Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Tue 1 Mar 05 22:48
I think Tiger may open up some new opportunities for multi user video conferencing. What do you know Wayne or Jamais. How could we improve our virtual collaboration with clients?
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 2 Mar 05 14:22
There, broadly put, two different approaches to virtual interaction: symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric means the interaction happens more-or-less in real-time, with all participants engaged simultaneously; asymmetric means the interaction happens at the time of the participant's choice, and participants may be connected differentially. Symmetric forms include videoconferencing, text chat, voice (phones, skype), and real-time games. Asymmetric forms include bulletin board/mailing list conversations (like this one), form-mediated interaction (reading/filling out forms constructed by another person), and turn-based games. To put those into musical metaphors, symmetric would be musicians jamming together, while asymmetric would be each musician laying down her track separately, without the others present. Symmetric forms allow for greater improvisation and inspiration from other participants (that kind of "oh! that means..." "yeah! and *that* means..." we love so much). Asymmetric forms allow for greater testing and rehearsing of ideas, as well as greater study of options. All of that said, I haven't found either method particularly useful in my own experiences -- live, in person discussion in iterated sessions (with opportunities for research & rehearasal between sessions) still seems to work best. That's why I was wondering what your experiences were. We can continue this discussion, of course, but I have a different question: Do you find that your clients and panelists have an easier time coming up with optimistic scenarios of the future or pessimistic scenarios?
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Wed 2 Mar 05 15:33
Definitively optimistic. Our whole process and approach and tone of communication and way of doing business is centred around creating future opportunities. They all understand that. At the same time we need to discuss and take into account possible disruptors, wildcards, challenges and restrictions at all stages. naturally, what we foresee as being potential disruptors in Stage One likely change as we move through the process and generate ideas and contexts that we had not originally conceived relevant. Our scenario evaluation process in Stage Five and again in the Strategy and Implications section of Stage six do contain an in-depth analysis of the potential risks, obstacles and challenges, effectiveness, feasibility, fit, etc. It is at these points in particular, at the time when the client begins to consider the scenarios in more detail and is required to consider how to make them work, that of course, all of the negatives are discussed and taken into consideration. On the client level these often include, costs, investment policy, change culture, priorities, etc. remember though that during Stage One, which I hope is clear from the book, we do a lot of work in trying to better understand the client's readiness for revolutionary change, taking stock of their resources beyond their core competencies, as the future may require a new set of core competencies, understanding the client's multiple personalities and trying to the ascertain the real from the perceived or simply false assumptions they have about themselves and their marketplace. Obviously these are taken into account when we create the scenarios. I would say that even at the Frontline Panels, the panelists are generally keen to create a positive future landscape, even though they like to debate the posible holdbacks, as successful experts in their own right they usually approach the topics with a positive bent.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 00:57
re:22 An observation I guess, VC is a limiting structure for interactive collaboration and communication that I doubt will ever allow the type of experience Derek had in the Netherlands. Part of this seems to be process - asynchronous conversation is just so different from F2F (its best attribute being a space to reflect on the rhythms of the point of focus in mind), and part of it is structure - it does not allow for the synchronous and simultaneous surroundings of creative and inspirational ambience that is, or can be, inherent in a F2F sharing of thoughts, etc. Having said that, VC and the new interactive/collaborative models have their definite strengths that can add a whole lot of spice, space, and dimension to those ideas and strategies generated out of F2F interactions. I should imagine a powerful teamwork with your 10 or 12 utilizing both aspects of communication and interface could even more enhance your work. Just a thought. A privilege to be here guys. Are you marketing your capes, wands and crystal balls and have you got a lock on the owl distributorship from the ancillary Harry Potter spinoffs? This has to be the 'densest' conversation I have yet to read on the WELL. Kudos to all your work and future endeavors.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 01:53
Let me press the musical metaphor if I may. As we liked to say in grad school, "is it more like art or science?" You guys do a great job of synthesizing and blending competing interests at the corporate level to achieve optimistic and positive future landscapes. What you get is jazz. However, at the educational level, and the ontological level, transdisciplinary is the wave of the future. A good college president is more like a symphonic conductor. In that respect, we are still waiting for composers, like yourselves, to find the technologies in cyberspace that will allow both for the orchestra to assemble and 'make music' and a good hall for the audience to attend to the finished work. Ta Da.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 02:01
