Legal Disclaimer

This blog wishes it be known that the opinions presented herein are the sole responsibility of the author, and do not represent the feelings, opinions, ideas, or conclusions of any affiliated organization or group. Additionally, the author has chosen to keep the blog confidential during the Olympic Games 2008, as the reaction of the PRC towards foreign opinion remains ungauged. Thanks for reading.
Beijingfuturesdreams, 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August -- The Futures Present Opinion: Images of the Futures

Images of the Futures

As the countdown to the Olympic opening ceremony reaches the two-day mark, I think it necessary to express some quick views and definitions of Futures Studies that will be referred to in the coming weeks. Prefacing this blog is a statement linking the concept of a future dream to output by the entity holding said dream. We use the word “entity” here because a group may hold a common dream or ideal, just as they can be personalized. Any portion of this dream can be considered an Image of the Futures.

An Image of the Futures is a powerful tool in discerning overall concepts that drive a preferred Future and its outcome. As archeologists are able to envision lifestyles of generations long past from a single artifact, a Futures researcher may extrapolate key factors of a future society from a single Image. The important distinction to make in drawing this analogy is while archeologists often have tangible elements from which to build their creative ideas of civilizations past, Futures researches often work in an opposite fashion. While the uncertainty that surrounds the futures possible is an excellent breeding ground for creative ideas, Futures Research spends a majority of its time establishing these ideas in tangible way for someone here in the present.

These tangible manifestations do not need to be picked up, dusted or extracted from a time-space anomaly. Futures researchers do not pull forth shards of strange polymers from a gap between dimensions, or deal in the translation of texts from our post-fathers. Often, Images of the Futures are not physical for the user at all, but rather exist on a plane that is “almost” real, that is believable. These Images come in many forms, of which we will discuss the most popular below.


Most are quick to point to the volumes of science fiction written about a time and place in the future, as Images of the Futures, and this is indeed a category rife with Images. However, new forms of media have given us new forms of fiction, and these too must now be included. Film adaptations of popular science fiction novels serve as a vehicle for the concretization of these Images, however the film media has also provided creative minds with new tools to invent and create future worlds. Some films, written and produced primarily for a cinema audience have new ways of constructing and presenting future worlds.

Related to film, but given a much shorter window of time through which to present a Futures Image, are commercials. Here within a 15-60 second time frame, entire future worlds come into existence laden with implicit futures drivers, are experienced, and then disappear. Though sometimes very minimalist in presentation, Futures Images from the advertising world are often high symbolic and contain assumptions about future worlds that go unnoticed.

Perhaps the most interesting form of storytelling to arise in the past 20 years, and one that has embraced a variety of Futures Images, we must also consider the videogame/computer entertainment genre. Many of these interactive storylines take place in future “Earths” or earth based societies, and involve future Earth creatures, human or otherwise. The level of interactivity offered through gaming also offers a different path for Future Images to concretize in the minds of users. By adding an interface to the fiction, and incorporating a physical component to the story experience, Images of the Future take on different character in comparison to one-way medias like film and print.

Immersive Environments:

This genre encompasses attempts to fuse the present time with one or more Future Images in a space constructed to excite all of the human senses. Through the creation of a backdrop, characters, props, and artifacts Immersive Environments of many twists, and futures are created. By enveloping the user in a Future World, and all of the Images that are held therein, the Immersive Environment provides an increasingly tangible experience.

Some great examples of this include the 1939-1940 World’s Fair entitled “The World of Tomorrow.” This event held a variety of opinions and visions of what Futures would bring humanity, and gave people lucky enough to go a glimpse at the cutting edge technologies, and creative ideas for the direction of those technologies. An excellent amateur website written by an attendee of “The Fair” is found here.

Walt Disney’s Tomorrowlands and EPCOT center are also examples of big budget Immersive Futures Environments. These installations are meant to represent a lifestyle of the future. The “inhabitants” take on stories, behaviors, and implements that fit the idealized society. A recently refurbished Tomorrowland was opened in Disneyland (CA, USA) this summer (2008) to a variety of reviews. Other Tomorrowlands in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Florida, and Paris (titled Discovery Land) are also open.

Additional work in Immersive Futures has been conducted by the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies involving small-scale recreations of Hawaiian lifestyle 2050. These installations, created for the Hawaii 2050 conference, include Futures Images like “inhabitants”, artifacts, specialized character behaviors, and background soundtracks. Videos of these installations and other Immersive Futures from HRCFS can be found at the following links: Blue, Orange, Silver, Maroon.

Architecture and Installation Art

Additional Images come in the forms of Architecture (conceptual, and created) and installation artwork. Often, the statements by the designer concerning the form and function of such creations are telling in the interpretation of the latent Futures Images they encompass. . The relatively long-term nature of both Architecture, and Installation Art guides the designers and architects to create something that can stand both functionally and aesthetically for years, decades, sometimes longer.

Building and Public Space designs, for example, may include environmental technologies to buffer any resource footprint. They may include green roofing, solar paneling, ambient environment controls, and other systems to accomplish this task. Similarly, if the building is constructed to represent the long-term goals and ambitions of the firm contracting the new space, then architecture has a unique way of manifesting those stated ideals.

Installation art works in a similar fashion, by helping to define a space, and the way in which people interact with that space. This process is based upon ideals, and these art pieces stand as unique interpretations of ideals driving certain futures. Some installation art goes as far to encourage interactivity between the occupants of the space, and the artwork. Digital technologies are expanding degrees of interactivity all the time.

Images at the Olympics

Once the Olympic Games have begun, we will study Images of the Futures that are represented at and around the games. While most of the Games viewers will be watching via the television, we think it very important that an analysis of Images presented in this media takes place as well. September we will investigate the Images presented via television broadcast, while August is limited mainly to Images presented at the Olympic site.

No comments: