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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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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

    • The problem

    • The scope of my remarks

  • Looking at FR literature

  • Changing perspectives

  • Examples

  • Closing remarks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A tentative typology of FR approaches:


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

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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?

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


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

Thank you for listening!

[email protected]


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