Lecture – 4.8.2019

Vision: Foresight & Futures I

Stuart Candy

Transition Design proposes that radically new ideas and compelling visions of sustainable futures are needed, and further, that designers have a particular responsibility to develop and pursue such visions because of their role in shaping the material world.

In this class, Stuart Candy will lead an introduction to futures studies and strategic foresight, areas of practice and scholarship developed over the past half century, to help people consider how things could, are likely to, and should be different in times to come – possible, probable and preferable futures – as well as the relationships between these imaginaries and the actions we take in the present. Whereas design that operates from within a singular and linear vision of ‘the future’ is vulnerable to the perpetual surprises of a complex system, a philosophical and political plurality of visions may offer part of the foundation necessary for inclusive, effective, and resilient transitions.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What images of the future can you identify in the world around you?
  • In the early 1930s Wells describes some foreseeable challenges to society that he thinks are not sufficiently being addressed. What are these? What are some of the ones we could name today, and how might those be addressed?
  • What kind of mechanisms do we currently have for responsibility to future generations?
  • Considering Boulding’s concept of the 200-year present, exploring backward and forward in time, what do you think you would need to be able to do this properly?

Read Prior to Class

  • Wells, H.G. 1932. Wanted: Professors of Foresight. Slaughter, R. (ed) Studying the Future, Australian Bicentennial Authority/Commission For the Future, Melbourne, 1989. pp 3-4. Accessed January 2019.
  • Dator, Jim (various dates) Four short pieces. From 1) Bell, Wendell. 1997. Foundations of Futures Studies, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick and 2) Dator, Jim. 2002. Advancing Futures: Futures Studies in Higher Education, Praeger, Westport, CT.*
  • Boulding. 1988. Expanding Our Sense of Time and History: The 200 year present. In Building a Global Culture: Education for an Interdependent World. Syracuse University Press, NY. pp.5-15.*
  • Toffler, Alvin. 1965. The Future as a Way of Life. Horizon Magazine. American Heritage Publishing. Rockport, MD. Accessed January 2019.

Supplemental Readings

Lecture & Discussion – 4.10.2019

Lifestyles & Everyday Life + Assignment #3

Gideon Kossoff

Transition Design argues that everyday life and lifestyles are the realms within which the consequences of wicked problems are experienced, therefore it is the primary context within which they need to be addressed. In the modern era, everyday life has been shaped by globalized economic forces and centralized institutions of various kinds. Transition Design proposes to counter this societal paradigm with the re-conception of whole lifestyles that are rooted in local ecosystems, cultures and histories. It emphasizes the need to address quality of life issues within the context of the everyday. This means redesigning most of the systems (food, energy, healthcare, education, infrastructure) and related everyday practices through which we satisfy our needs, and empowering decentralized, networked and place-based communities to take control of this process at all levels of scale — households, neighborhoods, cities and regions.

The SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 initiative argues that “Enabling sustainable lifestyles will require more than promoting green consumerism (Bengtsson & Akenji 2010, Lorek 2010). Sustainable living goes beyond the consumption of the most sustainable material goods and/or services, into the re-design of ways of living, feeling, communicating and thinking. For example: personal and collective attitudes; how values are established over a life-time; how we interact and transact in the economic system; how our cities and education systems provide the infrastructure and skills for lifestyles that support more sustainable societies. Even if there is willingness among people for change, they often fail to succeed in lifestyle changes because they are confronted with factors that “lock-in” their unsustainable behaviour and choices (Mont and Power 2010; Van Vliet et al. 2005). For example: a combination of sub-urban sprawl with insufficient public transport locks in private car ownership and use.”

Traditional design approaches seldom frame solutions and initiatives within the context of everyday life and lifestyles. However Transition Design argues that it is the logical way in which to conceive solutions that are more appropriate, place-based and sustainable. Assignment #3 (below) asks you to develop a place-based, day in the life vision of Pittsburgh in 2050 in which your wicked problem has been solved.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What are the advantages of thinking about everyday life as being organized at different levels of scale?
  • Can the concept of the levels of everyday life serve as a guide in framing and conceiving transition solutions?
  • How does the character of everyday life change at each level of scale?
  • What are the wicked problems associated with the decline of the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • What are the ways in which design/designers can help restore the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • How are the Domains of Everyday Life related to the theories of changed discussed in previous classes?
  • In what ways might needs (at various levels of scale) be satisfied more effectively?

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

  • Ward, Colin. 1982. Spontaneous Order. From Anarchy in Action. London: Freedom Press. pp 31–39*

Assignment #3: Developing Future Visions

Assignment 3: Developing Future Visions will be introduced in the last 20 minutes of class. Teams will be provided with a template within which to develop a long-term future, lifestyle-based narrative/scenario in which their wicked problem has been resolved. Factors and solutions that historically contributed to its resolution will be described through the lens of everyday life in a sustainable future. Visions should touch on the ways in which cultural norms and beliefs may have shifted, what new technological innovations may exist and how everyday behaviors and practices have all contributed to the resolution of the wicked problem the team has been focused on during the semester. Refer to the Assignment #3 page on this website for more details.

Discussion – 4.15.2019

Cosmopolitan Localism

As previously discussed, globalization lies at the root of many wicked problems. ‘Localism’ has been an attempt to address these problems, however, they are often too complex and interconnected to be resolved at a local level. In order to develop place-based, high-quality lifestyles for the long-term future, new forms of everyday life and lifestyles must be envisioned. These are visions of lifestyles that are self-organized and networked at multiple levels of scale, from households through neighborhoods, cities, regions and the planet: Cosmopolitan Localism — a regionally and globally networked social, political, economic and technological system in which most needs can be satisfied locally, while some remain reliant on global networks. This symbiotic connection spanning the levels from the local to the planet as a whole, would represent a new kind of social, cultural, political and economic settlement that is consistent with an ecological or holistic worldview.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What is the difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency and which is preferable in a cosmopolitan local society?
  • What are the contrasts between cosmopolitan localism and globalization?
  • How can we use the Domains of Everyday Life to define ‘local’ in a cosmopolitan localist community? In what ways would cosmopolitan localist communities be more collaborative and why?
  • What forms of government and economics are consistent with cosmopolitan localism and what are the different types of networks on which these will depend?
  • What are the advantages of thinking about everyday life as being organized at different levels of scale?
  • In what ways do new technologies have an important role to play in developing cosmopolitan localism?

Read Prior to Class

  • Sachs, Wolfgang. 1999. Cosmopolitan Localism. In Planet Dialectics: Exploration in Environment and Development. London: Zed Books Ltd. pp. 105–107*

Supplemental Readings

  • Shirky, Clay. 2008. Small World Networks. From Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin pp 214–221*
Lecture – 4.17.2019

Vision: Foresight & Futures II (Approaches)

Stuart Candy

Building on the previous Foresight & Futures session, this class will outline the logic and sequencing of foresight methods as used by professionals, as well as provide an opportunity for some hands-on practice with these processes.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What aspects of this way of thinking seem to come most naturally to you? Are there any that you find especially challenging or counterintuitive?
  • By what means do you think shared foresight and transition-enabling competencies might be distributed throughout society?
  • What benefits, on one hand, or limitations and hazards, on the other, do you discern in the notion of backcasting/three horizons (working backward from an idea)?

Read Prior to Class