So many podcasts. So many conversations. Where to start?
I’m drowning in a sea of podcasts—so many conversations. The problem could be of course that I don’t carve out time in my day to actually listen to them, but I’ve begun to wonder why podcasts are the ‘in thing’. How much inspiration do we need?
It may also have something to do with me thinking better when I write. It’s why I ask people to email me with any questions they have rather than ask me to spare 30 minutes of my time for an online chat. It’s not that I don’t want to have the conversation but when I’m asked to talk about something, I know I give better answers if I write them down first.
Conversations and talking with others are important obviously, and in the work I do — thinking and talking about possible futures — they are critical. But what sort of conversations do we really need to have? And why are we having them? And what meaning do we get from them?
This was a question I tried to answer in my PhD research where I was exploring contested ideas of the university and how they constrained the current discourse about the university’s futures. That discourse isn’t open, inclusive or participative today precisely because it’s trapped in the present defined by the neoliberal university. Emerging and latent futures aren’t even seen, let alone considered as plausible in the current conversation about what a university is now, and what university might be needed by ‘the future’. I developed a Futures Conversations Framework in my thesis to show how the people holding contested ideas could come together in ways that valued all the futures we could find in the present and to consider those futures with open minds, seeking new thinking, new perspectives, new meanings and new actions.
It’s a delightful thing to develop such a framework, put it in your thesis, and have the thesis given the seal of approval. But that’s not enough because as my supervisor (Joseph Voros) reminded me, foresight is not only about thinking — that thinking must lead to action. My task that I’m working on now then is how to make this framework practical to make it a service that I can offer to people in universities, for whom it was specifically designed.
The framework is focused around questions we ask, and my, there is so much written about questions, how to frame them, how to ask them, how to use them in workshops, how to make sure they get deeper and surface more meaningful answers. Questions — like most things — are context bound though, and for me that context is the university. But first things first, as they say.
Strangely perhaps, writing my thesis was a source of joy for me, frustrating at times, and seriously mentally challenging but in the end, a deep source of joy. It reminded me how much I like writing, how the flow it generates is calming for my brain, and the pleasure it gives me. I have said in past blog posts that it is writing where I will focus now, and here I am.
This is the first in a series of posts here about the Futures Conversations Framework and how I’m developing it — writing about it is one way I can make it real and find the questions that need to be asked about our futures. And you can tell me when I’m heading in the right direction, and when I’m way off track. Please.