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Pedagogy, Culture and Futures Studies

Sohail Inayatullah

Queensland University of Technology

Through case studies of futures workshops and courses, the importance of decolonising the future and creating authentic alternative futures is highlighted.  Futures studies, it is argued, is about understanding the human condition, what it has become, and how we can participate in changing it.  An ideal futures studies is multi-leveled, empirical, interpretive, and critical in its research focus. Offered in this article is causal layered analysis, a futures method which takes a multicultural and multidisciplinary approach to the future. 


In traditional disciplines, even as postmodernity undoes defining and organizing narratives, there is a doxa--certain classic texts that must be read and must be adhered to. Futures studies does not yet have these boundaries. It is trans-disciplinary, in search of an interpretive community, its knowledge base just being defined.[1] Who the futurists are is still in contention.[2] Is futures studies a science? An appendage to strategic planning? Should futures studies be technical, concerned with forecasting, or culture-based, concerned with recovering the futures from the instrumental rationality of modernity? Or is futures studies primarily a movement, an attempt to keep futures pluralistic, to keep the future open, less concerned with academic treatises, and more with social action? Or should futures studies be specific in its orientation, as in "future generations studies", which seeks to sustain and transform social conditions on behalf of the rights of future generations (humans, animals, plants, as well as metaphors)? Or should futures studies primarily be concerned with deconstructing hegemonic images of the future held by the powerful, thereby creating the spaces for the emergence of authentic alternative visions and social designs? That is, should futures studies essentially be about decolonizing dominant views of time/space and perspective?

While there have been many attempts to map the field,[3] it still remains contentious with no hegemonic paradigm defining it. In earlier articles, among other mapping schemes by thinkers such as Linstone, Masini, Gillwald, Sardar, Amara and Bezold,[4] I have divided futures studies into three overlapping research dimensions: empirical, interpretive and critical.[5] Each dimension has different assumptions about the real, about truth, about the role of the subject, about the nature of the universe, and about the nature of the future.[6] My own preference has been approaches that use all three--that contextualize data (the predictive) with the meanings (interpretive) we give them--and then locate these in various historical structures of power/knowledge--class, gender, varna and episteme (the critical).

In the predictive/empirical, language is assumed to be neutral; that is, it does not participate in constituting the real. Language merely describes reality, serving as an invisible link between theory and data. Prediction assumes that the universe is deterministic so that the future can be known. By and large this view privileges experts (planners, policy futurists, economists and astrologers). The future becomes a site of expertise and a place to colonize. In general, the strategic discourse is most prevalent in this framework with information valued because it provides lead time and a range of responses to deal with the enemy (a competing nation or corporation). Linear forecasting is the technique used most. Scenarios are used more as minor deviations from the norm instead of alternative worldviews.

In the cultural/interpretive, the goal is not prediction but insight into difference with the hope of creating unity. Truth is considered relative, with language and culture both intimately involved in creating the real. Through comparison--through examining different national or gender or ethnic images of the future--we gain insight into the human condition. This type of futures studies is less technical, with mythology as important as mathematics. Learning from each model--in the context of the search for universal narratives that can ensure basic human values--is the central mission for this epistemological approach. While visions of the future often occupy center stage in this interpretive view, the role of identity is also important, whether based on class, gender, or other categories of social relations.

In the poststructural/critical, futures studies aims neither at prediction nor at comparison but seeks to make the units of analysis problematic, to undefine the future, to seek a distance from current understandings and epistemological agreements. Of concern in this perspective is not forecasting, say, the futures of population, but how the category of population has become valorized in discourse. "Why 'population' instead of 'community' or 'people'?" we might ask. The role of the state and other forms of power in creating authoritative discourses is central to understanding how a particular future has become hegemonic. Critical futures studies asserts that the present is fragile, merely the victory of one particular discourse, way of knowing, over another. The goal of critical research is to disturb present power relations through making problematic our categories and evoking other places, other scenarios of the future. Through this distance, the present becomes less rigid, indeed, remarkable. The spaces of reality loosen, the grip of neo-realism (of the bottom line, of the predictive approach) widen, and the new is possible. Language is not symbolic but constitutive of reality. While structures are useful, they are seen not as universal but as particular to history and episteme (the knowledge boundaries that frame our knowing).

Ideally, one should try to use all three types of futures studies. If one makes a population forecast, one should then ask how different civilizations approach the issue of population. Then, one should deconstruct the idea of population itself, defining it, for example, not only as an ecological problem in the third world but relating it to first world consumption patterns as well. Empirical research then must be contextualized within the science of the civilization from which it emerges, and then historically deconstructed to show what particular approaches are missing and silencing.


My own pedagogy in the area of futures studies has focused on the interpretive and critical. I have been particularly concerned with decolonizing the future--examining how we buy other's used futures; how we disempower ourselves by accepting the futures of others as ours. But once the purchased future is deconstructed, it is equally essential to offer alternatives. In my own work, I ask: what are alternative imaginations of the future? How can we learn from those who have suffered? What are the images of the future of those we consider outside history? What are other ways to "time" the world instead of the dominant scientific model, such as, women's, spiritual, or cyclical time. Thus, crucial to a liberation pedagogy is a concerted effort to identify dissenting authentic images of the future.

My own inspiration to engage in alternative futures has come from classical Tantra as redefined by P. R. Sarkar; from indigenous Pacific islander's visions of time and family; and from the range of social movements--the spiritual, the environmental, the womanist--all dedicated to creating a global ohana, being part of a global samaj, a planetary civilization.

Teaching and learning about the future then is centrally about understanding the human condition, what it has become, and how we can participate in changing it (and understanding the structural limitations of change, i. e., the deep cycles and trends of history that create our own subjectivities).

My own experience in the last fifteen years has been in conducting workshops for university administration and departments, non-governmental organizations, corporations, local governments, research institutes, international organizations and advocacy groups; participating in international courses in futures studies (usually sponsored by the World Futures Studies Federation [WFSF] and UNESCO) and more formal teaching at the University of Hawaii (wherein I used a futures perspective to frame the topic being taught, Hawaii Politics in this case), and public lectures at numerous universities and institutes throughout the world (Yugoslavia, Greece, Denmark, Pakistan, Hungary, India, Australia, to mention a few).

The style that I use in formal courses is to have students/participants search for alternative ways to define the past, present, and future. Not only is the future considered probable and makeable, but so is the past and present. The idea is to open up the present, to give different readings of political events and trends. In one course, a student developed scenarios of Hawaii's future by rewriting history. He asked: "What if Captain Cook had never landed on the Hawaiian Islands? What if contact with the West had been on the terms of the Islanders?" This historical questioning led to the creation of scenarios in which Pacific islands--instead of a history of disunity and imperialism--unite, recognizing that they are a liquid continent, and creating something akin to the Federated Cultures/Regions of Oceania.

In conducting workshops--where I work with a specific group aiding in the development of their vision/strategy for the future--my own method has been to first create a shared identity, to explore why each person is at the workshop, and what history they bring with them, and then I seek to open up the workshop. The opening up process occurs through methods such as emerging issues analysis--which identifies areas of sudden transformation, of unexpected futures--and what-if questions, which again call into question the present and projected future.

This is followed by a sorting of positions in vertical layers, from the most obvious litany to the deeper metaphorical layers--the method of Causal Layered Analysis (CLA), which is explored more in depth later in this essay. Information from these methods is used to create alternative scenarios,[7] pictures of possible and probable futures. Of these scenarios, agreement is often reached on a vision of the future. This can occur through small working groups or strategic questioning, in which the elements of the group vision emerge. In strategic questioning I ask selected individuals to imagine--in detail--a day in their life in their desired or plausible future. I ask questions like: What do you see out the window? How do you get to work? Do you walk, use virtual technologies, or ...? Do you work? What do you eat during the day?

These stories create shared meanings among participants and they legitimate the future since imaginations are owned by the individuals relating them. Detail is crucial here as this forces participants to select from a range of possibilities what they desire or believe will occur in the future. Thus, from individual scenarios of the future, a shared vision comes to be articulated.

The final stage is backcasting, of deriving strategy by going backwards from the future, and asking individuals to remember the historical events and trends that created the present. At this stage, with the contours of the future already agreed on, the issue is remembering the past, not engaging in debates about whether a particular future could or could not have occurred. Backcasting can result in a strategic plan or, even better, a range of organizational experiments with real funding and faces behind who does what, when, and with whom.

While this is a general model, there are, of course, many variations depending on the local culture of the participants, their worldview, and how they imagine the future. Being sensitive to local perspective on the future, I believe, is a crucial skill in teaching futures studies. Listening to the language others use to talk about the future is also essential. Finally, while it is important to honor others' views of the future, thinking about the future, as Dator has argued, is an unnatural act --it requires years of training. The teacher should not be shy about prodding others towards more imaginative, creative, and plausible futures. Thinking about the future is more than fantasy fulfillment. There are real rigorous methods, from the most to the least mathematical, that can aid in this process.

