Methodologies of Making Futures: The Different Types of Creativity in Constructing Diagnostic Concepts and Imaginary Scenarios

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Lars Geer HAMMERSHOJ, Aarhus University, Denmark
The aim of the paper is to compare and discuss the methodologies of the different kinds of future studies that focus on making diagnostic concepts or imaginary scenarios for the purpose of opening up for alternative futures.

The point of departure is an analysis of two traditions of futures studies that can be traced back to the emergence of sociology, namely diagnosis of the times (Zeitdiagnose) and sociology of the future (Beck & Bonss 2001; Urry 2016; Schulz 2016). In both traditions there are studies concerned with knowing the future and creating the future. In the case of diagnosis of the times, some studies are concerned with diagnosing the tendencies in the times, while others are concerned with constructing diagnostic concepts that grasps differently the possibilities of the conditions of the times (Hammershøj 2015, 2017). In the case of sociology of the future, some studies are concerned with building probable or possible scenarios, while others are concerned with building alternative or imaginary scenarios (Smedt, Borch & Fuller 2013; Kuzmanovic & Gaffney 2017)

My hypothesis is that the studies of the two traditions, which are concerned with creating futures, differ in that they use different types of creativity (Koestler 1964): creating a diagnostic concept consists in making a fusion of different elements, which results in a new idea, whereas building an imaginary scenario consists in confronting different elements, which results in a new expression. This sheds light on why imaginary scenario building is related to science fiction and why diagnostic concept construction is related to ideal types (Weber 1905).

The findings are, moreover, that the purpose of imaginary scenarios is to draw attention to the need for action and to drive action, whereas the purpose of diagnostic concepts is to take bearings and to guide action.