This panel addresses the status of 'the public' in practices that aim to imagine alternative futures such as scenario planning, design thinking and advertisement. We invite papers that critically explore how futures are made public and how the notion of the public itself may change with futuring.
One provocative way of looking at our inability to cope with societal problems today is to see them as part of a 'crisis of the imagination' (cf. Buell, 1996; Castoriadis 2007; Ghosh 2016). This particular way of looking at complex problems calls attention to our collective capacity to imagine and enact alternative futures. In the last decade a vast body of literature emerged on different practices to imagine the future, including complex modeling, gaming and design thinking to corporate advertising. Yet, while the work of imagining possible societal futures is inherently a public matter, the status of the 'public' is often uncertain. Public dimensions of futuring exercises are often covered in technocratic, institutional, or private/commercial codes, remain local or account too little for questions of politics and power. Moreover, for relevant issues like climate change the ties between key groups often remain unarticulated. This panel seeks to address this issue and invites papers that explore the status of the public in imagining the future and how the notion of the public itself may change with futuring. Both theoretical and empirical papers are welcome. Potential topics related to the central theme 'the public imagination of the future' include, but are not limited to: Representing futures by articulating their multiplicity Multiplicity of publics Public performances of socio-technical imaginaries Dramaturgy of meetings Visibility of futures and the offshoring of alternatives Intersections of public and private concerns Relationship between experts and non-experts The role of art and design in engaging publics