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Accepted Paper:

The social semiotics of future-making: understanding the grammars of imagination in processes of distributed sense-making  
Timo Walter (Université de Lausanne)

Short abstract:

I develop an explicitly semiotic account of future-making as a process of distributed, enacted sense-making. Countering the widespread analytic ‘semanticization’ of futurity, I examine how futures are enacted and acquire performative agency in socially organized contexts of action.

Long abstract:

The question of how social actors imagine, construct and coordinate futures has attracted more and more empirical and theoretical attention in recent years. As future-making has developed into an object of inquiry in its own right, futurity has increasingly been problematized in epistemological terms. In this paper, I aim to develop an analytic vocabulary for conceptually re-embedding future-making in collectively organized contexts of action and a more relational analysis of social agency. To counter the slippage into an analytic ‘semanticization’ of futurity, I draw on insights and concepts from semiotics, linguistic anthropology, ethnomethodology and cognitive science to develop an explicitly semiotic account of future-making as a process of distributed, enacted sense-making. I theorize futures as 'complex objects' (Suchman) that acquire practical objectivity and performative agency within enunciative networks of social relations. I develop an analytic framework for understanding how the enunciation of futures is shaped by the social and narrative grammars of interaction available within 'organized social contexts' (Emirbayer/Mische). whose architecture of social relations defines a narrative grammar of future-making. In doing so, I seek to not only contribute to the literature on future-making, but to link this conversation back to the underlying analytic problems of theorizing how culture and meaning shape social agency and processes of social coordination. Specifically, I seek to shed light on the question of how the imaginary and creative dimensions of future-making are coordinated with the need to re-embed futures into the practical structure of action available for eancting them.

Traditional Open Panel P056
Futures work
  Session 3 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -