Envisioning ethnographies of the future: lab exercises for the imagination
Jessica Symons (University of Manchester)
Examination Schools South School
Start time:
20 September, 2018 at 14:15 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This Visioning Lab will stimulate future scenarios to imagine ethnographic encounters within them. It builds on design futures, foresight, futurism, speculative fiction and anthropologies of the future to spontaneously produce speculative ethnographies of multiple futures in 90 minutes.

Long abstract:

The Visioning Lab aims to stimulate discussion about how anthropology can support the development of new social models for a contemporary age. By detaching from what is known and immersing oneself into 'what may be', one is freed from the constraints of reality but still encumbered by assumptions; known and otherwise. A discursive and collaborative production of future scenarios helps reveal expectations for the future among lab participants. Attempts to imagine ethnographic encounters in future scenarios brings out expectations of the present. This approach of imagining ethnographies for future scenarios can also provide bridges into fictional accounts, narratives and storytelling, providing a protective layer for sources, tackling challenging topics and allowing for an imaginative flourishing.

The Visioning Lab takes a playful approach, building on existing experiences of running 'future visioning sessions' with groups ranging from security experts in Berlin to homeschoolers in Salford. Participants will start with an individual exercise which connects them to their instinctive imagination to produce one possible future scenario each. There will be time and space to sketch out these imagined worlds and then discussion with colleagues to draw the ideas out further. A group exercise will imagine anthropologists in these settings, carrying out ethnography to explore different themes. Discussion and drawing will bring out what might be encountered in these worlds.

The scenarios produced will be exhibited via Instagram and Twitter and also form the basis of a new book in development about Ethnographies of the Future.

See for more information.