Long Line: Futuring

This post is part of a series of posts pulled from a piece of writing I completed in November 2012. For more information on this series, see this post.

Context | Looking Back | Transformation | Looking Back at the Looking Back | Questions | On ethics | Letting Go of Nothing | Taking on Subject and Objects | On meaning making | Why the language of causality trouble me | Conceptual versus Empirical | Futuring | Temporality and Time | Brief Note | Back to Time | What to do with the Past | Some tools to help us be | An example from my past | Avoiding Labels | The educational turn | Being and curriculum | Curriculum of Being | Curriculum Futuring | On dispositions as ways of being | Being and pedagogy | Being and technology | Being and the body | References

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Futuring

Another version of a game I play as I scan literature is related to the “surprise me” notion above that calls for us to deep dive again. We make meaning of our lives via frameworks that are constructed from our assumptions. As an observer, once you can identify a few of the assumptions framing a situation, it is quite easy to see the “whole picture”, or see the “whole board” (picking up the game metaphor). In naming the framework there is a shift that happens within that allows you to see where the situation is headed. Put another way: If we are living as if X, then X is probably going to happen/occur. For example, picking back up our iPad study from earlier and its research question: Do iPads really help students learn better? Given this question (and, in a way this next piece is still connected to Kieran’s conceptual/empirical), it is not that far of a leap to see what will happen. Because most research questions (and this one as well) are incredibly specific, there are not that many solutions that could result: (1) Yes, iPads do help; (2) No, iPads do not help; or (3) Maybe iPads help. That’s it. My money was on Door #3. Most studies that deal with technology and learning result in Door #3. And if they do not, then the researchers are kidding themselves.

I purposefully chose the word “Futuring” for this section to draw on Tony Fry’s distinction of “de-futuring” within design (which, obviously, emerged from the Grimmett piece). I am not so sure that Fry did an effective job at explaining what exactly it is he is trying to describe with his idea of de-futuring, and I think that then get’s imported into the Grimmett & Halverson piece with curriculum. At the risk of bastardizing Fry’s work, I will try to summarize by continuing the thoughts from above. We make our meaning from our assumptions. At the same time, the assumptions turn around and give us who we are in a given situation. As we act out our being-ness in the situation, grounded in those particular assumptions, we, quite simple, live into a specific future that is given by our being. This is not mysticism and it is not religion/spirituality and it is not necessarily mysterious; it is a function of language and being.

Before I continue on to discuss time and temporality, I want to return to Fry’s work. His argument continues from this idea of futuring to distinguish a conceptualization, an approach to design, grounded in de-futuring. Designs (in their many, many forms) create, generate, and give a certain future. Chairs are for sitting, door knobs are for turning, web links are for clicking, and so on. Fry’s argument is that the nature of our designs, their being, is based on any number of assumptions that presuppose (embody? enact?) unsustainability. Thus, if we continue to act on these presuppositions, we will continue to live unsustainable lives. This is the future we are living into. By de-futuring, then, Fry wants us to come at design (and life) with an acknowledgment that we are living unsustainably and that to transform this future we need to de-future, or take responsibility for, the futures that our designs generate or create. De-futuring then is not a thing or an object, but a reckoning, a process or a method, for analyzing our designs to see in what ways they create (themselves and through us) the future. In this reckoning, we give ourselves the time to pause and select a different future for ourselves and for our designs, through our designs.
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