A Vocabulary for Visions in Designing for Transitions 

Candy and Lockton arrive at a vocabulary for visioning that is synthesized from practitioners and researchers working in diverse fields and who work “on questions of vision, futures, and how they relate to the present.” (28) They offer seven words: lenses, imaginaries, backcasting, dark matter, circularity, experiential futures, and new metaphors to think through Transition Design in a practical manner. Candy and Lockton bring their experience in research, education, design (Lockton) and experiential futures design (Candy) and invite others “to contribute lenses they find useful for new ways of seeing” (44). The hope is that through this exercise we expand the cases and terms we can reference and that we may establish a better “sense of how to do what needs to be done” (44).

Lockton, Dan, and Stuart Candy. 2019. “A Vocabulary for Visions in Designing for Transitions.” Cuadernos Del Centro de Estudios de Diseño y Comunicación 19 (73): 27–49.

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The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times 

Through The Transition Companion book Rob Hopkins seeks to answer the question, “what would it look like if the best responses to peak oil and climate change came not from committees and Acts of Parliament, but from you and me and the people around us” (13)? Hopkins proposes that waiting for government takes too long and is not enough, and acting as individuals does not make enough of a difference, “but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time” (12). Community engagement is at the heart of the book’s message. Hopkins focuses on five years of practical experience based on the transition movement (also transition theory) with projects that occurred primarily in the UK. Transition theory focuses on localized and resilient communities. It makes its point by featuring a diversity of projects that used transition as a grassroots organizing methodology but also offers a handbook approach with practical ‘how tos’ of transitioning with guidance on starting out, deepening and connecting one’s organizing, building, and dream casting for looking ahead.

Hopkins, Rob. 2011. The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times. Green Books.

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Six Pillars: Futures Thinking for Transforming

Future studies researcher and professor, Sohail Inayatullah, presents a new approach to study the future. He proposes six foundational concepts that describe how individuals, organizations, and government might think about, or approach, future thinking: the used future, the disowned future, alternative futures, alignment, models of social change, and uses of the future. E.g., Used future: Is your image of the future, your desired future, is it yours or is it unconsciously borrowed from someone else? Alternative futures: We often believe that there is only one future. We cannot see the alternatives, and thus we make the same mistakes over and over. Ultimately, he believes that “futures thinking helps create the conditions for a paradigm shift. The organization imagines a new future, creates a new strategy, enables stakeholders, uses tools and then a new future emerges” (6). Inayatullah also offers six questions, which can be summarized as questions about will, fear, hidden assumptions, alternative futures, preferred future, and next steps. These questions connect to the hopes and fears mapping method in transition design. Lastly, he offers a theory of futures thinking which consists of what he calls ‘six pillars of future studies’. This is linked to methods and tools and can be used as theory or in a futures workshop setting. The pillars are mapping, anticipating, timing, deepening, creating alternatives, and transforming. Findings: In an increasingly complex and heterogeneous world, futures studies can help people to recover their agency and help them to create the world in which they wish to live.

Inayatullah, Sohail. 2008. “Six Pillars: Futures Thinking for Transforming.” Foresight: The Journal of Futures Studies, Strategic Thinking and Policy 10 (1): 4–21. https://doi.org/10.1108/14636680810855991.

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Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming

The ideas in this book move from setting out what conceptual design is, through its use as a critical medium for exploring the implications of new developments in science and technology, to the aesthetics of crafting speculative designs. It ends by zooming out to explore the idea of “speculative everything” (159) and “design as a catalyst for social dreaming,” (xi) which is how it connects with the ‘hopes & fears’ mind mapping framework of transition design. The authors use ‘what ifs’ scenarios/speculations to envision where we’d like to be, to provoke debate and discussion, and offer solutions on how we might communicate future visions. A multitude of examples from their design and teaching practice serve as propositions for future casting, such as ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant, a flypaper robotic clock, a menstruation machine, a cloud-seeding truck, a phantom-limb sensation recorder, and devices for food foraging. The authors propose that individual action is key to nudge behaviour: “the individual needs to be presented with many options to form an opinion” (160).

Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press.

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Designing Future Experiences of the Everyday: Pointers for Methodical Expansion of Sustainability Transitions Research

The authors trace the development of “experiential futures,” a methodology that emerged with a case study in Hawaii in the 1970s through a project called Hawaii 2000. The study engaged 500 citizens in imagining Hawaii in the year 2000. In analyzing the state of affairs in 1999, Hawaii 2000 was deemed a failure—none of the hopes and dreams scenarios materialized.  Several interdisciplinary researchers have since expanded on the methodology. Experiential futures is now an emerging field that connects experience design and futures studies. Through research and practice, researchers create real memories of virtual events by combining futures inquiry methods such as scenarios with human-centred, experiential, empathy-inducing and performative approaches of artistic and design research. The methodology utilizes everydayness and fictional narratives to enable participants to engage emotionally in future scenarios. The authors suggest that real emotional responses to vicarious experiences generate memories that might lead to behavourial change. Experiential futures resort to storytelling, one of the most fundamental practices of human beings, making futuring comprehensible and relatable. 

GarduñoG arcía, Claudia, and İdil Gaziulusoy. 2021. “Designing Future Experiences of the Everyday: Pointers for Methodical Expansion of Sustainability Transitions Research.” Futures 127 (March): 102702. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2021.102702.

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Now That We Know the Critique of Global Capitalism Was Correct

Colombian American anthropologist, Arturo Escobar, moves beyond the critique of capitalism to map out strategies for transitioning post pandemic. He proposes we need a “radical eco-social, economic, political, and cultural transition in every country and in the world at large” (157). Escobar offers five principles for thinking about strategies which can be applied to design or other forms of collective action. First, we must return the communal to social life, a move against individual solutions. Oaxacan activists talk of the ‘we-condition of being’ (condición nosótrica de ser, 157) which is an orientation of compartencia (“sharingness”, 157) of thoughts and actions to understand what makes a resilient community/person. Second, we must return the local to social, economic, and cultural activities through food sovereignty, agroecology, seed saving, commoning, and urban gardens to name a few-- innovations that break with patriarchal, racist, and capitalist ways of living. The third principle focuses on the strengthening of political autonomy and in engaging in “dream-designing” (disoñación, 158) helping us to redesign our lives in a partial, but still substantial movement toward de-globalization. The fourth principle suggests we incorporate “feminist and radical [] relational politics into many, if not all, of our designing practices” (159). Lastly, we need to consider the “re-earthing” of life (159). We are in a relationship of interdependence with the planet where new forms of life are always in the process of co-arising. 

Escobar, Arturo. 2021. “Now That We Know the Critique of Global Capitalism Was Correct.” In The New Possible: Visions of Our World beyond Crisis, edited by Philip Clayton, Kelli M. Archie, Jonah Sachs, and Evan Steiner, 157–61. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

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Politics of Designing Visions of the Future

Ramia Mazé, a researcher specializing in participatory, critical and politically engaged design practices, offers a critique and an alternative to Western linear conceptualization of time—past, present, future—and notes that concepts of future scarcely exist in some cultures. Mazé proposes we develop “approaches to query and make explicit the assumptions and preferences underlying designed visions of the future...[which] is particularly urgent given the expansion of such visions into policy and the public sphere” (24).  Design, along with art and architecture, can provide essential modes of knowing and other forms of thinking that are lacking in other disciplines. Mazé engages with Elizabeth Grosz’ concept of “the supervalence of the future” (Grosz 1999; 33) which suggests that the future has agency and wields power over the present. By engaging the future, we inform, understand and/or control the present. Albeit future studies are still dominated by “techno-centric, modern and gender- and Western-biased orientations” but they are complemented and challenged by prospective action research, cultural-interpretive and critical-postmodern approaches. When we talk about “change”, “progress”, “transformation” and “transition”, we do so by making assumptions about time, progress, and futurity.

Mazé, Ramia. 2019. “Politics of Designing Visions of the Future.” Journal of Futures Studies 23 (3): 23-38, January. https://www.academia.edu/39942838/Politics_of_Designing_Visions_of_the_Future.

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