Finally, as in all pedagogical situations, there is a process of politics. This includes conventional understandings of the politics of planning--the role of participation and hierarchy; of who gets to speak, and who listens; who is expert and who is lay--as well as more subtle issues as to the appropriateness of using futures studies for organizational learning and transformation.

What follows are case studies of workshops and courses selected to illustrate the above.



While one would normally expect expertise to be the most important criteria in determining the success of a workshop, in a day-long visioning workshop for an Australian university, we found that the most important determinant in the workshop's success was our own uncertainty as to how to run the workshop. Deans, professors and administrators were initially resistant to participate in a visioning workshop. They feared that the workshop would be used by management to gain points over labor. They were also uncertain of the academic respectability of futures studies.

Our[9] first goal was to ensure commitment from top management. Our second goal was to locate futures within macrohistory, within the large patterns of social and civilizational change. This was important in that the future was seen less as fantasy and more as part of a knowledge base. Our third goal was to keep the workshop fluid, to constantly change directions as our perception of participants' needs changed. This fluidity on our part was central to allaying fears that we had a hidden agenda (for management). The result was that since we were unsure of ourselves, the future ceased to be an authoritarian space. Rather, it became an open space that could be shared, where expert knowledge had not colonized alternatives.

Academics afterwards agreed to continue the visioning process in their own departments. Earlier, they had worried that we would be crystal ball gazers, but the issues we raised at some level fit their world views but also challenged them. For example, we asked them to explore the challenge of multiculturalism in the university (not just in terms of better and equal opportunity for minorities but of using non-western models of knowledge and of the university to define their future), to explore the end of the university because of the Web; to explore a more corporatized university (as current globalization trends suggest), and to explore a return to core values. These issues later emerged in scenarios and shared agreement was reached in the visioning part of the workshop--i. e., the desirability of a more mentoring role than a strict "I am smart and you are not" role--and of faculty having concurrent contracts with different universities. The ideas that came forth most likely would not have emerged if the day had been spent discussing current issues--matters of office space, of access to better computers, of labor contracts--all critically important, but all reinscribing the present instead of creating or even imagining alternative futures.

Thus, while technically the workshop was problematic (miscues, and, in general, a trial and error learning process), in terms of its outcomes--a shared vision, a shared backcast, and a shared strategy of transformation, as well as an openness towards the process of creating alternative futures--the workshop was highly successful. Besides our tentativeness, central to this success was an opening speech by the university president in which he showed his commitment to the process, as well as vigorous participation by hard-headed academics, once they saw that we were not there to "workshop" them, to con them. This latter point is crucial since futures studies, even while it has grown by leaps and bounds in academia, still remains for many a "pop" consulting tool i. e., as change management, as a manipulative device.


More satisfying and challenging than conducting workshops for specific organizations/institutes have been international futures courses sponsored by WFSF (often with seed money from UNESCO). Whether in Dubrovnik, Andorra, Thailand or the Philippines, these courses begin with cultural difference and conclude with cultural difference. While introducing futures studies, these courses usually also have specific themes, such as the futures of development, communication, ecology, and policymaking and education.

These courses are challenging to teach in that not only does one have to teach a new field of knowing--futures studies--but one has to do so in ways that make sense to how individuals from different cultures know the world. Not only is the future constructed differently, but there are a range of diverse expectations of pedagogical style. Some prefer more formal lectures, others prefer informal small group sessions. Some expect that information about the future should be given to them, while others believe that any fantasy about the future is an appropriate scenario. Some resist the idea that the future is at some level open. For example, they may be committed to religious worldviews in which the future is God-given. Others believe that the future should be explored only through statistical-modeling methods and not through "softer" metaphorical approaches.

Teaching futures is already challenging, more so is teaching futures in cross-cultural contexts, wherein the knowledge, style, and forms of presentation are all open (and not) for negotiation. What I have found most noteworthy is that futures studies must be localized in the language of participants, in their ways of knowing and experiences.

Some years ago, Draper Kauffman developed an exercise, since widely used by some futurists, which asks people to say whether they think the future is more like a roller coaster ride, paddling down a river in a canoe, sailing on an ocean, or throwing dice in a game of chance (as in the American board game, "Monopoly"). People who choose "roller coaster" or "game of chance" are considered to have restricted, fatalistic images of the future, while those who say "river" have a more open image, with "ocean" being the most optimistic and "can do" image of the future of the four.

