Observations from the examination of futures and imaginaries
The collection and consideration of the different concepts and approaches to futures and imaginaries in the second chapter have shown how social expectations of the future are approached in different disciplines.
Even if the authors from the context of futures studies (cf. chapter 2.1) were deliberately chosen for their view of futures in society, it could furthermore be stated that they all revolve around an unnamed concept of societal expectations of the future without explicitly naming it. The ITAS workshop participants speak of a “dominating socio-technical future” (cf. chapter 2.1.1), Polak problematizes the influence of existing futures in the minds of decision-makers (cf. chapter 2.1.2), and in Inayatullah’s work various approaches can be identified in the direction of significant, societal expectations of the future, such as archetypal images of the future (cf. chapter 2.1.3).
Thus, one can find traces of a perspective on societal futures, as it is supposed to be described by Future Imaginaries, in futures studies and related disciplines for decades already – even if it has been explicitly linked to the concept of imaginaries only in recent years with Lockton and Candy (cf. chapter 2.3.4) and Goode and Godhe (cf. chapter 2.3.5).
The question arises why the concept of imaginaries has only appeared in futures studies in recent years when rudiments of the idea can be traced back to Polak. One possible explanation could lie in the fundamental vagueness associated with the concept and the terminology of imaginaries. This pattern also runs through the considerations in Chapter 2. For example, Strauss points out that all the essential authors on imaginaries have defined them differently (see Chapter 2.2.3). This has contributed to the fact that no clear definition of imaginaries could be established until today.
The variations in the description and definition of imaginaries nevertheless point to an even more profound reason for the lack of adaptation of the concept: Imaginaries describe a fundamentally vague phenomenon in society. This pattern can also be discovered among the various authors in Chapter 2. For instance, according to Taylor, a constituent feature of imaginaries is that they are not precisely formulated in language but are only conveyed in stories and legends and expressed in actions. As part of the background understanding, they are unstructured and without a clear theoretical framework. This also leads to the fact that the crossovers to other concepts such as ideology, myths, and common sense are fluid.
It is all the more interesting to observe when a discipline like STS consciously takes the initiative and develops its own term with a clear definition and role. Thus, Sociotechnical Imaginaries became established as a concept, and numerous works can be found today that conduct studies based on it (cf. chapter 2.3.4).
Based on the findings of the challenges in dealing with imaginaries, the task for the context of futures studies is thus not to introduce a new term but to theoretically substantiate the emerging concept. To this end, this chapter will bring together the identified patterns from chapter 2 into an approximation of a concept of Future Imaginaries.
Next Chapter: Condensation of Future Imaginaries