Utopian scenarios and the everlasting-global-cookie

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This week we travelled to Bristol Zoo to participate in the ‘Utopias, Futures and Temporalities: Critical Considerations for Social change’ conference associated with the AHRC Connected Communities & Care for the Future research strands. In the context of nearing the 500 year anniversary of Thomas Moore’s Utopia, the conference sought to ‘explore the questions of positionality, power, hope and despair that are at play in the imagination of new times and the way that these effect change in the present.’ The delegates included people from each of the research strands, community partners, artists and activists, spanning many research interests. The scene was set for our colony-to-be as we boarded the bus and were greeted by a disembodied voice imploring us to participate in tasks defined by our sun, moon and earth people (seat designated) roles, such as sewing our routes, knitting hessian collaboratively, or communally listening to the hum of tuning forks…

Future Works and the Stories of Change ran two sessions, a round table and a scenario making session: ‘Future Works 2050’. The latter, hosted by Renata, Joe and I as part of the Future Works strand was similar in format to our experiments with our community partners at Derby Silk Mill in December.  The aim was both to share our work so far, further test an approach and to research more with those who elected to get involved. In a room where we could see and hear flamingos gathering outside, we asked in turn:

Where might a story of energy start on this map?

How has a story of energy changed on this map?

And… where might the story of energy go next?

Fourteen diverse and fantastically engaged participants shared, drew and wrote stories of energy into our two maps of the Derwent Valley region, drawing on their current research, personal experiences and things they had heard along the way. The excellent visual note taker Beth Mure, managed both to draw out observations from the session as posters and participate in the scenario building.

Discussions in the group that I participated in ranged from the web of the Silk Road and connections between places, things and people…to concerns about an ‘everlasting-world cookie’, made by products from so many places and so pumped full of preservatives it would outlast our lifetime. At the end of the session we told our tales to one another, the first being a tale of the ‘Moving Towards Joy’ which saw a greater appreciation of those things close to us of value, and connections being made by improved bicycle routes, and the odd treat of America-Europe travel facilitated by the solar powered trans-Greenland railway (which, by 2050 would have warmed sufficiently to enable this route). The second scenario, LEA- the Local Energy Authority transformed Local Education Authorities in a playful and humorous way to consider the possibility of a network of schools contributing to energy production.

It was a session that allowed for thoughtful and open conversations, with a really fascinating group of people, generous in their energetic contributions to Future Works. It was a reminder that communities form and reform relations not only through shared cultural histories and memories, but also through different understandings of the future: hopes, beliefs, dreams. These many ‘yet to comes’ might relate to feelings of responsibility to future generations, imaginings of a good society, expectations, aspirations and what we consider possible….

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