During a presentation of these four images to students at a futures workshop held in Islamabad, Pakistan in March of 1995, one student responded: "But who would want to live in a future which was entirely open." She added: "An ocean has no direction." She proceeded to offer the daily Muslim prayer while facing toward Mecca as an appropriate metaphor for Islam and the future--united and facing in one direction.

Earlier in a UNESCO/WFSF sponsored workshop on the futures of education held in Suva, Fiji in 1993, Pacific islanders had offered two metaphors they believed more adequately represented their traditions. The first was a coconut tree. One had to work hard to climb up the tree, but at the top were ample rewards. This was clearly the influence of Protestant Christianity on the Islands, the participants agreed. The second imaged they offered was of being a passenger in a car driven by a man with a blindfold. This of course represented the Island's interaction with modern Western capitalism, a perception that they were not in control of their own destiny.

In contrast to these metaphors, an Indian participant at the second WFSF Bangkok Asia-Pacific futures course in 1993 suggested the onion as a more appropriate image. Reality, in this view, has many layers. Our task as humans is to peel away the layers, discovering new levels of reality, until all is revealed, and the empty infinity of the atman is revealed to us. A Filipino participant suggested a less spiritual metaphor, the coconut. A coconut is hard on the outside (in response to the cruelty of the world) but soft on the inside (our inner tender spiritual selves). The coconut also has many uses: it can be eaten, its juice drunk, and its husk used and recycled for a variety of agricultural and industrial purposes. It was a metaphor for all seasons, all futures.

Staying within the ecological discourse, an Australian participant at a Southern Cross University/WFSF course in 1995 suggested the seed. For her, the seed was most appropriate for expressing future generations and the future since it embedded alternative futures within an organic unity. As with children, the seed needs nurturing but as it grows it can provide nourishment for others. Once a tree, there are many branches--alternative futures--all arising from our common humanity (the trunk). Finally, the seed privileges ontology over epistemology, being over knowing.

These and other examples have made it clear to me that our language, our metaphors of the future, are culture- and gender-bound. To only use the models found in western futures educational books is severely limiting.

At a 1994 futures visioning workshop in Penang, Malaysia,[11] these limitations were further exposed. The dice, while adequately representing randomness, misses entirely the role of the transcendental as a type of super-agency. The roller coaster, while appearing to represent predestination, does not capture the importance of the group or larger community Asians and Africans are embedded in. The ocean, while representing unbounded possibilities, misses the role of history and deep social structures, of fate and power. While the image of river with its dangerous submerged rocks well represents the need for information and swift decisionmaking so as to avoid risks and take advantage of opportunities, it does not provide metaphorical entry for guidance from others: leadership, family, or God. Surprisingly, the metaphor that did emerge from discussion with Malay Muslims was the "snakes and ladders" game, that is, life's ups and downs are based on chance, and when one goes up, one should be ready to fall at any moment. While appearing to be fatalistic, the resolution of this metaphor of the future was faith in Allah, as the deeper reality on which one must rest one's self.

In this workshop, participants had little interest in the future until we asked them to think of the future in their own cultural categories. Once this question had been asked, there was an abundance of discussion. Participants searched within their own civilizational history to imagine the future. They took their future-oriented metaphors from their recent agricultural past and sought to understand if these still made sense within Malaysia's new role in the world economy. This led to the creation of new types of future imaging and a call for Malays/Muslims constructing futures and futures studies.

They thus sought to decolonize the future and make it their own. Myths and metaphors were the central tools of empowerment that they used in this process. However, not neglected were issues of social design, of articulating futures that dealt with the realities of the world economy; nonetheless, they did so in the context of Islamic economics, devising and creating new financial instruments that did not violate Islamic ethics.

As mentioned at the outset of this essay, my view of the best futures studies would ideally bring in all these different perspectives, being able to move in empirical, interpretive, and critical frames, all the time touching on theory, data and values, while being sensitive to the different ways we learn from each other and know the world.

One method that is exemplary in this regard, in moving in and out of different types of meaning, is causal layered analysis.



Causal layered analysis takes as its starting point the assumption that there are different levels of reality and ways of knowing. Individuals, organizations and civilizations see the world from different vantage points, horizontal and vertical.

