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Creating the future
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  Creating the future Kuo-Hua Chen Graduate Institute of Futures Studies, Tamkang University, Taipei, Taiwan 1. A profound futures encounter Sociologists are naturally interested in exploring questions like: ‘‘What’s next?’’ and ‘‘What if?’’. Indeed,sociological training generally starts with the process of sociological imagination – the ability to connect seeminglyimpersonal and remote historical forces to the most basic aspects of individuals’ lives. Mills’ core questions are ‘‘Is itany wonder that ordinary people feel they cannot cope with the larger worlds with which they are so suddenlyconfronted? Is it any wonder that people often feel trapped by the historical forces and institutional arrangementsthat affect them?’’ [1] Nonetheless, after witnessing over fifty years of dramatic socio-economic and technologicalchanges, we can see that the line of reasoning returns to the industrial paradigm of specialization and competition.Causes of change and interpretations based on quantitative and cross-sectional research are relatively new. Theemergence of Futures Studies could be acting as a missing link between sociological discourse and innovativealternatives of human life.As a Western-trained sociologist, I was mainly attracted by the transdisciplinary approach of futures research, inaddition to the intriguing scenario-driven stories which were rarely if ever discussed or studied within my previous,mainstream research paradigm in which I was trained initially, feeling rootless in this emerging field and I wasuncertain of its positioning. Then Wendell Bell’s two volumes of   Foundations of Futures Studies  came out. They trulyoffered young scholars like me great comfort and inspiration. I found the books while first participating the 1998 annualmeeting of World Future Society held in San Francisco. The first sentence of the preface certainly grasped my eyes:Wendell wrote ‘‘I became a futurist sometime between the late 1950s and mid-1960s.’’ I went on and read his researchendeavor in Jamaica’s transition from being a British Crown Colony to becoming a politically independent nation-state.Ever since, I started to feel confident introducing myself as a sociologist with a deep interest in studying the future.Additionally, Wendell has created a meaningful teaching instrument that can be used in my classes, especially with hislongitudinal Jamaica research which can serve perfectly as a comparative example with Taiwan and most of Asia’sNewly Industrialized Countries (NICs). Futures 43 (2011) 607–609 A R T I C L E I N F O  Article history: Available online 21 April 2011 A B S T R A C T Wendell Bell has had a crucial contribution to the development of the network of futuresscholars consisting of diversified talents and network of diversified talents and activeorganizations in the greater Chinese region. Furthermore, Bell’s books and articles inEnglish and Chinese have challenged and transformed people’s stereotypes of the crystal-ball futurism into an academic discipline emphasizing images of the future andalternatives developed on the basis of empirical and theoretical knowledge andimagination.   2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. E-mail address: sochen@mail.tku.edu.tw. Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Futures journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/futures 0016-3287/$ – see front matter    2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.futures.2011.04.010  2. Transforming images of the future Like Mills, Wendell has a deep concern regarding the social responsibility of intellectuals. He advocates activeengagement over disinterested observation. His publications aim to futurize: ‘‘the thinking of specialists in otherdisciplines’’,both ‘‘because their disciplines wouldbenefit from expanding their time perspectives to include thefuture andbecause futures studies would benefit from the related futures-oriented work of scholars and scientists from otherdisciplines’’ [2]. As Futures Studies is one of the required general education courses for the students of Tamkang University,integrating the ways of teaching Futures Studies classes is one of the most essential processes. The courses are designed tobring in major issues and trends affecting humanity and to discuss ways of creating alternative futures. As a consequence,courses are offered from a variety of perspectives: ‘‘social futures,’’ ‘‘technological futures,’’ ‘‘economic futures,’’‘‘environmental futures,’’ ‘‘political futures,’’ ‘‘global futures,’’ ‘‘multicultural and global societies,’’ and most recently‘‘climate change and sustainable futures,’’ are each offered by faculties of corresponding academic areas. Despite a unifiedemphasis, a missing ingredient among these courses is a shared objective and prospect towards cultivating a futurist whosimply has a love for the future.TheturningpointwaswhenwemetatHumanity3000symposiumheldbyFoundationfortheFuture,in2000.Itwasthecritical time while Tamkang University was going through the process of establishing the first futures graduate program inTaiwan. I was really impressed with Wendell’s style of spreading futures images using lateral and creative thinking ratherthan trying to convince people with tedious methodological reasoning. Especially his underlying belief that ‘‘We Are AllFuturists’’ [3] got us truly ‘‘thinking out of the box’’. In searching for the best ways to organize the futures studies academicparadigm,wehaveadoptedanattitudeofopenness,inclusivenessandtolerance,Wendell’sworkswereaconstantsourceof interpretation. This spirit has been well shared and passed on to Fo Guang University’s Futures MA program and othertwenty or so universities and foresight organizations that are offering futures courses or workshops in Taiwan.At the end of the same year, Wendell and his beloved wife Lora-Lee participated in Tamkang University’s internationalconference ‘‘New Futures: Transformations in Education, Culture and Technology.’’ The topic of his keynote speech was‘‘New futures and the eternal struggle between good and evil.’’ The speech was translated into Chinese mandarin and therevised version was published in the Journal of Futures Studies, along with one of his interviews ‘‘on becoming and being afuturist’’[4].NotonlydidhekeepwritingandreviewingarticlesfortheJournalofFuturesStudies,butWendellalsoplayedavital role, with Sohail Inayatullah, in connecting Taiwan’s futures scholars network with many great futurists, such as HazelHenderson,Richard Slaughter, James Dator, Graham May, Graham Molitor, David Hicks, Johan Galtung, Tony Stevenson andmany others.Another great futures teamwork wasencouraged by theprocess of translatingWendell’s two volumesof Foundations of FuturesStudies.TheChineseversionismainlyaimedatstudentswhotakeoneofthefuturescourses.Thebookalsoservesasa bridge among faculties who teach futures courses. A consensus regarding the pedagogical approach had to be establishedsince the curriculum contained a total of around ninety classes per academic year, taught by twenty-six faculties. The planwastoconductathree-roundDelphisurveytoobtaintherangeofopinionsonthenatureoftheapproach.Priortothesurvey,Wendell’sFoundationsofFuturesStudieswasdesignatedasarequiredreading.Asaresult,aconsensuswasreachedthatthetask specified above has to be realized by emphasizing the following ‘‘statements of futures teaching philosophy’’ [5]:recognizing, adjusting, and creating the future, cultivating visions and senses of the future, establishing a world viewwithanattitudeofcaringandparticipating,developinganacutesenseofobservation,questioningauthorityandbeinga critical thinker questioning known facts, giving insight into long-term trends, adapting to the team-based andinterdependent working relations, becoming familiar with knowledge of advanced technological products, beingconcerned with the potentials and impacts of future technologies, caring for the future welfare of minority groups,respectingdiverseviewpointsonalternativefutures,advocatingtheessentialityoftransdisciplinaryandmulticulturalapproaches.During the translation process, we encountered some challenges. Wendell personally called the publisher asking forsupport and facilitated the negotiation of the contract. He took time to answer questions whenever anyone from thetranslation team had inquiries about technical terms or simply wanted to share ideas. In the end, his influence through hisfutures writing’s goes now in the larger region. Every now and then, we will receive requests to send the Chinese edition of the book to colleagues in Universities from Peking, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Even though Futures Studies is still relativelynew to people in this region, Wendell has reminded us that we have to wait patiently. A possible tipping point in the futuremay be on the horizon. 3. Passing on futures As Wendell puts it, the primary purpose of conducting futures research is to ‘‘add tools and knowledge that help peopledesignandshapethefuture,tohelpthemachievegoodfuturesforthemselves,andforallhumankind’’[6].Thisstatementisagoodguide.IndeedFuturesStudiescouldbelinkedto economicdevelopmentandwealthcreation.Taiwanhasjuststartedto enter a new stage. While the regional and global economy is transforming to face the abruptly rise and the challenge of China, it will force the world, especially the neighboring countries to become more foresight-oriented. Changes in the age- K.-H. Chen/Futures 43 (2011) 607–609 608  cohort will also take the field of Futures Studies in greater Chinese societies into different directions. Having gone frompoverty to riches, Taiwan and other NICs have all experienced the awkward phase of a Cultural Lag. The situation could goeven more complex if we have to go through a chaotic Future Lag [7]. We should never forget that what takes place in thefuture depends on how the instruments developed today are used and is the result of the planning being done for the yearsahead.Resultsofarecentsurveyofstudentrespondentswhotookatleastonefuturescourse,haveshownthat,ontheonehand,studentsaretakingarelativelypracticalapproachandareallquiteawareofthepotentialthreatfromChina.Inaddition,theyare busy with learning new skills useful in the emerging knowledge economy and global market, and training for businesspositions. On the other hand, they have also started to indicate that the phenomenon of generational replacement isbecoming a reality. Nearly 82 percent of them disagree with the statement ‘‘only politicians, business leaders and otherpeople holding powerful positions could influence the future.’’ They constantly question not just their values and worlditems, but the paradigms that inform their positions. They are more integrated, seeing the links between the external worldandtheinternalworld,betweentheindividualandthesociety.Theyhaveavisionofthefuture,butseethefutureasevolvingand thus continuously explore alternative futures, and link these futures to strategy and day-to-day outcomes.It is essential to go deep into the inner and spiritual dimension. The core of cultivating foresight is a voyage along twocomplementarypathways.Whilethejourneyoutwardsleadsustodiscovertheworldinwhichwelive,thejourneyinwardsheightensourunderstandingofourselvesandofourpotential.Bothjourneysconstituteanecessarypreparationforpersonalfulfillmentand socialresponsibilityin aninterdependentand rapidlychangingworld.In due course,students offutures canbe expected to develop a long-term perspective and to have the ability to create alternative futures. This great outcomefacilitated by interactive futures teaching and learning owes much to many devoted futurists. The writings and thoughts of Wendell Bell have a special place in this respect. As a conscious ‘‘action scientist,’’ he optimistically believes that it is in ourhands to create a future world of compassion, peace, justice, and happiness for all. Lastly and most importantly, the fact isthat it really is too early to assess Wendell’s contribution to the global and futures community. He is still active, gently andwisely demonstrating us how to be a good futurist. References [1] C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford University Press, New York, 1959, pp. 4–5.[2] W. Bell, Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era, Volume 1, History Purposes and Knowledge, Transaction Publishers, 1997, p. xxxi.[3] W. Bell, Images of the Future for Our Time Transactions 56 (December), The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, New Haven CT, 1999, pp. 45–89.[4] W.Bell,Onbecomingandbeingafuturist;aninterviewwithWendellBell(bylevelhead753[akaWendellBell]),JournalofFuturesStudies10(November(2))(2005) 113–124.[5] K.-H. Chen, A generation of futures studies in Taiwan, in: J.A. Dator (Ed.), Advancing Futures, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, 2002, pp. 209–215.[6] W. Bell, Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era, Volume 1, History Purposes and Knowledge, Transaction Publishers, 1997.[7] The term Future Lag was found in an interview with Daniel Bell, St. Petersburg Times, January 30, 1968. K.-H. Chen/Futures 43 (2011) 607–609  609
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