Scenario identification and analysis: "found futures."
Discussion: primary components, classification frameworks,
and evaluative criteria; where do we look for images of the
Read: Ringland, Pt. II; Miller, 9; Van der Heijden; Schwartz
Forsyth's class notes.
Developing a language
for scenario analysis:
What is a scenario?
It "sets the scene:" creates a context within which we can explore
possible future changes and their impacts;
it portrays an image of a possible future.
What is the normal time
e.g., a scenario for next Tuesday is PLANNING... [Yes? No?]
Short-term vs. Long-term depends upon the "perceived moment" --
whether a timeline is long or short is RELATIVE to the perceived
Where is the scenario
located on the timeline [and whose timeline is it -- makes a difference:
What is its REACH into the future?
Might want to consider evaluating a scenario's reach re: plausibility
given what is changing.
Some possible sets of
words to differentiate among scenarios...
Linear [extrapolate the trends we see today] vs
[highly transformational, shifts of essential quality in systems,
rather than just of quantity or degree...]
Or, how many of the
STEEP sectors are "in motion"?
How rich/dense are the scenarios?
- could be "source rich" -- driven by many different sources
of change, across several sectors; or
- could have "detail density" -- offer details and specifics
of resultant change within the future described, across several
How GROUNDED is the
scenario? That is, what is its believable base, or anchors in fact
-- what are the real trends or emerging issues of change that might
contribute to its plausibility/eventual occurrence.
Does every scenario
tell a story? Should it?
Initial set of questions
to ask ourselves when first we see an image of the future:
Points of Reference:
time span: how far is this future from our present? 5 years? 10?
who is articulating this scenario/image of the future? analyst?
prophet? PR person?
what unit of society does it describe? an individual? a community?
a country? etc.
does it offer a transcendent, transformative vision for humanity?
How is it linked
to the past -- does it describe the flows of change from our
present to its present? does it suggest an action plan to create
the image it describes?
Affect -- is
it a positive or negative image of the future and if either, why?
Is the point of this scenario/image of the future to state the "most
a) transcendent and
b) feasible and desirable, or
c) merely a plausible alternative, or
d) a total wild card?
If it is an idealistic
scenario, that is, a vision which articulates the ideals and goals
comprising a preferred future, are those ideals or goals explicitly
or implicitly stated?
this image? an artistic/intellectual/economic/political elite?
people working in democratic/participatory process?
Does it question
common assumptions of the present? If so, which ones?
Does it challenge prevailing ideas and values? If so, which
Is it related to policy-making
or decision-making, or generated for those purposes?
How concrete and specific
are the details of this image in terms of everyday life?
What does this image
tell us about desirable human and social values?
What does it tell us about potential tensions and risks in society?
If it contains a description
of the history that bridges from the current present to its future
present, has that history been derived by moving backward from a
desired state to needed present action, or has it been derived by
exploring forward from present trends?
Sir George Thomson has
offered several guidelines for forecasting and scenario drafting,
among which are....
I.e., plausibility means
understanding the relationship between the fields of knowledge you
admit as legitimate, and the limits you therefore establish of what
is and is not possible within your scenario of the future.
- Scientific principles
are frequently 'principles of impotence'...certain things cannot
but they do not say that everything else can, for that would imply
that there are no more fundamental principles to discover.
While internal logistical
consistency is certainly a hallmark of a well-written scenario, and
plausible scientific and technological extrapolation can generate
surprising results, clinging too closely to notions of societal acceptability
may result in surprise-free -- i.e., useless -- scenarios.
- Forecasts must
have intellectual coherence and scientific plausibility as well
as societal acceptability.
Don Michaels ("The Futurist Tells Stories") offers the
- Three methodological
injunctions emerge from this vision of the competent and responsible
teller of stories about futures. How these are accomplished in
a particular story will depend upon the skill of the teller.
- First, shared thoughts
about the future ought to include acknowledgement of both the
multiple and the problematic nature of the futures explored, and
of the descriptions and interpretations of the putative past and
present from which the futures derive.
- Second, shared
thoughts about the future ought to be accompanied by an explicit
theory about the processes of social change sufficiently detailed
so that the futures described can be derived from it. If there
is no such explicit speculative or tested theory, this ought to
- Third, ...thoughts
about the future unavoidably engage both constructive and destructive
unconscious needs and images that might influence consicous evaluations
of purpose and pragmatics.
- ...the nature of
the future world will be an expression of emotions at least as
much as rational deliberations, programs, and practices....
WHAT ELSE CAN WE ADD TO THIS LIST? Go to
Stuart Forsyth's class discussion notes.