There are no future facts. Yet we humans constantly create potential futures through art, imagination, research, storytelling, planning, and design. The EPIC2021 theme Anticipation invites us to explore how our work documents, anticipates, and crafts futures of its own.
Our daily practices of research, design, and strategy create landscapes of possibility. How do we open new paths—and obscure others—as we work to understand people, interpret wants and needs, propel change, navigate risk, assign cause, and assess consequence?
Whether or not we call our work ‘foresight’, we are involved in future-casting and future-making. Researchers representing the world of yesterday or today are also framing what’s possible tomorrow. Strategists align products and organizations to market developments, social and policy trends, emerging technologies, and evolving consumer preferences. Designers build prototypes, services and experiences of tomorrow. Ethnographers explore and examine current lived realities with an eye to shaping alternatives. EPIC people inhabit diverse roles, but our daily practices always have stakes in the future. Anticipation relies on formulations of past, present, and future, which we make with assumptions about relevant metrics for calibration.
EPIC2021 is a global event organized from the land of the Muwekma Ohlone people, now home to Silicon Valley. Denizens of The Valley frequently claim to be the architects of The Future, exporting a powerful vision of inevitability and relentless, global advance. But far from being inevitable and global, this vision is limited and exclusive, erasing histories and obscuring horizons. These twin trajectories of past- and future-making set the stage for our explorations.
What subtle literacies do ethnographers and designers—many of us employed by self-proclaimed architects of the future—bring to the table? How might we remake practices of anticipation, intentionally creating diverse kinds of potential instead of simply “following trends”? By illuminating the tacit models shaping our methods and metrics, can we make not only better predictions, but also more inclusive planning and strategy? What does it mean to recognize the leadership of Indigenous futures, Afrofutures, and other fields in colonial or homogenizing spaces that have long sidelined or silenced these future-making practices?
We invite you to join us in integrating anticipation into your work with a collective goal to make futures that would be better for many, not just a few.