This series brings together leading researchers from the UK, America, Australia and Europe with those working on methodologies for mapping the future in the public, private and third sectors. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information and stimulates debate and discussion with the aim of forging a new research agenda on futures.

In particular, the series will examine the extent to which austerity fundamentally alters conceptions of futures and explore the social and cultural effects of this shift. Questions we will consider include:

  • does austerity affect life narratives, hopes for children, the behaviour of consumers and savers, political activism, financial capitalism, calculations for insurance, and faith in religion? If so, how?
  • In what ways do the futures that are imagined map onto or recreate social inequalities and differences?
  • Are the futures of some people more likely to (be seen to) decline or stagnate?
  • Are some areas exempt from these pessimistic forecasts?
  • Even in times of austerity, is hope still invested in the promise of science and technology to overcome today’s social problems?

We’re also interested in how the current economic downturn in a number of economies impacts on the expectations people have about risky and unproven technologies. What kinds of responsibility and/or reflexivity towards the future are scientists, policy-makers, engineers, designers and users encouraged to take? What challenges does the current economic environment pose for those who wish to enrol others in a particular vision of the future? How do these challenges require co-operation, on a local or global scale?

Through the prism of austerity, the series will attend to how visions, expectations and promises about the future are performative; certain futures are ‘presenced’ through technologies of modelling, forecasting and planning across a wide range of fields including security, science, health and medicine, new media, design, engineering, and urban and population unrest. This includes not only positive futures but also those that we wish to avoid.

The series examines how the future is becoming increasingly important to experiences of the present. The presumption that the future is not likely to be better – richer, healthier, happier – than the present also raises significant questions for how the present is experienced and the past understood. The series therefore considers what conceptions of the future tell us about today, and examines the complex relationships between the past, present and future.