Working with it, valuing it and committing to change

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Insights professionals are in the business of holding a mirror up to the world and finding strategies, customers and brand identities somewhere in the reflection. As we find ourselves thrust into sharp focus by a pandemic, a civil rights movement and climate collapse, it’s time for some serious reflection on the how and the why behind what we do. For too long, too many of us have been walking a hall of two-way mirrors, reflecting a warped reality that obscures the bigger picture.

The explosion of context

The world is incredibly complex and as John Sterman says “there are no…

The 2020s have served us a different flavour of Future. And in cities like London, the air tastes like hope as well as fear.

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Montague Black, from the London Transport Museum archives

I serendipitously encountered Montague Black’s delicious bit of 1926 futuring on the same week that Sadiq Khan announced plans to make London more cycling and walking friendly as London’s Corona lockdown eases.

Black’s poster was created for the London Underground company in 1926 and is a typical example of The Future as imagined in the early 20th Century. Modernity coursing through the veins of city-dwellers as skyscrapers burst upwards in America and commercial flight was tentatively taking off. These new spatial dimensions ruptured the urban self-image, promising transcendence of the sooty grime of city streets and subterranean tube systems.


I’m a futurist and I’m quarantining with a historian. We recorded one of our conversations about how stories shape us, how to work with sources and why we should democratize our narratives of past and future. With Paul de Jong

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Thanks to Daniele Levis Pelusi for sharing their work on Unsplash.

The subject and the discipline: what history tells us about doing futures

G — Why does history matter?

P — History is the study of humans set on a timeframe. Everything we do is cumulative in some way and comes from a narrative somewhere and somewhen. Becoming a historian made me realise that everything is a process and there’s a reason for why things are, and they always change. Nothing is set. A good example of this is explored in Eric Hobsbawn’s classic The Invention of Tradition. …

In 2020, marketers need research approaches that help us explore the world as it really is: chaotic, uneven and simultaneously totally mundane and wildly unpredictable.

This pandemic is an important reminder that as marketers we cannot always foresee or influence new needs and behaviours. With an unprecedented, but widely predicted, environmental crisis unfolding we should already understand that the needs and desires we seek to serve or generate might not remain relevant, and might even be accelerating environmental collapse. We therefore have a responsibility to critically explore the multiple future scenarios that are likely, possible and some of those that right now seem preposterous. It’s tempting when exploring futures to fall into simplistic utopia and dystopia narratives, but as Covid-19 demonstrates, the reality is usually…

written with Hyaesook Yang

South Korea has been praised as an exemplar of a successful testing-led pandemic strategy. A point of pride for a new industrial society with a punchy global reputation for innovation and efficiency. During the Mers outbreak of 2015, the government’s withholding of information about who and where infected patients were, led to widespread contempt and mistrust. Afterwards South Korea developed a sophisticated testing system for future disease outbreaks. With a recent history of impeaching governments, South Korea’s current officials cannot afford to let their grip on this crisis slip.

The country’s aggressive testing strategy and the…

The useful vibration; turning anxiety into action

Covid-19 has triggered a collective anxiety that has provided huge momentum for a global crisis response. This moment of peak anxiety might just help us tune into the bigger existential threats we can’t afford to ignore.

Photo by Mike Lewinski on Unsplash
Photo by Mike Lewinski on Unsplash
Photo by Mike Lewinski on Unsplash

Anxiety is a cousin of horror, fear and disgust but it’s not the same beast. It is more of a frequency, a destabilizing and disorienting vibration. It reverberates in mental patterns, through the physical body and bounces back from the world beyond in a confounding looping drone. Anxiety might be noisy but it’s not completely ‘irrational’ or…

The concept of disaster is a cultural one and its meaning shifts according to our contextual moment. Covid-19 has consolidated the idea that in order to re-route to a sustainable future, we need to stop talking about disaster as something that’s always about to happen. In this article I explore some shifts in how we might reframe our communication and perception of environmental disaster as something already unfolding so that we can respond in ways that unstick us from a paralysing fight or flight response. …

Bjork’s work has become increasingly focused on sensory immersion, consolidating her avant-garde status and creating connection where her music alone can be alienating. Cornucopia, her latest show came to London in November, filling up the void of the o2 arena with the symbols and rituals of her utopia.

Continuing motifs of biophilic sensuality, folklore, vivid futures and aching pasts, gender-spectrum tripping, the cosmic and the microscopic, Cornucopia feels like Bjork’s expression of everything. The venue and the brain couldn’t really contain it.

Greta Thunberg’s face and voice was beamed stadium high during the encore, our collective conscience made omniscient. The…

Gemma Jones

making connections between people, habitats, places and world(s) via culture, semiotics and speculative insights…

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