Backcasting from the future

Few days ago Otto and myself stopped at the T.A.C., or Temporary Art Center, an independent gallery in Eindhoven. The exhibition that was on display during the Dutch Design Week (and which I still have to write here about) was already dismantled, but there were a few ‘traces’ of it on the walls, including these posters, presenting Eindhoven as the World Capital of Design 2012.

That is not the true fact; yet, at least, as many Eindhoveners would add. Eindhoven is indeed pre-selected, together with Helsinki, and out of 42 other candidates – as a possible ‘capital of design’ in 2012, three years from now. The actual nomination will be announced later in November, and so these posters are a good example of wishful thinking.

But they are also an example of a very strong technique of the ‘futuring’, namely, ‘backcasting from the future’, when the stories are told as if this future has happened already. An interesting approach; there was an article published in the most recent Journal of Consumer Research on this issue, Forecasting and Backcasting: Predicting the Impact of Events on the Future.

According to the authors, backcasting is a more sophisticated technique when working with the ‘futures’:

“The studies also reveal that backcasters consider other information that forecasters tend to ignore. [The] studies show that backcasters expect events to have a greater hedonic impact than do forecasters, largely because they think more about the impacting event.

In fact, here in Summ()n we plan to apply this tool to our own way of working, to summon the future of Summ()n itself, play with it as if it already happen, and backcast the implications of the developments then-and-there to the activities of here-and-now . We will be telling the stories about these futures here in the blog too!

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