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Futures in context. Some comments on the Regio Futures Programme. International Conference The future of regions in the perspective of global change Warsaw, June 9-10, 2008 Simone Arnaldi Istituto Jacques Maritain, Trieste (Italy). Summary. Introductory remarks Who I am Vocabulary

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International conference the future of regions in the perspective of global change

Futures in context.Some comments on the Regio Futures Programme

International Conference

The future of regions in the perspective

of global change

Warsaw, June 9-10, 2008

Simone Arnaldi

Istituto Jacques Maritain, Trieste (Italy)


Summary

Summary

  • Introductory remarks

    • Who I am

    • Vocabulary

    • The problem

    • The scope of my remarks

  • Looking at FR literature

  • Changing perspectives

  • Examples

  • Closing remarks


Who i am

Who I am

My background:

  • My Mentor is used to say: ‘I am a sociologist trying to be a futurist’

  • I am used to say: ‘I am a futurist trying to be a sociologist’

    In the end

  • I think I am perhaps a ‘naive’ sociologist (a bit frustrated…)

    • Pros: I am less disciplined (in sources, vocabulary, boundaries, etc.)

    • Cons: I am less disciplined (in sources, vocabulary, boundaries, etc.): any help is welcome


Where this stuff comes from

Where this stuff comes from

This presentation relies on:

  • Ongoing research on improving robustness of methods through a reflexive regard (cognitive processes in panel methods based on group discussion and bias detection)

  • (My recent but) increasing interest in a sociological approach to cognition and, through cognition, in a sociological approach to futures research methods (seeing them as social and communicative interactions)


Vocabulary 1

Vocabulary/1

A few remarks about terminology:

  • Local/societal anticipatory processes:

    • Local (processes of) production of anticipation/local anticipatory processes: FR methods

    • Societal (processes of) production of anticipation/societal anticipatory processes: the broader future-oriented debate, no matter the actors involved, the methods/approach they use, the anticipations produced


Vocabulary 2

Vocabulary/2

A few remarks about terminology:

  • Local/societal interaction processes:

    • Local processes of social/communicative interactions occurring during the implementation of methods (either they are explicitly considered in the methods or not)

    • Larger processes of social/communicative interactions occurring outside the implementation of methods (either in time or in (social) space)


The problem 1

The problem/1

One problem to explore: what are the mutual influences of futures research methods and broader societal anticipatory processes?

a.k.a.

what do we get back after having applied methods?


The problem 2

The problem/2

Two directions:

  • Do (and how) interaction processes (local and societal) influence local anticipatory processes?

  • Does (and how) the local production of anticipations (processes and outcomes) influence societal anticipatory processes?

    The latter has two dimensions:

    • Does (and how) local production of anticipations influence social action (individual and collective)?

    • Does (and how) local production of anticipations affect societal inventories of anticipations?


The scope of my remarks

The scope of my remarks

This presentation attempts:

  • To provide some questions, not answers

  • To suggest possible directions of (multi-disciplinary) investigation

  • To claim for reflexivity in order to increase the performance of Futures Research methods and RegioFutures Programme


Literature review

Literature review

Engaging with diversity in FR through a non systematic review of the literature:

  • French prospective (Berger, de Jouvenel, Massé, Godet)

  • Critical futures studies (Eckersley, Gidley, Hicks, Hutchinson, Inayatullah, Milojevic, Page, Slaughter, Voros)

  • Human and social futures studies (Barbieri Masini)

  • Research on youngsters’ images of the future (Ono, Landau, Novaky, Pellizzoli, Rubin)


Limitations 1

Limitations/1

Reviewed approaches appear to share a few common limitations:

  • Limited understanding of whether/how local/societal interactions affect the local production of anticipations:

    • The (relevant) interactions are those ‘prescribed’ by the method

    • It is not clear whether/how relevant sources/types of information are considered (e.g. gestures)

    • It is not clear whether/how sources/types of information are assessed according to occurring interactions

    • The method is… what it is, and if not, it doesn’t matter: discrepancy between expected/actual results are (said to be) dependent on correct/uncorrect application; more often, weak (none?) systematic observation of changes is in place


Limitations 2

Limitations/2

Reviewed approaches appear to share a few common limitations:

  • Limited understanding of the relations between local processes producing anticipations and broader societal processes

    • Framed mainly in terms of impacts (e.g. diffusion of images)

    • Weak (none?) interpretive framework for transcalar effects (both for action and doscourse): is participation enough?


