We need Spaces where we can envision better futures together, and new kinds of ChangeMedia to share our visions and help make them real.
Following on from my previous post here about Innovation Research, I want to present two ideas I have been developing together with Dr. Caspar van Helden in Amsterdam. Inspired by YouTube's creation of two new open-access video-production Spaces in Los Angeles and London, and his own research on engagement with popular culture and social networking, he's developing a broader concept of Envisioning Spaces, where young people and community members can come together with each other and with researchers, designers and design students, artists and others to create concrete presentations of their visions for better futures.
At the same time, Gabe Harp (@ Institute for the Future) pointed us to two videos that do present visions of the near-term future. One is a thoughtful animation about changes in how people can educate themselves for a career, the other is a slick professional video about near-future technologies:
http://youtu.be/8btSVA-3SsE (SocialStructing Higher Education, Institute for the Future, 2011)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6cNdhOKwi0 (Productivity Future Vision, Microsoft, 2011)
But they are both missing something: links to resources that people can use to take concrete steps toward realizing these visions in practice. This is what I mean by ChangeMedia -- both a concrete vision for a better near-term future AND embedded connections to resources for achieving it.
Those resources might include research and evidence about the need for change, to help persuade others; examples of concrete actions we can take to promote change toward this future; alternative, similar visions from different stakeholder viewpoints, etc. They might also include more detailed blueprints for change which lay out the interrelations between various elements of relevant complex systems, indications of the order in which steps toward change would need to be taken, likely obstacles, and sources of further relevant information.
Sometimes an initial concrete vision for change comes from a single individual, sometimes from a group or organization, but effective ChangeMedia need to show how visions for change also vary across stakeholders and people who have different relations to the kind of future envisioned. For a complex social system to change from within, there need to be contributions from people in many roles and re-alignments of alliances and commitments. ChangeMedia need to help people interested in change understand the kinds of processes that lead to change, as specifically as possible for the particular cluster of future visions being presented. This is why Caspar's concept for Envisioning Spaces provides just the right site for creating ChangeMedia.
Leading Design Schools are already working toward approaches to Social Design (of better services, better neighborhoods) and to applying the methods of Design Research and Design Education to helping us make our lives better.
ChangeMedia ultimately need to be open to additions and new perspectives, as well as questions, challenges, doubts, concerns, and further alternatives. They need to be improvable policy artifacts: tools for an evolving process of change. In their beginnings, however, it is most important that they offer a vision that is concrete enough and desirable enough to inspire people to both work towards it and work towards improving it.
The YouTube Space in London presents a video introduction that can be viewed as a step towards creating an Envisioning Space, but research needs to be done to learn how to support the creation of effective ChangeMedia and follow through to see genuine change happen.