In Feb. 2019 I helped organize a wonderful workshop at the Lorentz Center in Leiden University. The workshop was a first of its kind attempt to grapple with the relations between counterfactuals and futures thinking, and was attended by an amazing cast of interdisciplinary scholars from history to engineering, economics to design.
Since the workshop, Elina Eriksson, Daniel Pagrman and I have been thinking about how to consolidate everything we’ve learned, and now our efforts have been published in Futures (and is open access). Here’s the abstract:
While the past is present in all futuring activities it tends to remain implicit and has not received adequate attention by futures scholars and practitioners. In response, this conceptual paper offers a novel framework with which the past can be brought into futures studies in a structured and comprehensive way. We begin by providing a brief account of how the past already figures in futures studies as part of efforts to understand the lingering effects of the past on the future; as part of a drive for ontological pluralization; and as a way to augment more mainstream futuring exercises. We then introduce two past-facing approaches to futuring, recasting and pastcasting, and illustrate their symmetry with the more familiar future-facing approaches, forecasting and backcasting. The symmetry, we argue, is based on shared aims and a shared style of inquiry. We then compare the different approaches and illustrate the landscape of futuring as an interplay of two dimensions: the focus of the activity on outcomes or pathways, and the stakes involved in it.