The first level is the "litany"--quantitative trends, problems, often exaggerated, often used for political purposes--(overpopulation, for example) usually presented by the news media. Events, issues and trends are not connected and appear discontinuous. The result is often either a feeling of helplessness (what can I do?) or apathy (nothing can be done!) or projected action (why don't they do something about it?). This is the conventional level of futures research which can readily create a politics of fear. This is the futurist as fearmonger who warns: "The end is near! But if you believe my prophecy and act as I tell you to, the end can be averted."

The second level is concerned with social causes, including economic, cultural, political and historical factors (rising birthrates, lack of family planning, for example). Interpretation is given to quantitative data. This type of analysis is usually articulated by policy institutes and published as editorial pieces in newspapers or in not-quite academic journals. If one is fortunate, then the precipitating action is sometimes analyzed (population growth and advances in medicine/health, for example). This level excels at technical explanations as well as academic analysis. The role of the state and other actors and interests is often explored at this level.

The third deeper level is concerned with structure and the discourse/worldview that supports and legitimates it (population growth and civilizational perspectives of family; lack of women's power; lack of social security; the population/consumption debate, for example.). The task is to find deeper social, linguistic, cultural structures that are actor-invariant. Discerning deeper assumptions behind the issue is crucial here as are efforts to revision the problem. At this stage, one can explore how different discourses (the economic, the social, the cultural) do more than cause or mediate the issue but constitute it, how the discourse we use to understand is complicit in our framing of the issue. Based on the varied discourses, discrete alternative scenarios can be derived here. These scenarios add a horizontal dimension to our layered analysis.

The fourth layer of analysis is at the level of metaphor or myth. These are the deep stories, the collective archetypes, the unconscious dimensions of the problem or the paradox (seeing population as non-statistical, as community; or seeing people as creative resources, as life, for example). This level provides a gut/emotional level experience to the worldview under inquiry. The language used is less specific, more concerned with evoking visual images, with touching the heart instead of reading the head.

Causal layered analysis asks us to go beyond conventional framings of issues. For instance, normal academic analysis tends to stay in the second layer with occasional forays into the third, seldom privileging the fourth layer (myth and metaphor). CLA, however, does not privilege any one particular level. Moving up and down layers, we can integrate analysis and synthesis, and horizontally we can integrate discourses, ways of knowing and worldviews, thereby increasing the richness of the analysis. What often results are differences that can be easily captured in alternative scenarios; each scenario in itself, to some extent, can represent a different way of knowing. However, CLA orders the scenarios in vertical space.

For example, taking the issue of parking spaces in urban centers can lead to a range of scenarios. A short term scenario of increasing parking spaces (building below or above) is of a different order from a scenario which examines telecommuting, or a scenario which distributes spaces by lottery (instead of by power or wealth), or one which questions the role of the car in modernity (a carless city?), or deconstructs the idea of a parking space, as in many third world settings where there are few spaces designated "parking".[13]

Scenarios, thus, are different at each level. Litany-type scenarios are more instrumental. Social level scenarios are more policy-oriented, while discourse/worldview scenarios intend to capture fundamental differences. Myth/metaphor type scenarios are equally discrete but articulate this difference through a poem, a story, an image, or some other right-brain method.

Finally, who solves the problem/issue also changes at each level. At the litany level, it is usually others--the government or corporations. At the social level, it is often some partnership between different groups. At the worldview level, it is people or voluntary associations, and at the myth/metaphor it is visionaries or artists.

These four layers are indicative; that is, there is some overlap between the layers. Using CLA on CLA, we can see how the current litany (of what are the main trends and problems facing the world) in itself is the tip of the iceberg, an expression of a particular worldview.[14]


I have used CLA in a variety of situations. One notable example was at the 1993 UNESCO/WFSF workshop in Thailand on the futures of ecology, where the issue of Bangkok's traffic problem was explored. CLA was pivotal in breaking out of a conventional understanding of transportation futures.

At the litany level, the problem was seen to be Bangkok's traffic and related pollution. The solution was to hire consultants, particularly transportation planners at local and international levels.

At the social cause level, the problem was seen as a lack of roads with the solution that of building more roads (and getting mobile phones in the meantime). If one were doing scenarios at this stage, these would be based on where to build alternative routes and which transportation modeling software to use.