A reflection. This has been a rich and rewarding asymmetrical experience for me. I have read and made notes over the past six days and had an opportunity to reflect and meditate. I have also noticed that as I have fed on the various thought lines and digested the material it has affected my perceptions during my "normal" daily routines these past few days. Hmmm. That's an interesting dynamic in its own right. I think that is always working in the background of any asymmetrical model and might be explored more in depth as to a focused intentionality - sort of the way spiritual retreats work over a two or three day period. Weaving that back into a symmetrical model, with a deeper appreciation for the asymmetrical processes as they affect the 7-10 year vision of the client's future landscape, may result in an enhanced vision all of its own. I hope that is coming across in words, I know what I have in mind. I'm trying to find a synthesis between what you do on a corporate level and what (cascio) and others do on a more artistic level. Sort of a weaving of time and space if you get my drift.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 03:49
One last thing, since I'm up ahead of you guys, being on the East Coast and all, I also have problems with Fukuyama's suggested rules and regulations and would hope we can discuss it when you bump it up a level to the overlaying structures and processes you use that are applicable within any system.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 3 Mar 05 09:37
Ted, thank you for your thought-provoking comments (and for simply commenting -- I was beginning to wonder if anyone was reading this!). Having been involved in the "thinking about the future for fun and profit" game for about a decade now, it has long struck me that these are the kinds of tools that young people should be taught for use in their own lives. One thing that a systematic (yet improvisational!) method for thinking about tomorrow provides is a simultaneous proliferation of options *and* grounding in reality. It's too easy to get trapped into doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result each time, too easy to be blinded to options because the only choices are either bleak or impossible to achieve. I asked about optimistic or pessimistic scenarios because I've had the opposite experience to yours, Derek. I've found that it's far simpler for most people to imagine things going poorly, in part due to a well-founded desire not to get their hopes up, in part due to what my colleague at WorldChanging, Alex Steffen, calls "terriblisma," a fascinated attraction to disaster, and in part due to a perception that "realism" equates to pessimism. I see that in comments at WorldChanging, as well -- people claiming to be taking a "realistic" position when they assert that everything's going to hell and there's nothing we can do about it. Derek, Wayne, I'm curious -- have you had any opportunities to return to clients from awhile back and check in with them? To see how well their real choices and strategic paths have mapped to their scenarios?
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Thu 3 Mar 05 10:45
Ted, many thanks for your illuminating and kind comments. I particularly related to the "conductor" reference, which for us is in some ways the future landscape we build. Jamais, your comments about being trapped reminded me of the Coupland quote "Dead at 30, buried at 70", a common enough mindset, but generally speaking not one we come across as much in clients, as to engage us in the first place requires a strong sense of positivism. Of course there are always the odd one out in the client's team that sees a bunch of negatives, until at some point, s/he recognizes that the group is pushing forward anyway and in conseauence such people often then become the biggest supporters. Typical group psychology I suppose. In answer to your question about returning or following up, I have to say that we have been lucky enough (now that The Futures lab as existed for nearlly 8 years, it's obvously easier), to see a number of our creations implemented at least in part. For example, Casio fully followed our preferred futures recommendations to develop a line of wrist devices, rather than pursue a future portfolio of timepieces - many of those the MP3 wrist device, the camera wrist device and a whole range of data and communications wrist devices have either entered the marketplace or are in development (Case Study 5 in the book). The direction helped them move into a broader communication-based product range and also to totally change their marketing and retail, (particularly in Japan and Europe), so that they were able to introduce a hologram demonstration wrist, virtual testing bays, etc. The project led them to think in terms of wrist technology, not time-keeping, which grew out of the idea I had that the wrist equals real-estate. Not the most advanced scenario or example, but one I can freely explain. Others such as WorldSpace have now been launched and are fully in line with the preferred future we created and Pringle has become a leading fashion brand throughout Europe, whereas it was a deflated tradition cashmere brand hen we started the project in 1998. We have completed about 3 projects over the years for Cadbury-Schweppes, which has allowed us to keep in the loop, and similiarly, with Dial, we have been asked to conduct follow-up work and have maintained the contact and in terms, again where we have an ongoing relationship, we are able to monitor the progress on earlier projects. this makes our role, especially rewarding, when we are told that our work is the basis of the future direction of the brand/company/division and that it actually turns out that way. However, even if the scenarios we create, ultimately lead to the company thinking about their business differently and taking them to a new level in order to futureproof themselves, I consider our contribution to be enormous, espcially given our fees!!!!
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Thu 3 Mar 05 10:49
Sorry. I omitted "Ford" after terms, in the 9th line from the bottom.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 15:29
Re: #33 I think everyone may well be staggered by the content and not sure exactly what to say or where to start. It's a bit overwhelming to take in all at once. Derek and Wayne, when you guys write you put entire novels into sentences. It's really deep water here.
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Thu 3 Mar 05 15:44
A common criticism of my style!! I'll try harder. Wayne will be laughing his head off. That's why I need him. I told you he made me look good in the book.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 16:08
Derek, I seriously like your style. Would you both please talk about how young you were when you realized that you were a bit more awake and thinking differently from those around you and how you kept from being locked up?
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Thu 3 Mar 05 16:41
You've alluded to that funny thing called "soul" earlier and now might be a good time to bring it up. In respect to Jamais' comment earlier about the tendency to move toward pessimism, 1) it's no wonder given the political and media climates of the past 25 years and 2) I continually hear people say that the key to 'smooth sailing' is to have no expectations. What bunk. My hunch is that that nonsense was injected into the culture through the disillusionment and disenfranchisement of the middle class in the 80's at the same time the New-Agers were doing there thing. But that's just an educated guess. What's important is that it leads to pessimism as it lacks faith, hope and charity, to ring an old bell. Much of what you do seems to empower companies to see their people as talented positive resources to be utilized and developed as they catch, share and mutate the vision of a well thought out mission statement and to encourage flexibility of thought, action and adaptability to new situations as they arise. It's no wonder you tend to yield optimistic future landscapes. It must be quite reinforcing to the company, as an entity, as well as the employees - from top to bottom - to realize that they are capable of huge directional changes as they share a vision and work together.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 4 Mar 05 01:23
re: #38 That question assumes a lot, let me rephrase it: Derek and Wayne, and Jamais, how did you come to your way of thinking about the future from "numerous perspectives simultaneously" as DJ Low observes?
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Fri 4 Mar 05 15:50
I was a teenager throughout the sixties and spent seven years as a student (undergrad and masters) from 1965 - 1972. It was a wonderful time to be alive, very provocative, very inspirational period. Yes, I do remember it and I loved it, but then again, I've loved every period. While I was still attending my all boys high school, along with a very small group of friends, I was interested in the Beats, Bob Dylan, Maya Deren and other experimental filmmakers, jazz, French and Russian writers, Paris (I visited frequently), London, girls, girls, girls, my first rock band, The Luther Morgan Relationship (the photos still look,well....let's say interesting) and Fluxus. It was different. I wanted to be different. At 15, I went with a girl-friend to London to a Fluxus Exhibition called the Festival of Misfits, organized by Daniel Spoemi and Robert Filliou. Most of all I remember being struck by the power of Claes Oldenburg's statement: "I am the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind man's metal stick." It opened my mind to a new way of thinking about everything. From then on, I was obsessed by all the offbeat stuff (sometimes genuinely and others for show, recognition), but it served me well as I really began to get off on it, analyze and debate for hours anything from Nietzsche, Satre and Bataille to the films of Otto Muhl, the Kuchars, Jack Smith, Gysin and writers and musicians. As I approached the end of high school (17 and 18), I wanted to look hip. I wore a dark blue reefer jacket, dark pants, a black roll neck sweater and brown Italian brogue-style shoes. I looked like one of the Moody Blues. I loved the art school crowd. Their wild parties and clothes. Their sense of free spirit and everything being possible. I spent a lot of time in France with my friends Yves Beuzit and Yog and every summer in Croatia with my friend Zoran Kompanjet. It introduced me to both cultures, which are still strongly present within me. My friends were into the same things. Once I got to University, the debates intensified. I was surprised how we would weave views, ideas and content from one subject into another. i began to sense how disconnects could be connected into something new and way out (as we would say). We would laugh at these crazy inventions. I was a massive Velvet Underground fan. I had long swapped my dark blue reefer jacket for all black, still to this day my only color of choice. At the time, we thought we were building a new future. We were.The optimism and love of life from that period lives in me and has never dissipated. A few months ago I was at a Sonic Youth concert in Austin and watched with utter disgust how plain clothes policemen were arresting unsuspecting, kids (engrossed in the music) for smoking a joint, How times have changed.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 4 Mar 05 17:16
Fascinating, Derek. It's interesting to me how many counter-cultural types from that era moved into corporate consulting. Stewart Brand is something of the canonical example, but the numbers are legion. What was it about the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s that led to scenarios? I'm a bit younger, born in the mid-60s, so my only experience of that era was being given a hippie name. I've been omnivorously curious about the world around me for as long as I can remember, as well as a reader of science fiction. In grad school, I sought to write a dissertation on the international political effects of emerging technologies; after that was turned down (ah, Berkeley in the early 1990s...), I ended up getting a job at GBN. If Derek sees his work as akin to music and musical improvisation, I see mine as akin to world-building. How about you, Wayne?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Mar 05 06:05
Derek, I'd like to hear more about Fluxus. Allen Bukoff at http://www.fluxus.org/ posted an interesting letter for former Fluxus adherents: "You all have spent so much time during the last 20 years trying to shape your legacy and the legacy of Fluxus, and few if any of you are satisfied with the results-the exhibitions, the collections, the books. Instead of trying to manage Old Fluxus you could have been leading a new group of Fluxus artists to explore new Fluxus directions and new Fluxus territory? Wouldn't it have been a lot more energizing and a lot more fun to fan new Fluxus flames than struggle with collectors who have catalogued your work but failed to capture your spirit or the scope of your actual accomplishments?"
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Mar 05 06:06
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Wayne R Pethrick (waynepethrick) Sat 5 Mar 05 06:54
My apologies for being AWOL over the last few days - I was just trying to read and digest Derek's comments #28 & 34 ;) As for my story, I'm afraid I missed the '60s, which may have been fortuitous as someone has to show the old folks how to switch the computers on! I'm not sure that I can pinpoint a moment of epiphany when I began to see things differently. That said, I can remember sitting in a health education class in high school (the topic was self esteem) and realizing that despite my teacher's most sincere efforts, there was more to critical thinking than making assertive decisions when purchasing expensive items at a store (strangely enough, I had the same feeling while sitting in an MBA class, a number of years later). In similar fashion to Jamais, I have always been captivated by a world that was larger than the one that I saw on a daily basis. My mother still takes great pride in saying that I was the only 5 year old who would take copies of National Geographic and Popular Mechanics to 'show & tell' at school. As a teenager, the words of Shakespeare left an indelible mark on my thinking: "There are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." This quip continues to hold me in good stead both personally and professionally.
