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Session Overview
RS10_04: Imagining Futures
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Giuliana Mandich, University of Cagliari
Location: UP.2.217
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Second Floor Oxford Road

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Imagined Futures of Consumption: Lay expectations, speculations and protensions

Ulrike Ehgartner, Daniel Welch

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

The paper reports on analysis of data produced from a Mass Observation Directive commissioned as part of a project called “Imagined Futures of Consumption” (funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council). Mass Observation Directives enable researchers to present a panel of volunteers (average response n=250) with a brief, lay introduction to the project theme followed by a series of prompts and questions to which they provide open written responses. The project Directive asks the volunteers to “imagine the consumption of goods and services in the future—for yourself, for younger generations and for society as a whole” and frames consumption in lay terms compatible with practice theoretical understandings of consumption. Volunteers are prompted to speculate on questions such as: the degree of change in consumption in everyday life in 50 years-time; change or stability in specific consumption domains; expectations of their own consumption in the future; and expectations of standards of living for future generations. The analysis deploys Mische’s (2009, 2014) notion of “dimensions of projectivity” as a starting point to investigate lay expectations and imaginaries of consumption. The teleoaffectivities of social practices in which consumption takes place are also explored (Schatzki 2002; Warde 2005). The research is framed by the wider project. This seeks to explore the place of imagined futures of consumption in the context of the contemporary crisis in political and economic imaginaries and, since the financial crisis, the substantial undermining of expectations of continuously rising standards of living (Ipsos Mori 2011, 2017).

Sensing the Future – Money and the Embodied Agency of its Temporal Structure

Manuel Schulz

University of Jena, Germany

How it is possible that futurity acquires agency in subject’s present action? In order to itemize this paradox intertemporal entanglement in social practices, I will focus on money usage from a neo-phenomenological perspective. Money essentially consists in a temporal interlocked context of references, namely in the structural conflation of the possibility of present exchange and the confidence in stabilizing continuity. Thus, money arises as a contradiction of a processing futurity that is reliant on the continuous present realization. The usage of money, I will argue correspondingly, is always an individually carried collective practice of self-sustaining in face of the present as the threatening intersection towards a projected, but inherently uncertain future. From a neo-phenomenological perspective, this social self-perpetuation, though it is based in conscious abstractions, needs a vitalizing realization. It is particularly the bodily sensation as a form of pre-cognitive being-in-the-world which can be seen as the medium of transforming future into present social practice. This process of vitalizing futurity unfolds its efficacy, beside cognitive narratives, by an atmospheric embeddedness that affects the subject involuntarily. Even the dynamics of mass hysteria on financial markets arise accordingly as an atmospheric driven agency of an euphorogenic or devastating consciously presumed future. It is particularly the subject’s character of a bodily sensing entity, I will argue, which enables the consciously envisioned future to realize itself in present action. The vibrancy of atmospheric embedded sensations thus is the medium of enacting futurity; it is where the agency of future takes place in subjective action.

A Social Network Approach of Visions of the Future

José A. Rodríguez Díaz

University of Barcelona, Spain

In this paper we attempt to identify, visualize and analyze the social structures underlying and shaping visions of the future of young people.

We use textual narratives created by university students regarding their visions of social and personal futures in 30 years. We extract and code the most relevant information characterizing each narrative. Then we transform that information into relational matrixes and we use Social Network Analysis tools to see those narratives as social networks. We see narratives as the space where interactions between concepts shape visions of futures.

We will use narratives of two groups of undergraduates and a group of Master students extracting information regarding their general positive or negative outlook of the future, their work and professional life, their family life and structure (spouses, children, parents), occurrence of environmental, political and or social crises, actions to deal with environmental decline, social and political reorganizations, Artificial Intelligence and Robots, health, life expectancy, happiness and wellbeing, technological progress and social improvements, the level of connection to virtual worlds or and technologies, space and life in other planets, etc.

Differential combinations of items produce diverse scenarios, diverse causal models and paths, as well as diverse levels of life enjoyment and happiness. They are combinations of probable, possible and preferred futures.

Avoiding Future Imaginaries Of Professional Failure And Shame: The Relationality Between Temporality And Teleo-affectivity In Interpreters’ Professional Practice

Deborah Giustini

The University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Practice theory research argued that practices configure temporality, and that future imaginations are mediated by the practices through which that time is experienced. However, few studies examine how teleo-affectivity of practices relate to their temporalities, and particularly to how issues of negative emotions and failure may direct everyday protentions towards avoiding a negative futurity. This presentation explores how future dimensions compose the teleological and affective structure of human activities: future is implied in them because action is always for an end, and imbued with certain emotions. It argues that there is an unexplored relationality of teleo-affectivity and temporality which lefts open what role they might play in (re)producing or avoiding futures, and how future imaginaries empower agency through performances.

To understand this relation, I examine an empirical study of the professional practice of “interpreting”, performed globally to allow multilingual communication e.g. in institutional, governmental, and business settings. Interpreters are normatively bound to perform as the voices of their clients, providing seamless communication through simultaneous (“live”) translation as if they were invisible in the interaction. This codification of invisibility helps interpreters to avoid failure which, when it occurs, happens in real time and publicly under clients’ eyes, with potentially damaging consequences for future reputation, stigma of incompetence, and for the outcome of clients and institutions’ practices. My research shows that interpreters inhabit the future through a ‘reversed teleology’ and ‘negative affectivity’: rather than pushed by professional success, they work empowered by fearing negative future imaginaries - public failure, loss of assignments and expert standing. Everyday protentions are hence made possible in the interpreting practice by this relational temporality/teleo-affectivity, which interact with long-term futures of career advancement.

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