At the worldview level, it was argued that the problem was not just lack of roads but the model of industrial growth Thailand had taken. It is the Big City Outlook that had come down through colonialism: the city is better, and rural people are idiots; wealth accumulation is only possible in the city, especially as population growth creates problems in the rural area. The solution then becomes not to build more roads but to decentralize the economy and create localism--where local people control their economy and feel they do not have to leave their life and lifestyle. Psychologically it means valuing local traditions and countering the ideology that West is Best and that Bigger is Better. New leadership and new metaphors on what it means to be Thai emerged as the solutions.

The key methodological utility is that CLA allows for research that brings in many perspectives. It has a fact basis, which is framed in history, which is then contextualized within a discourse or worldview, which then is located in pre- and post-rational ways of knowing, in myth and metaphor. The challenge is to bring in these many perspectives to a particular problem, to go up and down levels, and sideways through various scenarios.

Like all methods, CLA has its limits. For example, it does not forecast the future per se and is best used in conjunction with other methods such as emerging issues analysis--which even while it offers forecasts of nascent issues, disturbs the present through its exploration of the absurd--and visioning.


Teaching futures studies or conducting futures workshops has numerous challenges. The process must be sensitive to each individual's cultural framework, to skepticism about the appropriateness of studying the future, as well as to a failure of imagination in thinking about the future, not to mention the complex ways we know the world. For example, Paul Wildman[15] argues that there are at least five ways of knowing: (1) practical, technical knowledge, skills development; (2) scientific theoretical knowledge, knowledge to explain the world; (3) experiential knowledge to change myself or the world around me; (4) metaphorical knowledge or insight, deeper understanding of self and others (at heart and head level) and (5) relationship knowledge, knowledge so as to better relate to others, be they lovers, friends, God or the environment. A course or workshop thus must find methods and processes that meet these various ways of knowing. Those focused on relationship often prefer small group exercises, where they can share perspectives and directly learn from others. Those concerned with metaphorical knowledge might prefer personal stories about how one has done futures studies or what one has learned from years of experience or conversations with elders and children. An experiential knowledge type would be far more concerned with ensuring that the time spent at a workshop would help change the world--making a difference is far more important than the accumulation of information. Those focused on scientific knowledge might prefer technical descriptions of forecasting. Finally, individuals representative of the first knowledge cluster focused on practical knowledge might want to learn how to do the workshop themselves or would be engaged in a cognitive assessment to discern if these workshops could be applied to their day-to-day work.

For a presenter, the task then is certainly challenging. At issue is not just the particular academic text on the future, but how each human learns about others, how each person imagines her own role on the planet, and what she intend to do about the problems facing humanity. As Martha Rogers argues,[16] teaching and learning about the future raises issues of the heart, head and soul--all three combine to create powerful forces of discomfort, and individual and social transformation.

One of the great strengths of futures studies is its openness towards its self-definition. Futures studies fortunately has a rapidly evolving knowledge base, thus allying fears that it is merely about fantasy or steeped in non-rigorous discourses. It is trans-disciplinary, having a leg in scientific analysis and a leg in cultural studies. This perhaps gives it an advantage. Its lack of institutionalization allows it to remain undomesticated. One can both be expert and student; one can lecture and can create spaces for participatory workshops. Whereas a traditional academic would need to feel that the lecture was perfect, for the futurist, there is more space for making mistakes, for laughter, for play, for experimentation, and thus for authentic and successful pedagogy. Indeed, that the future is not immediate and thus less urgent allows creativity to be explored. That the future is about alternative futures and not fixed history allows different interpretations, thus opening futures studies to more participation.

Finally, those who actively participate in teaching the future exist in global educative space, as futures studies is one of the few global disciplines, living and flourishing outside of conventional national and international boundaries of state and knowledge. The "how" of teaching the future then forces one into many academic, cultural, and historical frameworks. This is enriching for practitioners--and problematic, since all certainties are undone by the varieties of frames that create the process of what it is that is taught and learned.

To conclude, engaging in futures-oriented pedagogy requires sensitivity to the different ways women and men, civilizations, class, people with disabilities and those without--among other conditions--know the world. While all teaching situations have these concerns as well, in futures studies, the question of what you (as individual or as representative of your civilization) desire the future to be like is pivotal. This is especially so if one wishes to explore layers of responses, decolonize dominant visions of the future, and create authentic alternative futures.

And if this is all too much, there is always statistics and other fantasies to fall back on.

I would like to thank Dr. Levi Obiifor of the Communication Center for his editorial assistance in the preparation of this article.


