hacks’ and there are presentations from both Peter Bishop (on scenarios) and Andy Hines (on values). In the Australian window, Richard Slaughter is talking about Integral Futures (I expect this to be provocative) and Marcus Barber presents on the links between futures and spiral dynamics. A bit earlier, during the European session, I’m co-presenting on using postcards as visualisation tools.
Having been involved in a little of the planning, we’re not sure how this will work, but in a downturn it seemed to be a sensible and sustainable alternative to the big face-to-face conferences that futurists traditionally use. There may be someone out there who speeds their way through the full 18 hours, but for those who can’t manage that, there will be recordings of the talks and sessions that you miss. We’ve programmed some virtual water coller sessions, since apparently the software can support this, so we’re hoping that there will also be some promising virtual conversations as well.
Anyway, the conference fee is $25 for APF members and $45 for non-members; registration information can be found here.
One of the best workshops I’ve run in the past eighteen months was with a group of museum curators, held in the Whitechapel Gallery in the room holding Goshka Macuga’s Guernica installation. The documents assembled for the exhibition seemed to permeate the workshop; everyone seemed to take extra care because of it. The project that the workshop was part of has now published a collection of reflections from participants. I contributed the short essay below, on the role of the past in futures work.
It’s hard to know where to start with the BP oil disaster. Commentary has been gushing out almost as quickly as oil. We know the scale of the pollution, and have read ecologists who say the conditions are unlike any other seen on earth, certainly in the anthropocene period. Dark humour is one response; angry satire is another (The Onion: ‘Massive Flow Of Bullshit Continues To Gush From BP Headquarters‘).We have a good idea that BP’s conduct over the drilling was somewhere between careless and reckless (and that sooner or later a court is likely to decide on which), and that regulatory agencies were compliant or ineffective. One area that seems to deserve more thought – especially from a futures perspective – is the way in which essentially man-made disasters such as this are to a significant extent produced by a limited set of ideas about risk, both the way it gets assessed and the way it is managed.