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sat 5 Mar 05 09:50
From playing soccer to thinking about Fluxus, what a transition and it's only 9.30 on a Saturday morning. Well, I won't talk about individual aspects of the vast creations that Fluxus generated, even though I'd love to, but about it role and relevance, particularly in relationship to Allen Bukoff's statement. I understand where Allen is coming from, as the 90's witnessed Fluxus arising from relative oblivion, even though its new life was predominantly in the museum. archive, exhibition and academy. It was suddenly as though a new generation was there to celebrate its existence and that was that. There was a flurry of exhibitions at the Walker, the Witney, the Tate Modern, MOCA in Chicago, the Wexner in Columbus, MOMA in San Francisco, at the Beursschouwburg in Brussels, Fundacio Antoni Tapies in Barcelona, etc. as well as numerous books on the subject. It was like a 70's punk art revival. Interesting, still potentially influential, but in a very new context. I see retro fashions more as a spiral than a cycle, and therefore as Allen says it would have been interesting to have fanned new Fluxus flames. Fluxus played an incredibly important role in its position on the threshold between the older type of European Avant-gardism (with which it still shared many aspects) and early post-modernism, given that it was a precursor in its relationship to events, gatherings, performance and interdeterminancy of media. I was always fascinated by Fluxus' power of fusion between the various art forms, particularly between arts and media, theater performances and music performancers, poetry and painting, music and graphic, vaudeville and high arts. When one considers the level at which that fusion or interface is present today and where it will proceed to in the future, it is clear how powerful that aspect of Fluxus increasingly resonates. There are numerous examples of this in Future Frequences, because in many sections of the process, we are required to create the new from disconnects and the unexpected. That is the essesnce of the piece titled "White Space, Black Holes and the Upside Down World" . In particular the pieces on Alberto Gaitan's "impromptu Concert of Mass Transit and Bio Music" and on Stephen Vitiello, titled "The Phenomenological Experiences of Space". Then again, in Sensing Places, where I talk about stage performances using gestural interface technologies that allow the actors to interface with changing and evolving real and virtual worlds as the performance unravels. Similarly, the increasing involvement in the arts of human-robot and machine interfaces, machine to machine, etc. will take the arts to yet another level. In bringing this back to Fluxus, here it is important to remember Higgin's phrase "intermedia" as distinguished from "multimedia", where he saw Fluxus focusing on the empty spaces between rigidly defined and separated art forms. Therefore, in some ways, Fluxus played a critical role as a Neo-Dadaist movement in finally helping to force the breakthrough that Dadaism started, in freeing the art world from the yoke and tyranny of the traditionalists. I could go on, but it is not lecture time. Suffice it to say, the fun, the creativity and alternative thinking aspects that Fluxus brings to the table are all immensely important to the way we approach our futures work. Especially the absurd fun.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sat 5 Mar 05 11:19
Future Lab may be the first intentionally Dadaist consultancy.
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sat 5 Mar 05 12:21
Jamais, as I read your comment about us being a Dadaist consultancy, I suddenly recalled the piece on Stewart Home in The Reality Studio section of Future Frequencies and the fun, but insane encounters I have always had with him. In particular, when he is working his prankster, neoist persona, when it becomes difficult to recognise spoof from truth, fantasy from reality. It is like fighting your way out of an intellectual maze. At the same time, Stewart has helped me to recognize the complexity we face in our everyday work with clients. Faced with what he calls a "labyrinth of understandings", built fro a fusion of non-fiction and fiction, of multiple viewpoints (the company's, the market's, the consumer's (we call them choosers), retailer's, etc.,), we are forced to reconstruct reality (as we see it), either by changing the perspective, adding potential events or discontinuity, in order to create a new reality that may provide us with a very different view of the future. I wonder how it would feel to be creating a new "futuring" movement as deliberately as the Dadaists and Fluxus instigators did? Not simply as an independent company. (Despite what you've heard, I am not sufficiently pretentious to suggest we are doing so.....though maybe!!!!) Serious fun. I am still attempting to come to grips with Dr. Oliver Markley's description of us as "social alchemists".
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Sun 6 Mar 05 18:03
I like "social alchemists". Some of the point of it is that it really doesn't matter if there is a concrete reality, it only matters that a targeted group of people believe that it is. You can market that. There are quite a few issues of responsibilit and ethics involved in that kind of magic. How do you pick your clients or do they choose you? Or is it a blend of both?
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sun 6 Mar 05 19:43
Good questions, Ted. Reading #48, what I want to know is the degree to which you two believe that futurist consultants can shape the direction the future takes, both organizationally and globally?
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