Visions of the Future: Critical practices of design fabulation

Ramia Maze

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionProfessional


The field of futures studies have tended to imagine the future as primarily technological and material. The future is often portrayed as a discrete and definite location that might be arrived at through linear transition pathways along which the development of particular technologies is the privileged baseline for plotting human, cultural and societal ‘progress’ (if social factors are considered at all, ie. Wangel, 2011). Design has become a powerful discipline charged with visualizing such futures in accessible, popular and persuasive forms. Visions of the future, along with their norms and priorities, shape both policy planning and our everyday cultural imaginaries. However, such visions are far from neutral.

In my work, and with colleagues (Mazé and Wangel, 2017), we develop critical practices exploring visions of the future and how visions, as fabulations and as design artifacts, take part in (re)producing or countering current social norms, practices and structures. Further, through critical practices of design research, we explore, craft and debate alternative visions of the future. For example, in the ‘Switch! Energy Futures’ project (Mazé, Messeter, Thwaites, Önal, 2013), we elaborated ‘superfictive’ scenarios of alternative energy futures in order to draw out differences among and consequences of socio-economic and sustainability paradigms within contemporary policy (cf. Mazé, 2016). Our intention in this project was, thus, about stimulating debate and change in the present, which was also explicitly included in the scope and design of the project as a participatory performance with various stakeholders.

Futures can be understood as an everyday practice, made by professionals (such as designers), who are circumscribed by systems and structures, reproducing the ideals, knowledges and material realities of individuals – but who must also take responsibility for their assumptions, agency and power. Here, I discuss my/our work within the critical turn in futures and design.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender Studies Conference
Place of PublicationJyväskylä
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
MoE publication typeD3 Professional conference proceedings
EventGender Studies Conference - University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
Duration: 23 Nov 201725 Nov 2017


ConferenceGender Studies Conference
Internet address

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