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On the Role of Envisioned Futures in Sustainability Transitions

Nikoleris, Alexandra LU (2018)
Abstract
Different kinds of representations of the future are often asked for in order to motivate and inspire societal change. These envisioned futures can be based on political or behavioural change, or may visualize technical development
which could help us solve complex societal problems. The latter type of epresentation is especially important if we aim for sustainable development, and even more so if we aim to live up to the Paris agreement and mitigate
climate change. Such technical visions are the particular focus of this thesis.

The importance of visions of and expectations on technology is also highlighted in the research field which focuses on socio-technical transitions towards sustainable production and consumption.... (More)
Different kinds of representations of the future are often asked for in order to motivate and inspire societal change. These envisioned futures can be based on political or behavioural change, or may visualize technical development
which could help us solve complex societal problems. The latter type of epresentation is especially important if we aim for sustainable development, and even more so if we aim to live up to the Paris agreement and mitigate
climate change. Such technical visions are the particular focus of this thesis.

The importance of visions of and expectations on technology is also highlighted in the research field which focuses on socio-technical transitions towards sustainable production and consumption. Visions and positive expectations are claimed to have a coordinating effect, they attract resources and legitimise development of technologies which promise to enable the vision to be reached. Whether expectations and envisioned futures in general can really be claimed to have coordinating effects is however not generally agreed on. The aim with this thesis has been to develop analytical tools to help us explore the role of envisioned futures in sustainability transitions, so that we can acquire a better understanding of how they become efficacious.

The thesis includes four research papers. Paper I and II focus on how a reconceptualisation of structure and agency is needed in sustainability transitions if explanatory theories are to be developed of what transitions are
and how they come about. Based on critical realism, the groundwork for such theories is laid. Transitions are reconceptualised as transformations which result in systems with new emergent properties. This means that the study of transitions is really a study of how new structures that enable or constrain action come about. It is argued that to understand the importance of expectations we have to separate the act of expecting, which is part of human
reflexivity, and that which motivates us to act in the world, from expectation statements. The latter is a causal narrative linking propositional statements of how the world works which can be used in different ways: to prepare
for anticipated outcomes, to evoke emotional engagement or to learn by seeing things in a new light. Margaret Archer’s work on morphogenesis of structure, human reflexivity, and our internal conversation has guided this work.

Paper III and IV focus on different kinds of envisioned futures and the different ways in which they can create engagement in the recipient of these representations. The envisioned futures studied include literary fiction
(climate fiction or ‘cli-fi’), scientific climate scenarios, and expectations on technology for carbon capture and utilisation. Our understanding of the world relies on story-telling to a large extent. We engage in the world through
practice but we also fit these experiences into encompassing stories of how the world works and relate them to our personal concerns. Both concerns and rationales acquired through sense-making are important when actors reflex-
ively deliberate on how to act. Explorative scenarios and predictive statements on future technology capabilities can give us a better understanding of different possible futures and what means we have to reach them, while fictive stories are better at providing affective engagement. Different kinds of envisioned futures are therefore important in a debate on where we want to go and how we should get there. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Visioner och framtidsbilder efterfrågas ofta för att motivera och inspirera till samhälleliga förändringar. Sådana visioner kan bygga på politisk förändring eller måla upp bilder av teknisk utveckling som hjälper oss att lösa svåra samhälleliga problem. Den typen av visioner är kanske speciellt viktiga när vi strävar efter en hållbar utveckling, och framför allt ifall vi vill motverka att jordens medeltemperatur höjs med mer än två grader med allvarliga
klimatförändringar till följd.

Vikten av visioner och förväntningar på teknologi lyfts också fram i den forskning som studerar just samhällelig och teknisk omställning mot hållbara produktions- och konsumtionssystem. Visioner och positiva förväntningar sägs ha en koordinerande... (More)
Visioner och framtidsbilder efterfrågas ofta för att motivera och inspirera till samhälleliga förändringar. Sådana visioner kan bygga på politisk förändring eller måla upp bilder av teknisk utveckling som hjälper oss att lösa svåra samhälleliga problem. Den typen av visioner är kanske speciellt viktiga när vi strävar efter en hållbar utveckling, och framför allt ifall vi vill motverka att jordens medeltemperatur höjs med mer än två grader med allvarliga
klimatförändringar till följd.

Vikten av visioner och förväntningar på teknologi lyfts också fram i den forskning som studerar just samhällelig och teknisk omställning mot hållbara produktions- och konsumtionssystem. Visioner och positiva förväntningar sägs ha en koordinerande effekt, något som attraherar resurser och människor att jobba för att utveckla den teknik som behövs för att visionen ska nås. Men huruvida detta verkligen stämmer och hur effekterna av olika sorters framtidsbilder och förväntningar ska studeras är fortfarande oklar. Målet med
den här avhandlingen har varit att ta fram analytiska verktyg som kan hjälpa oss att få en ökad förståelse av framtidsbilders roll i omställningen till mer hållbara system. Baserat på vetenskapsfilosofin kritisk realism har jag utvecklat grunden till en teori om de mekanismer med vilka framtidsbilder leder till förändring. Margaret Archers arbete om människors reflexivitet och den interna konversationen vi alla håller när vi skapar oss en förståelse av vår omvärld har varit vägledande för denna teorigrund.