1. Through efforts such as R.Slaughter, ed., The knowledge base of futures studies-Vols. 1-3. Melbourne, Futures Study Centre, 1996. Volume 4 titled Futurists: Visions, methods and stories  is forthcoming in 1998. See, also, R.Slaughter, (November, 1996). The knowledge base of futures studies as an evolving process. Futures , 28(9), 799-812.

2. For one effort at identifying the full range of futurists and what they think, see the special issue of Futures  titled What futurists think. 6(7), August/September, 1997.

3. The most recent effort is May, G. (1996).The future is ours. London: Adamantine. (See, in particular, his section on futures workshops, pages 194-199). Also, Bell, W. (1997). The foundations of futures studies. Two volumes. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. And, Kurian, G. T. and Molitor, G. T. T. (1996). Encyclopedia of the future. Two volumes. New York: Macmillan Library Reference.

4. See, for example, Linstone, H. (Spring 1985). What I have learned: The need for multiple perspectives. Futures Research Quarterly, 47-61. He divides futures into the technical, organizational and personal. Also see, Masini, E. and Gillwald, K. (1990). On futures studies and their social context with particular focus on West Germany. Technological Forecasting and Social Change , 38, 187-199. They take Linstone's model and apply it historically to Europe and the US, seeing futures as going through technical, organizational and personal phases. See also, Sardar, Z. (March 1993). Colonizing the future: the "other" dimension of futures studies. Futures , 25(2), 179-187. Sardar argues for a colonization/decolonization dialectic. The classic map of futures studies remains Roy Amara's division into preferred, possible and probable. See Amara, R. (February, April and June 1981). The futures field. The Futurist . See also, Bezold, C. and Hancock, T. (1993). An overview of the health futures field. Washington, DC: Institute for Alternative Futures. Bezold adds the plausible to Amara's three categories.

5. Inayatullah, S. (March 1990). Deconstructing and reconstructing the future: Predictive, cultural and critical epistemologies.Futures , 22(2), 115-141.

6. Inayatullah, S. (April 1993). From "who am I" to "when am I?": Framing the time and shape of the future. Futures , 25(3), 235-253.

7. The method I use to make the scenario more real is called "nuts and bolts." This is a strutural-functional analysis of the organization. If, for example, a current function of an organization, say, the courts, is to resolve disputes, I ask: what are some other ways to resolve disputes. What are some other sites instead of court buildings? If currently judges resolve disputes, what are other ways to resolve them? This method forces one into very specific structural-functional changes.

8 .Some of the following material is drawn from, "Teaching futures workshops: Leadership, ways of knowing and institutional politics," Futures Research Quarterly (forthcoming, 1998).

9. Working with Dr. Paul Wildman, Fellow in Futures Studies, International Management Centres, Pacific Region. Email:

10. Some of this material is drawn from, Inayatullah, S. and Wildman, P. Communicating Futures in Cross-Cultural Pedagogical Environments. Paper presented at the Conference on Teaching and Learning about Future Generations, OISE, University of Toronto, October 1995.

11. See Inayatullah, S. (October 1995). Futures visions for southeast Asia: Some early warning signals. Futures , 27(6), 681-688.

12. The material on Causal Layered Analysis is drawn from, Causal Layered Analysis: Poststructuralism as method, Research Paper, The Communication Centre, Queensland University of Technology, 1998.

13. In Pakistan, for example, parking spaces are rare. Parking as a regulatory discourse is not active there.

14. Most policy thus merely reinscribes the modern capitalist worldview. However, by noticing how a particular litany is shaped by a particular worldview, this allows us to enter alternative worldviews and articulate different policy statements based on them. At the same time, CLA in itself is part of a worldview--one committed to methodological eclecticism but in the framework of a layered, post-postmodern view of reality. It thus not only challenges the "totalizing nature of the empirical paradigm" (to use Paul Wildman's phrase) but as well the horizontal relativism of postmodernism.

15. See Wildman, P. and Inayatullah, S. (1997). Ways of knowing, culture, communication and the pedagogies of the future. Futures , 28(8), 723-740.

16. Rogers, M. (October 1997). Learning about the future. From the learner's perspective. Futures , 29(8), 763-768.


[1]   Through efforts such as Rick Slaughter, ed., The Knowledge Base of Futures Studies-Vols. 1-3. Melbourne, Futures Study Centre, 1996. Volume 4 titled Futurists: Visions, Methods and Stories is forthcoming in 1998. See, also, Rick Slaughter, "The knowledge base of futures studies as an evolving process," Futures (Vol. 28, No. 9, November, 1996), 799-812.

