This week I was invited by Forum for the Future to test out some of my research insights on a workshop with the Future Shapers - a community of young entrepreneurial people exploring people-driven innovation towards sustainable development. In this workshop, four future scenarios of 2050 were presented and the participants were invited to creatively think about how their own enterprises, practices and personal selves, might evolve given the future context. I was challenged by Forum’s Futures team to think about how through my understanding of communication design as an expanded practice we could engage participants in a more ‘experiential’ understanding of the abstract and complex 2050 scenarios.
How can communication design prompt an understanding of complex future scenarios?
My understanding of communication design and its expanded practice can be summarised as ‘the design of communication’. It includes looking into interaction and experience, as well as visual and the other sensorial components, and how the designed artefacts may trigger conversations within the audience itself. I will highlite here one important aspect I explored:
Making sustainability personal Each participant was informed to bring a meaningful object with them. These were minimalistic things of the everyday. An object which represented something they care about and would like to preserve into the future. Regardless of the what the object was (we would expect some commonalities such as references to the environment and family) its role was to help personalise the experience and tap into details that the participants themselves recognised and could identify with. This allowed for stream of thought, however in a simple way, about how citizen-driven innovation strategies might help preserve this meaningful object and what it implied.
The everydayness I looked to take advantage of the mundane details which are part of the everyday and can sometimes be disregarded as opportunities to communicate a message. The lunchtime period, which is usually a great space for participants to interact with each other and converse, was seen as an opportunity to bring to life some of the aspects of the 2050 scenarios concerning food. Small tags with messages were inserted into the food plates. These messages were tailored to specific food related issues that may arise within each of the four future scenarios. The participants were then invited to pick out food according to the future scenario they had stepped into. We must here acknowledge the intended contradiction between the messages on the tags and the food displayed. However fictitious and playful, this small detail came across as somewhat unexpected, fulfilling the objective of enhancing the experience - it seemed to be a conversation starter.