17th February 2012: Mediascapes, Conscientisation and Personal Foresight

Several months ago Dr. Jose M. Ramos called for contributions to a special issue of the Journal of Futures Studies on media and futures studies.


I wrote a paper – Mediascapes, Conscientisation, and Personal Foresight (PDF) – rejected by both Futures (Elsevier) and JFS. I had three goals: (1) respond to the debate about mediascapes and futures work; (2) reflect on personal ‘shaping’ experiences in the media that have also contributed to foresight practitioner work; and (3) contribute to theory-building on conscientisation and foresight. The paper contained personal details about my editorial stint with Disinformation and other stuff I rarely talk publicly about.


Futures felt the paper belonged in a digital culture journal. JFS reviewer one wrote: “This is a rambling, overly detailed resume/autobiography. In my judgement it is not a JFS article.  It is poorly written, does not define key terms.” JFS reviewer two wrote: “Although this is quite an interesting read it does not belong in an academic Futures journal.  Firstly, it has little directly Futures content, any connections being limited to quoting a few authors in the field.  Secondly, it is little more than a personal journey, or to be less charitable an ego-trip.”


Whilst I take both reviewers’ comments on-board, they minimised the article’s second goal (auto-ethnographic reflections as a criterion to develop personal foresight). Both reviewers engage in self-policing the field’s boundaries and journal content (an important editorial function – but one where authors and reviewers may have different mental models). Problems like defining key terms can often be solved with a single sentence or two. Both reviewers overlooked the deep connection posited between futures and conscientisation frameworks. I hope others can extract some value from the article: I have other material to write. The experience informed these suggestions on how to handle article rejections.

22nd March 2010: Ulver

A vivid nightmare.

Insight during a morning meeting: to follow the money and find the ‘edge’ in an industry, listen to the ‘water cooler’ discussions at investment conferences. The topics may turn up in academic journals about two years later.

Foxtel senior executives and I agree on something: too much Andre Rieu on the Ovation cable channel.

PhD ‘draft zero’ progress: several journal articles I had missed on ‘strategic culture’ — one argues that it is a research program instead of a variable. Six pages in to John Hutnyk‘s article ‘Jungle Studies: The State of Anthropology’, Futures 34 (2002): 15-31; this exemplifies the fusion of critical realism, cultural studies and post-Marxist critique of universities that I saw in the mid-to-late 1990s. I wondered: Is this the kind of research design that probably led ARC assessors to rank Futures as a B-level journal for the 2010 ERA rankings? A page on how post-September 11 ‘conflict anthropology’ has ‘borrowed’ ideas and insights from anthropological research.

Found in notes pile: two detailed outlines for unfinished, never-submitted journal articles.

The Norwegian band Ulver as a model for the unfolding creative process: a shift from three influential black metal and folk metal albums, to prog rock, ambient glitch, and then to film soundtracks, and jazz-influenced symphonic rock. It helps that Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg owns his label Jester Records. Occulture bonus points: Ulver’s second album, rumoured to have been recorded on an 8-track in a forest after the band spent their advance money, turns up in HBO’s The Sopranos.


A Challenging Conversation on Integral Futures

The Journal of Futures Studies (Tamkang University, Taiwan) has published a ‘trialogue’ on Integral Futures between colleagues Josh Floyd, Jose Ramos and myself.

The trialogue is an exploratory method that the late ethnobotanist Terence McKenna used at the Esalen Institute and Omega Institute to cocreate new knowledge informed by interdisciplinary expertise.  McKenna’s trialogues featured mathematician Ralph Abraham and biologist Rupert Sheldrake.  More recently, Erik Davis and Douglas Rushkoff have continued the tradition.  The theoretical physicist David Bohm developed a similar method for dialogue and group work.

Floyd, Ramos and I discussed this approach in February-April 2006 after taking three different
iterations of Advanced Professional Praxis a ‘capstone’ project unit in
Swinburne University’s Strategic Foresight program.  Richard Slaughter provided a focal point as he assembled papers for a special issue of the journal Futures (Elsevier) on Integral Futures Methodologies (November, 2007).  For over a decade, Slaughter had synthesised a Futures knowledge base of new frameworks, methodologies and visions.  Informed by Ken Wilber‘s Integral vision, Slaughter proposed Integral Futures as a “broader and deeper” horizon for Futures work.  Wilber and Slaughter galvanised a new cohort of practitioners to develop new Integral Futures methodologies.  Yet new creative horizons may create new problems.

How can Integral Futures practitioners be ethically informed about their new methods?  Our trialogue proposes Embodied Foresight as one possible way to achieve this: the cultivation of ethical sensitivity, situation awareness about the Teacher-Student relationship and pedagogical barriers, and self-reflection on the transformative potential of initiatory knowledge and wisdom traditions.  Or, “foresight-in-context” may anticipate and prevent hazards that might have unforeseen consequences.

The trialogue creates a space for each of us to bring theoretical frameworks and practitioner reflections into the discussion.  Floyd brings expertise in Zen Buddhism, cognitive science and phenomenology, and a familiarity with Wilber and Evan Thompson‘s research.  Ramos brings transcultural experiences in Futures, action research, and postcolonial insights on “model monopolies”.  I added some insights from mid-1990s exploration of the Gurdjieff Work and the Temple of Set, and experiences during Masters studies, publishing and research projects.

From our trialogue’s conclusion:

Embodied Foresight offers some emergent solutions for the individual practitioner to the challenges and difficulties of Integral Futures practice. These reflexive ‘problems’ are part of diffusion, initiation and knowledge transfer in many wisdom traditions. Our ‘trialogue’ has raised several ‘reflexive’ problems-from Teacher-Student relationships and pedagogical barriers to the archetypal dangers of Phobos and Thanatos-that each of us has personally experienced within the Futures Studies community and in other initiatory and wisdom traditions.