Future (Im)Perfect: Exploring time, becoming and difference in design and futures studies

Ramia Maze, Josefin Wangel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Through critically exploring intersections between futures studies and design, this essay seeks ways of approaching ‘the future’ in order to open for a variety of futures. We, the essay authors, first met at the Stockholm Futures Conference where we encountered normative paradigms that we want to question or change. One of us, Josefin, from a professional and research practice in futures studies, and the other, Ramia, from a professional and research practice in design. At the conference, Teodore Gordon, a pioneer of early futures studies, spoke of the history of futures studies in the US during the post-war ‘Atomic Era’ and ‘Space Age’ premised on technocentric and positivist logics. Such futures studies have tended to imagine the future as technological and material only, portraying the future as a discrete and definite location which might be arrived at through linear transition pathways along which the development of particular technologies as the privileged baseline for plotting human, cultural and societal ‘progress’ (if social factors are considered at all, i.e. Wangel 2011). Such futures studies approaches are increasingly allied with design.

As such future visions, along with their norms and priorities, shape both policy planning and our everyday cultures, there is much at stake in our professional disciplines of futures studies and design, as well as for us, all, personally, in our everyday lives. Thus, we find the need to explore how ‘the’ (or other notions of) the future and how design artifacts take part in (re)producing or countering social norms, practices and structures.

Ultimately, ours is an exploration of some of the ways in which design and futures studies can be critical practices, and we, critical practitioners. Feminist, postcolonial, and environmental theories are normative social theories, they are not neutral. In naming and framing phenomena and examples through such theories, we take something as an issue in ways that may destabilize the status quo or hegemonic understanding. By critical practice we mean both critique ‘outside-in’, i.e. using critical theories to critically reflect on and develop the practices (including ideological and ontological implications) of design and futures studies, and critique ‘inside-out’ (see Mazé and Redström 2009). Critique from the inside, or criticism from within (Mazé 2007), takes place here through anecdotal accounts of our everyday personal and professional practices, through which we reflect and examine larger societal phenomena (including ideological and ontological dimensions).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFeminist Futures of Spatial Practice
EditorsMeike Schalk, Thérèse Kristiansson, Ramia Mazé
Place of PublicationBaunach, DE
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-3-88778-489-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book


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