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Plenary C

Live Recording  
Previsioning the future: new tools, new actors [Early Career Plenary]
Monica Heintz (University of Paris Nanterre)
Cristiana Bastos (Universidade de Lisboa)
Time zone:
Thursday 23 July, 17:00-18:45

Short abstract:

From astrology to scientific forecasting, numerous tools have been developed since Antiquity for 'guessing' the future: predicting, previsioning, projecting, imagining. We welcome young scholars’ ethnographies addressing the tools and actors emerging in work environments to predict the future of labour and consumption and their role in the production of inequalities.

Long abstract:

If state socialist or post-war economies anticipated the future through planning, current flexible capitalism boasts about the instant readjustment of economic offer to the changing needs of consumers, themselves loosely and unequally defined. Thus societal progress and the digital revolution are invoked to explain why jobs that would be in demand in the near future have not yet been invented- leaving future employees, schools, universities and other categories ‘in demand’ in the uncertainty of their future adequacy to an ever evolving economic system. In this context, new actors have emerged that forecast, anticipate, and finally influence the undetermined future: from trend makers and media influencers to algorithms, from independent consultants and scenario writers to enterprises’ strategic planners and data analysers. Anthropology can use its careful and self-reflective ethnographic method to understand major societal trends from the observation of these actors and their instruments. Is their weight in the decision-making and interference in the future development of economy another form of planning, a way of taming the future? Or is their work merely inspirational to the economy as science and science fiction could be? What are the new inequalities that emerge from the economic presence of such anticipators and trend makers of a global future? In this plenary we call for young scholars’ recent ethnographies of these economic settings and actors whose explicit role is that of previsioning the future and engage them in a reflexion on the link between management of the future and production of new inequalities.