Conference Themes

Themes and Discussions

The conference was organised around a set of sensitising questions designed to push forward interdisciplinary understanding and to create real opportunities for dialogue, learning and exploration. We encouraged participants both to deepen their understanding of anticipation in their own fields while encountering the new ideas emerging elsewhere.


The following questions were intended to encourage conversations between researchers, practitioners and scholars addressing anticipatory phenomena and practices in different ways and were used at the conference to spark interactions and reactions.


How do we understand anticipatory differences?

How do different cultures, religions and traditions anticipate? How do implicit and explicit forms of anticipation compare? How do individual and systemic forms of anticipation relate to each other? What are the history and geography and cultural studies of anticipation? How/do mathematical and narrative traditions of framing the future inform action differently?


What are the affective and embodied aspects of Anticipation?

Anticipation as anxiety; the role of joy, desire and pleasure; Embodied emotion and affect; what is this need to talk about the future at all, where does it come from? What is the work of hope and fear? What do these emotions do? (Psycho)analysing anticipation.


How do we live in time?

What is the present? How soon is now? How is temporality understood at different scales and by different disciplines? What are the instruments for measuring time? What are the different forms of time that we live within? The grammar of living in time – the subjunctive.


How does the future get made?

What is the nature of anticipatory work? Where is it being made that ‘we’ don’t know about? Who are the actors making and shaping futures? What are the undercurrents of future making? Who/ how is the future being hacked? How are automatic systems and technologies making their own futures? What is the role of complexity, non linearity, indeterminacy? What are the conditions and practices for Design and Engineering to influence futures.


Who owns and governs the future?

How do anticipatory regimes produce governance? Who is telling the story of the future? What media and systems are being used to govern future narratives? What are the political economies of anticipation? New economic models new anticipatory imaginaries? Democracy and anticipation. How/is the future being colonised?


How to keep the future open?

How does the imagination colonise or keep open future possibilities ? How are we to care for the future? What processes, practices and techniques might we use to pluralise and keep open the future? How do we work with risk? What is our responsibility in designing and embedding futures? Which conditions and what contexts are important for educating or legislating for open futures?


What is the relationship between an idea of the future and action in the present?

How do mathematical and statistical models, futures scenarios and plans relate and translate (or not) into action in the present? How do ideational and material elements of anticipation relate to each other?



Addressing Anticipation

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, these questions were explored in a number of different formats.

Curated sessions were intended specifically to generate interdisciplinary discussions and address one or more of the questions outlined above, and had to actively involve a number of different disciplines. There was no restriction on the format of the session itself, and included participatory workshops, more traditional symposiums with a number of papers and discussants, a project “exhibition”, and a performance by a stand-up comedian.

Traditional paper sessions focused on a theme in more detail, with 3 to 4 papers, and finished with question and answer, and discussion sections.

New Ideas Sessions allowed participants to share new and emerging research, theories and ideas in short 7 minute interventions, followed by an exploratory conversation around the themes and ideas from the papers. These sessions were deliberately aimed at research in the early stages of development or work from PhD or early-career researchers.

Techniques Workshops enabled practitioners and researchers to test out or share more established techniques that they are using to study or reflect upon anticipation. They introduced participants to processes that are designed to increase sensitivity to anticipatory assumptions, or methods for researching anticipatory practice.

Finally, an Open Space session provided an opportunity for anyone interested in the development of the field of Anticipation Studies to come together and explore new possibilities. This session was facilitated by the conference chair and used a collaborative, participatory approach to reflect on the lessons coming out of the conference and explored future developments, such as the next conference in 2019, and journal and book series linked with Anticipation.