John Cassel is working on a project to develop an online collaborative approach to scenario development based on web 2.0 principles. The concept is basically to create a peer to peer approach to scenario development. In his words:
The overall goal of this environment is to provide a
large-scale, analytical-deliberative platform for collaborative
foresight and open scenario planning.
He calls the approach 'Scenario Connector' because it is about connecting a diverse number of online actors / agents in a fluid and ongoing / heuristic manner to develop sets of stories or 'tag bundles'. This means that potentially each entry by a participant can be evaluated, added to and modified. Sort of like wikipedia for scenarios and futures? Imagine a project called 'Future of water for such and such a location'. Potentially such a project has a main page, something like wikipedia or other format, which shows the primary assumptions about what people think are driving change. A farmer might offer farming practices, a climatologist might offer greenhouse emissions, an academic might offer as a driver 'worldviews', and together it links a whole number of stakeholders that normally have a difficult time sharing space. But the page stays up, so that over the years, as our awareness of water trends and emerging issues changes, so does the 'water futures project page'. Thus it links the potential of longitudinal and diachronic narrative scenario development, with the potential for open and epistemologically diverse stakeholder inclusion. The image of a wikipedia-full of possible futures comes to mind.
[it] makes scenario creation simple by allowing sit-
uations and events to be described as combinations
of tags, which are short text labels. Then, situa-
tions and events are joined together in networks that
illustrate the possibility of events transforming one
scenario into another. Scenarios can be quickly as-
sembled from existing tag sets, from scenarios the
user has previously created, from scenarios that other
users have shared, and by tags provided by the sys-
tem on installation.
My interest in this in part stems from my desire to see many many people engaged in the process of futures exploration. Early on in my discovery of Futures Studies in 2000 I was inspired by Robert Jungk's 'Future Workshops', which aimed to popularise the visioning of preferred futures in Europe for citizen empowerment in the face of creeping technocracy. Later I worked to link action research with futures studies, as I felt we / I needed to create a bridge between the visions of futures and action / innovation in the present. John Cassel's concept certainly carries many of the principles on action research, such as stating one's assumptions explicitly, the heuristic evaluation review of facts / concerns, and providing an open and participatory space where such work can unfold.
Yet like the branching system it wants to create, such projects also branch into different possible futures, so I will list some of my fears and preferences:
- It would be a shame to see such a platform dominated by the affluent, which is almost inevitable when we think about who has IT infrastructure and bandwidth / speed. How does one create such a system so that it can reflect that experiences of the majority world, and their perspective?
- It would be a shame if the scenario connect approach or culture were wedded to a positivist epistemology that dismissed the moral / ethical and normative dimensions. We are still haunted by David Hume. Can this system accommodate the need to develop preferable and ethical futures, not just descriptions of what we think will / can happen?
- It would be interesting to see whether it is possible to develop layered futures based on Inayatullah and Slaughter's categories (eg litany / pop, social analysis / problem oriented and worldview / epistemology), incorporating both empirical, systems based and epistemically reflexive approaches, or on Chris Stewart's framework for Integral scenario development. Is this asking too much for an open online approach?
- Can such a platform also facilitate the development of policy, projects and innovations, eg action-influence in the present? To satisfy me, it must be more than just speculation and mental exercises, we need to link these approaches with wise social change that addresses the importance of developing socially just and ecologically sustainable futures.
The project throws up some interesting questions and challenges. The project is in the development stage, and John Cassel is currently creating the technical foundations and building a collaborative team. But he should be commended for taking a bold leap into a new frontier for scenario development.
Anyone interested should contact: john [dot] benjamin [dot] cassel [at] gmail [dot] com
View the project concept overview at: http://scen-connect.sourceforge.net/