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Saturday, October 13 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Future Imaginaries of the Internet: Playing "The Thing From the Future"

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Given the extensive academic research on future imaginaries and their impact on shaping discourse about technologies (Brown, Rappert, and Webster, 2000; Borup et al., 2006; Jasanoff, 2009; Wyatt, 2004), our experimental session proposes playing a future planning game called "The Thing From the Future," followed by a discussion moderated by the panelists about the game and imaginative futures of information technology. We believe this kind of session would be well received by the AoIR community, particularly as an experimental session that motivates intellectual conversation about internet research in a form different than a traditional panel.

The Thing from the Future is an imagination game from the Situation Lab that challenges players to collaboratively and competitively describe objects from a range of futures. Players are given a predetermined set of constraints (arc, terrain, object, and mood), and asked to describe and draw creative possibilities for new innovations. For example, one might be asked to imagine something in a future society that has "grown for a century", in the "terrain of education", with "media" as the object, and a mood of "delight." Each player comes up with their own idea and shares it with the rest of the group. The player with the most votes for their idea wins the cards for that round, and another round commences. After playing the game for a few rounds, participants in this experimental session will lead a discussion session about the relevance of these types of futures for internet research, or thinking about where AoIR research might be headed.

Unlike other future or scenario planning exercises such as the Delphi method, this one does not offer rigid assumptions or developments geared toward an economic/policy analysis, rather it is game that offers loose guidelines for the future to allow people to be creative. The object of the game is to come up with the most entertaining and thought-provoking descriptions of hypothetical objects from different near, medium, and long-term futures. We have played this game with students in class, other academics at workshops, and it has often been the prompt for many interesting ideas as well as provocative fodder for academic discussion. It is also quite fun, as people can think out of the box and offer creative ideas.

We will provide the cards and the worksheets for playing the "Thing from the Future", and we will also take the pictures/drawings and document the process for the AoIR community. Another benefit of this session is that participants would be introduced to a game that they could utilize for teaching purposes.

The panel discussion will be centered around questions raised by the game, the assumptions people made about the future, the ways that these futures could inform internet research, and ways in which internet research can inform thinking about these futures.

The session organizers are experts in researching sociotechnical futures, and some are planning an academic workshop around this topic:


For information about the game, see link:


Saturday October 13, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 4