[2]   For one effort at identifying the full range of futurists and what they think, see the special issue of Futures titled "What Futurists Think." (Vol. 6, No. 7, August/September, 1997).

[3]   The most recent effort is Graham H. May's The Future is Ours. London, Adamantine, 1996 (See, in particular, his section on futures workshops, pages 194-199). Also, Wendell Bell's The Foundations of Futures Studies. Two Volumes. New Brunswick, New Jersey, Transaction Publishers, 1997. And, George Thomas Kurian and Graham T.T. Molitor, Encyclopedia of the Future. Two Volumes. New York, Macmillan Library Reference, 1996.

[4]   See, for example, Harold Linstone, "What I have Learned: The Need for Multiple Perspectives," Futures Research Quarterly (Spring 1985), 47-61. He divides futures into the technical, organizational and personal. Also see, Eleonora Masini and Karin Gillwald, "On Futures Studies and Their Social Context with Particular Focus on West Germany," Technological Forecasting and Social Change (Vol. 38, 1990), 187-199. They take Linstone's model and apply it historically to Europe and the US, seeing futures as going through technical, organizational and personal phases. See also, Zia Sardar, "Colonizing the future: the 'other' dimension of futures studies," Futures (Vol. 25, No. 2, March 1993), 179-187. Sardar argues for a colonization/decolonization dialectic. The classic map of futures studies remains Roy Amara's division into preferred, possible and probable. See his, Roy Amara, "The Futures Field," The Futurist (February, April and June 1981).  See also, Clement Bezold and Trevor Hancock, "An Overview of the Health Futures Field". Institute for Alternative Futures, Washington DC, 1993. 29 pages. Bezold adds the plausible to Amara's three categories.

[5]   Sohail Inayatullah, "Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Future: Predictive, Cultural and Critical Epistemologies," Futures (Vol. 22, No. 2, March 1990), 115-141.

[6]   Sohail Inayatullah, "From Who am I to When am I?: Framing the Time and Shape of the Future," Futures (Vol. 25, No. 3, April 1993), 235-253.

[7]   The method I use to make the scenario more real is called "nuts and bolts." This is a strutural-functional analysis of the organization.  If, for example, a current function of an organization, say, the courts, is to resolve disputes, I ask: what are some other ways to resolve disputes. What are some other sites instead of court buildings? If currently judges resolve disputes, what are other ways to resolve them? This method forces one into very specific structural-functional changes.

[8]   Some of the following material is drawn from, "Teaching Futures Workshops: Leadership, Ways of Knowing and Institutional Politics," Futures Research Quarterly (forthcoming, 1998).

[9]   Working with Dr. Paul Wildman, Fellow in Futures Studies, International Management Centres, Pacific Region. Email:

[10]  Some of this material is drawn from, Sohail Inayatullah and Paul Wildman, "Communicating Futures in Cross-Cultural Pedagogical Environments," Paper presented at the Conference on Teaching and Learning about Future Generations, OISE, University of Toronto, October 1995.

[11]          See Sohail Inayatullah, "Futures Visions for Southeast Asia: Some Early Warning Signals," Futures (Vol. 27, No. 6, October, 1995), 681-688.

[12]  The material on Causal Layered Analysis is drawn from, "Causal Layered Analysis: Poststructuralism as method," Research Paper, The Communication Centre, Queensland University of Technology, 1998.

[13]  In Pakistan, for example, parking spaces are rare - parking as a regulatory discourse is not active there.

[14]  Most policy thus merely reinscribes the modern capitalist worldview. However, by noticing how a particularly litany is shaped by a particularly worldview, this allows us to enter alternative worldviews and articulate different policy statements based on them.  At the same time, CLA in itself is part of a worldview - one committed to methodological eclecticism but in the framework of a layered, post-postmodern view of reality. It thus not only challenges the "totalizing nature of the empirical paradigm" (to use Paul Wildman's phrase) but as well the horizontal relativism of postmodernism.

[15]  See Paul Wildman and Sohail Inayatullah, "Ways of Knowing, Culture, Communication and the Pedagogies of the Future," Futures (Vol. 28, No. 8, 1997), 723-740.

[16]  Martha Rogers, "Learning about the Future. From the learner's Perspective." Futures (Vol. 29, No. 8, October 1997), 763-768.


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