Jag har också studerat olika typer av framtidsbilder och hur de på olika sätt kan väcka engagemang hos den som tar del av dessa bilder. De olika sätt att föreställa sig framtiden som har studerats är skönlitteratur (såkallad cli-fi eller climate fiction), vetenskapliga klimatscenarion, demonstrationsprojekt för att introducera biogas som bränsle för tunga transporter och förväntningar på teknologi som kan använda koldioxid som kolkälla till material och bränslen. Genom att studera och analysera dessa framtidsbilder visar jag att olika typer av
engagemang kan vara viktiga för en samhällsdebatt där vi inte bara behöver diskutera vilka åtgärder som är mest effektiva, utan också vilka åtgärder som är mest önskvärda i förhållande till det slutmål, eller den vision, vi vill nå. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor van Lente, Harro, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
förväntningar, socio-teknisk förändring, framtidsbilder, envisioned futures, sustainability transitions, expectations, structure and agency
pages
129 pages
publisher
Department of Technology and Society, Lund University
defense location
V:D, V-building, John Ericssons väg 1, Lund University, Faculty of Engineering LTH.
defense date
2018-06-01 09:15:00
ISBN
978-91-7753-661-1
978-91-7753-662-8
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
871f44e9-d109-465a-94e3-8c90e863169f
date added to LUP
2018-05-04 15:05:05
date last changed
2019-04-25 02:17:08
@phdthesis{871f44e9-d109-465a-94e3-8c90e863169f,
  abstract     = {Different kinds of representations of the future are often asked for in order to motivate and inspire societal change. These envisioned futures can be based on political or behavioural change, or may visualize technical development<br/>which could help us solve complex societal problems. The latter type of  epresentation is especially important if we aim for sustainable development, and even more so if we aim to live up to the Paris agreement and mitigate<br/>climate change. Such technical visions are the particular focus of this thesis.<br/><br/>The importance of visions of and expectations on technology is also highlighted in the research field which focuses on socio-technical transitions towards sustainable production and consumption. Visions and positive expectations are claimed to have a coordinating effect, they attract resources and legitimise development of technologies which promise to enable the vision to be reached. Whether expectations and envisioned futures in general can really be claimed to have coordinating effects is however not generally agreed on. The aim with this thesis has been to develop analytical tools to help us explore the role of envisioned futures in sustainability transitions, so that we can acquire a better understanding of how they become efficacious.<br/><br/>The thesis includes four research papers. Paper I and II focus on how a reconceptualisation of structure and agency is needed in sustainability transitions if explanatory theories are to be developed of what transitions are<br/>and how they come about. Based on critical realism, the groundwork for such theories is laid. Transitions are reconceptualised as transformations which result in systems with new emergent properties. This means that the study of transitions is really a study of how new structures that enable or constrain action come about. It is argued that to understand the importance of expectations we have to separate the act of expecting, which is part of human<br/>reflexivity, and that which motivates us to act in the world, from expectation statements. The latter is a causal narrative linking propositional statements of how the world works which can be used in different ways: to prepare<br/>for anticipated outcomes, to evoke emotional engagement or to learn by seeing things in a new light. Margaret Archer’s work on morphogenesis of structure, human reflexivity, and our internal conversation has guided this work.<br/><br/>Paper III and IV focus on different kinds of envisioned futures and the different ways in which they can create engagement in the recipient of these representations. The envisioned futures studied include literary fiction<br/>(climate fiction or ‘cli-fi’), scientific climate scenarios, and expectations on technology for carbon capture and utilisation. Our understanding of the world relies on story-telling to a large extent. We engage in the world through<br/>practice but we also fit these experiences into encompassing stories of how the world works and relate them to our personal concerns. Both concerns and rationales acquired through sense-making are important when actors reflex-<br/>ively deliberate on how to act. Explorative scenarios and predictive statements on future technology capabilities can give us a better understanding of different possible futures and what means we have to reach them, while fictive stories are better at providing affective engagement. Different kinds of envisioned futures are therefore important in a debate on where we want to go and how we should get there.},
  author       = {Nikoleris, Alexandra},
  isbn         = {978-91-7753-661-1},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {05},
  publisher    = {Department of Technology and Society, Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  title        = {On the Role of Envisioned Futures in Sustainability Transitions},
  url          = {https://lup.lub.lu.se/search/ws/files/42603681/theRoleofEnvisionedFutures_onlyKappa.pdf},
  year         = {2018},
}