In the Co-Imagining Futures research project, our process evolves with each iteration, but generally we proceed as follows:
Invite an expert to participate in our research study
Engage the expert in an initial informal interview / study information session, in which we describe in more detail the nature of their participation and invite them to select a topic for the engagement. This topic can be any topic related to the expert’s area of research or domain of expertise. In selecting the topic, the invited expert frames the entire research engagement. This is one way in which the research engagement is collaborative and co-determined.
The expert shares several readings with the STS Futures Lab. We ask the expert to select several readings that would provide relevant background knowledge to the Lab, and we ask that these readings should be accessible to our undergraduate student lab members. This marks an initial moment in which the expert begins to think about how their own expertise and language might travel outside their domain. By selecting readings that are accessible to our students, we are also implicitly soliciting materials that will be accessible to us (York and Conley).
In the STS Futures Lab, we engage our student members in discussion about the readings and work together to identify potential drivers that would be relevant for conducting scenario analysis of plausible sociotechnical trajectories related to the expert’s selected topic. We game out various scenario analysis crosses, and identify drivers that might be particularly well-suited to raising interesting questions with our invited expert.
We hold a Co-Imagining Futures half-day workshop, all of which we video record:
First, York and Conley engage in a half hour interview with the invited expert. Our Futures Lab student members may observe
We begin the collaborative workshop with our expert and our Futures Lab student members, starting with introductions
We invite our invited expert to articulate their ideal for the future in related to their selected topic
For each of our Futures Lab student groups, the group presents four drivers that they have pre-selected as potentially impactful, articulating what they think the driver means and inviting the expert to rename or reframe it
They select one driver to put on a scenario cross, inviting the expert to rename or reframe the driver definitions
They invited the expert to select the second driver for the cross, and we all collaborate on defining it
For each scenario cross, the invited expert selects the scenario that they think is most plausible and/or interesting to further explore, and explains why
Each student group develops a quick design fiction prototype imagining an everyday scenario related to the selected scenario
York and Conley each develop a quick design fiction prototype imagining a scenario of their choice
The invited expert develops a quick design fiction prototype hearkening back to their initially-stated ideal
Each group/individual shows and explains their design fiction, and further discussion is invited about the design fiction and the selected scenario.
This marks the end of the half-day workshop, but we are still developing plans for on-going follow up with the invited expert, including developing out the design fictions, producing a broader scenario analysis portfolio for further discussion, and engaging the invited expert for further interactions around these artifacts
We are working to develop a YouTube channel that will also provide curated content for public engagement and teaching.
The data produced through the engagement includes video, interviews, design fiction artifacts, and scenario analysis artifacts.
As an experiment in critical participation and in integrating research and pedagogy, the Co-Imagining Futures research project evolves with each iteration. The goals are to develop methods and strategies for critically participating with experts across disciplinary boundaries, to engage with them on the social and ethical dimensions of their work; to integrate research and pedagogy in meaningful ways, such that the pedagogical component strengthens the research and the research component strengthens the pedagogy.
This artifact describes the overall process we have used in the research project.
Emily York and Shannon N. Conley, "Co-Imagining Futures Methodology", contributed by Emily York, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 2 September 2019, accessed 26 May 2022. https://stsinfrastructures.org/content/co-imagining-futures-methodology