The first of two foresight workshops presented by Strategic Foresight and Innovation students was held in September with Maheen Zaidi sharing a methodology being proposed for long-horizon transition design and collaborative scenario thinking. Her workshop engaged about 30 participants in exploring futures through worldbuilding and narrative visioning practices. She organized the session around three inquiries:
- Can the resurgence of science fiction narratives help us create a better society and social systems?
- How can worldbuilding help us in designing practices for community and large system transition?
- Can we combine worldbuilding and foresight practices such as backcasting to better inform social system design?
Over the past few years, an ongoing battle for the future of science fiction has plagued the literary community, and the crux of the problem was this: the genre was undergoing social change to better reflect the world’s diverse values and voices, and not everyone agreed that it should. Not only was this conflict a missed signal for the resurgence of social populism (and the Trump presidency), it raised concerns about who and what is informing society’s visions of the future, and what the implications of those visions are.
Though we can find science fiction at the root of most (if not all) of our technological accomplishments, it does not inspire society to adopt the moral and ethical lessons it imparts. As a result, we’re captivated by Orwell’s telescreens and Crichton’s Jurassic Park, but fail to act upon their warnings about mass surveillance or unchecked entrepreneurship. So where is the disconnect? Why is science fiction not leading the charge on informing transition and systemic design?
This Design with Dialogue workshop will introduce a model that tests if science fiction narratives and practices can help build better systems. The workshop will include an exercise that examines the fictional worlds in stories such as 1984 and Brave New World. We’ll also use the model to imagine a new society with more sustainable systems that are designed with a civilizational timescale in mind.
About the Host
Maheen is co-founder of The Innovation Shop, a design consultancy in Toronto. She specializes in strategic foresight, transition design, and narrative design. She is completing a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation from OCAD University, and has an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration from York University. Her thesis explores the intersection of civilizational foresight, transition design, and science fiction.
A staunch believer that language is a critical medium of design and that foresight should be ambient, Maheen is a science fiction writer. In her previous life, she was a marketing executive who worked with multi-nationals, startups, and scale-ups to build brand equity.