The one-week workshop with the class of students from the Designing User Research minor informed a design brief for a two months project, that was taken up by a group of three students from the same course: Beate van Garderen, Jos de Boer and Aidan Omwando. They were asked to further explore the climate future imaginaries from the initial list provided by us,  with an additional question: How can we engage others with different imaginaries of the future with climate change?

They worked in expanding the existing visual datasets by looking at Pinterest as a fertile platform for imagination (Fig. 1), compiling a report of how the different imaginaries relate to the topic of climate change, which kind of future they depict, and through which symbolic practices their aesthetics become enacted.

Fig. 1: Content similarity image clusters of the analysed future imaginaries. 120 images for each keyword were collected from Pinterest using the  Image Link Grabber Chrome extension, which extracts URLs from images on a webpage, and downloaded with another Chrome extension: Tab Save. Images were analysed running Google Vision API through Memespector, which tags images by looking at their content. The generated image-tag networks were visualised in Gephi and annotated in Adobe Illustrator. A step by step tutorial of how to execute this analysis can be found on a blog post written by the students on the Designing User Research website. A larger version of this visualisation can be downloaded here. Visualisations and analysis by Beate van Garderen.

To come back to the main goal of engaging the public with new kinds of climate-related future imaginaries, the students designed a workshop in which people were invited to use the images collected in the first part of the research as raw material to think about what the future would look like in their personal perspectives. 

Fig. 2: A moment of the workshop. Six young adults, two professors and one coach participated in the collage making activity supervised by the three students.

The workshop was introduced by an overview of the research done and a tutorial of how to make a digital collage in Photoshop (Fig. 2). Participants were asked to use the collected images as a starting point to create a collage representing their “ideal” vision of the future. Each work was then presented and used to prompt a group conversation.

Fig. 3: A collage of an ideal future made by Denise, one of the participants. “My ideal future society looks like this. It’s a paradise where animals can live happily ever after. The animals are able to get food and get water from the fountain or the river.”

In the second part of the workshop everyone was asked to make a collage of a future world which they deemed to be more realistic than their “ïdeal” vision. All collages made during this assignment were discussed as well. 

Fig 4: A collage of a realistic future made by Liselot, one of the participants. “In this vision of a realistic future, human egoism has taken a toll on the world. Where the ideal world was about humans willingly incorporating nature in their world, creating a balance, in this realistic world humans have lost the war against themselves and it is nature that has created a balance. Flora and fauna have been given the space to heal and grow. Whereas technology is something of the past and humans have to find new or rather re-find old ways of living and surviving.”

All the collages and the recordings of the discussions were showcased in an interactive exhibition designed for the audiovisual exploration of climate imaginaries. People were invited to follow an immersive audio tour to explore the works, listen to the discussion generated around them and lastly select the future imaginary that resonated the most with them.   

Fig 5: Video overview of the final expo. Further videos with the animated collages of the audio tour can be downloaded at this link.