söndag 15 juni 2014

The past 25 years of the future

I've written about the research project I participate in, "Scenarios and impacts of the information society" a couple of times over the last 18 months and the last blog post on this topic treated a draft report I had written about "the future of work" three months ago. During the second part of the spring, I have also worked together with Ulrika Gunnarsson-Östling on another project of our own within the larger research project.

While our code phrase for the project is "The past 25 years of the future", the more descriptive formulations of what we are trying to do is to figure out what the problem is in other ICT scenarios. What is the focus of, and what is unproblematically taken for given in other/other's scenarios? More specifically, we have assumed that most previous scenarios of the future information society have not taken sustainability or the environment into account. The literature study and a future article of ours could thus also function as a justification of why our larger project contributes with new insights, i.e. our scenarios are valuable because we point out stuff that has been overlooked or neglected by the vast majority of previously developed scenarios. That's our hypothesis anyway. I still remains to be seen if it is justified.

We started to work on this project of ours (a literature study) back in March. In our initial discussions we formulated a methodology (search strategies) and we then started to do actual work about three months ago, in April. Since then, me and Ulrika have had about half a dozen video conference meeting. Since the larger project developed a variety of scenarios of (future) information societies, the purpose of this smaller project of ours is to look at other, previous visions of the future information society that are as "close" to ours as possible. It doesn't much matter to us if these visions are recently-formulated visions of the future (2020, 2050) or if they are visions from the 1980's or 1990's about the information society of year 2000 or 2010.

This has already been an example of where interdisciplinary research makes a lot of sense. Ulrika has a very different background compared to mine and we divided the task up in ways that make sense and that covers more ground than any one of us could have done by him/herself. Ulrika focused on looking for keywords like "ICT" and "scenarios", "future" and "society" in journals like "Futures" and "Technological forecasts and social change". I instead looked for difference combinations of a variety of terms primarily in the ACM Digital Library.

After our first sweep, we had caught around 175 articles in our net. After regularly meeting to discuss filtering strategies as well as what the next step(s) should be in the process, we have gradually discarded articles (e.g. titles that sounded interesting but where the abstract didn't live up to our expectations in comparison to our purposes).

At our second to last session, we had whittled down our catch to 16 articles and 4 full-length books that we deemed to be "highly interesting". We have printed all the articles, will order the books and we will both read all the 16 articles before the autumn term starts (Sept 1). On top of that, we also have (for now put aside) another 14 articles, 7 books, 4 book chapters and 4 other documents (a report, a Ph.D. thesis, a workshop call, a 2-page article). Some of these will be interesting, but we will not read them all, or at least not from start to finish. We will start to read them all but will evaluate if they are worth continuing to read on a page-by-page basis.

At mine and Ulrika's very last meeting just this past week, we discussed the general order in which we will read the 16 "highly interesting" articles as well as specific strategies to use when reading these texts. It's not good enough "just do it" (e.g. read the texts). We will also "interrogate" the articles and we have a list of no less than 15 questions that iteratively needs to be answered for each article. Both of us will thus read all the articles and comment/answer these 15 questions independently, later to meet up and compare our notes (at a marathon session or a series of sessions). As a service to "the community", I publish the full list of 16 "highly interesting" articles:

  • Fujimoto, J., Poland, D., & Matsumoto, M. (2009). Low-Carbon Society Scenario: ICT and Ecodesign. The Information Society, 25(2), 139-151.
  • Leva, T., Hammainen, H., & Kilkki, K. (2009, August). Scenario analysis on future internet. In Evolving Internet, 2009. INTERNET'09. First International Conference on (pp. 52-59). IEEE.
  • Moyer, J. D., & Hughes, B. B. (2012). ICTs: Do they contribute to increased carbon emissions?. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 79(5), 919-931.
  • Hilty, L. M., Arnfalk, P., Erdmann, L., Goodman, J., Lehmann, M., & Wäger, P. A. (2006). The relevance of information and communication technologies for environmental sustainability–a prospective simulation study. Environmental Modelling & Software, 21(11), 1618-1629.
  • van der Duin, P., & Huijboom, N. (2008, January). The futures of EU-based eGovernment: a scenario-based exploration. In Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Proceedings of the 41st Annual (pp. 221-221). IEEE.
  • Grammenos, D. (2012, October). Little red-smart-hood: envisioning how ambient and ubiquitous technologies may affect future everyday life. In Proceeding of the 16th International Academic MindTrek Conference (pp. 57-60). ACM.
  • Misuraca, G., Broster, D., & Centeno, C. (2012). Digital Europe 2030: Designing scenarios for ICT in future governance and policy making. Government Information Quarterly, 29, S121-S131.
  • Gray, P., & Hovav, A. (1999). Using scenarios to understand the frontiers of IS. Information Systems Frontiers, 1(1), 15-24.
  • Bouwman, H., Haaker, T., & Reuver, M. D. (2012). Some reflections on the high expectations as formulated in the Internet Bubble era. Futures, 44(5), 420-430.
  • Estrin, D. et. al. (2010) Internet Predictions, IEEE Internet Computing, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 12-42
  • Weiser, M. (1991). The computer for the 21st century. Scientific american, 265(3), 94-104.
  • Bishop, S., Helbing, D., Lukowicz, P., & Conte, R. (2011). FuturICT: FET flagship pilot project. Procedia Computer Science, 7, 34-38.
  • Misuraca, G., Broster, D., & Centeno, C. (2010, October). Envisioning digital Europe 2030: scenario design on ICT for governance and policy modelling. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (pp. 347-356). ACM.
  • Geels, F. W., & Smit, W. A. (2000). Failed technology futures: pitfalls and lessons from a historical survey. Futures, 32(9), 867-885.
  • Horner, D. S. (2007). Digital futures: promising ethics and the ethics of promising. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 37(2), 64-77.
  • Markus, M. L., & Mentzer, K. (2014). Foresight for a responsible future with ICT. Information Systems Frontiers, 1-16.

Me and Ulrika have two different goals and we have to keep both of them in mind at the same time. The first goal is that this project of ours should result in an article (the plan is for early next year). The second is more practical and that is that our work should also be useful for, or "service" the larger "Scenarios and Impacts" project. It's been great working together with Ulrika - whom I didn't really know before - and I look forward to read and discuss these articles with her!

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