Perspectives

Perspectives

Two perspectives for observing different approaches:

  • A focus either on the production (processes) or on anticipations themselves (outcomes)

  • A focus either on prescription or description of methods

    • Prescriptive: exploring and suggesting the best method according to a set of standards (epistemic, moral, both) set by the researcher

    • Descriptive: exploring methods as they are performed in local context, i.e. how actors use them, what are the societal processes affecting their design, implementation, interpretation (De Laat 2000)


Tentative typology

Tentative typology

A tentative typology of FR approaches:


Changing questions

Changing questions?

Changing the questions (for my research goals!):

  • What is the validity of anticipatory knowledge claims?

  • What are the characteristics of methods to seek to improve their accuracy?

  • What are the images we have to promote for fostering social change?

  • What are FR processes made of?


The matter of fr methods

The ‘matter’ of FR methods

FR as the activity of a research collective (Callon, Lescoume, Barthe 2001), which is:

  • A group of actors

    • Involving a plurality of actors (researchers, stakeholders, etc.)

    • Interacting through communication processes

    • Producing texts and artefacts

    • Enacting routines, rules

    • Translating meanings for differentiated stakeholders

  • A system of ‘distributed intelligence’

    • Mobilising cognitive resources

    • Performing cognitive tasks

    • Relying on incorporated knowledge (in tools, artefacts, theories, habits, etc.)


Exemplifying the descriptive approach 1

Exemplifying the descriptive approach/1

  • Identification of the local patterns of interaction, either formalised in methods or not

    • e.g. group discussion

  • Identification of the social properties of people-in-interaction

    • e.g. gender, expertise, credibility (social knowledge)

  • Identification of the cognitive processes activated by the interaction

    • e.g. association of meanings, information mining and organisation of information, evaluation of answers

  • Identification of the influence of patterns of interaction and social properties of people-in-interaction on the “cognitive quality” of results


Exemplifying the descriptive approach 2

Exemplifying the descriptive approach/2

  • Identification of the broader future-oriented debates relevant for the prospective process

    • e.g. survival of the scallops in the St. Brieuc Bay

  • Identification of the (heterogeneous) actors and fora in which the debate is performed

    • e.g. scientific conferences, political arena(s)[, media]

  • Identification of the networks of actors emerging around shared anticipations

    • e.g. researchers and scientists, fishermen, scallops,

  • Identification of the role of anticipations and their production processes in network creation and coordination


Exemplifying the descriptive approach 3

Exemplifying the descriptive approach/3

  • Identification of the broader future-oriented debates relevant for the prospective process

    • e.g. regional development

  • Identification of the (heterogeneous) actors and fora in which the debate is performed

    • e.g. scientific conferences, political arena(s), media, ecc.

  • Identification of the networks of actors emerging around shared anticipations

    • e.g. scholars, business leaders, political leaders

  • Identification of the role of anticipations and their production processes in network creation and coordination


Closing remarks what to do

Closing remarks: what to do?

  • A comparative past- and present-oriented programme of investigation can complement the future-oriented work in Regio Futures Programme


Closing remarks what opportunities

Closing remarks: what opportunities?

A more systematic understanding of how local/societal interactions affect the outcomes of prospective processes and methods can offer opportunities:

  • To improve our understanding of how methods work

    Thus

  • To improve the robustness of methods (bias detection, effectiveness to influence societal discourse and action)

    And

  • To offer a platform for multi-disciplinary collaboration (anthropology, psychology, sociology, political science)


Closing remarks

Closing remarks

Thank you for listening!

[email protected]


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