Data Ecologies 14

Posted June 22, 2014 by Alkan Chipperfield

This post seeks to narrate and summarise the proceedings of the recent Data Ecologies 14 symposium from the skewed viewpoint of an intrigued and perplexed outsider.1 Held over two days between 23–24 May on the theme of “languages and tools to think out loud about futures,” the symposium was conceived, organised and hosted by Time’s Up as part of the Future Fabulators project. The Data Ecologies programme itself first emerged in 2003 as an ongoing, biennial workshop and forum to discuss the similarities between computing and ecological systems, but has since come to focus more on the connections between abstraction and reality, the fictional and the actual, the description and its implementation. This sixth edition of DE sought to “dive into a discussion of how this process of concretisation works, how we talk about and design experiences of possible futures [and] how to meaningfully engage others and ourselves in this process.” Speakers at DE14 were: Julian Bleecker (remotely), Mara Dionisio, Trevor Haldenby, Julian Hanna, Maja Kuzmanovic (with Nik Gaffney), Eva Lenz, Justin Pickard, Scott Smith, and Peter von Stackelberg.2

We arrived in Linz late evening on 22 May hot off barrelling down the autobahn at unhealthily exhilarating speeds, just in time to meet our fellow data ecologists for an after-dinner toast – and to be greeted by warm hugs, meticulously organised schedules and most generously donated apartments courtesy of Time’s Up logistics sorceress, Andrea Strasser. Next morning on stepping into the Kunstraum on Goethestraße, the symposium venue, we were disassembled by walls and ceilings of plated mirrors into the vermilion sands of the future.

The more specific intended focus of the symposium was to look at a number of interrelated kinds of languages and tools for “thinking out loud” about futures: experience design, experiential futures, prehearsals, scenario planning, transmedia storytelling, and design fiction. Each of the speakers framed their talk in terms of one or more of these areas, and fleshed it out by drawing on insights and examples from their own experience as practitioners of the art and craft of future fabulation.

Physical Narratives

Proceedings commenced with Tim Boykett and Tina Auer of Time’s Up, who set the scene for the symposium as a whole and suggested how their own work in physical narratives could be a useful way to present and explore possible futures. They discussed their early projects as partly a reaction to the craze of “virtuality” sweeping the 90s, which as such sought to invite people to explore and interact on a tactile, intuitive and visceral level with “playful hardware” interfaces, not as objects but as components that would fit together and become immersive environments. Identifying themselves more as facilitators than necessarily as artists, and favouring the idea of “visitors” rather than an “audience,” Time’s Up instilled their projects with layers of detail that encouraged an approach of protoscientific exploration, reflection and discussion – moments of “wait, did you see that?!” which would have visitors returning to discover more. Examples of these early works were Compendulum, giant swings that gave adults and excuse to play like children, and Gravitron, which invited visitors to explore an interface that was controlled by whole-body joysticks.

As time went on, Time’s Up became increasingly interested in building story elements into their work, leading to their current preoccupation with “physical narratives.” These are best elucidated through examples. Domestic Bliss was “a mediated crime, a ghost story built into an old apartment” containing audio, visual and physical media that encouraged a feeling of reality. Visitors would be scared out of the room when a cupboard shook, and thunder and lightning effects had people reaching for their umbrellas even though it was sunny outside. Stored in a Bank Vault narrated the story of a bank heist in multiple connected rooms. Visitors could get an impression of the overall narrative arc from an initial survey of the scene, but it was only when they set about exploring the numerous physical details that they would discover the deeper layers of the story. Entering a physical narrative space, you are like a visitor left alone in an acquaintance’s office or living room and invited to make yourself at home: you might just politely sit and wait for them to return, you might (still politely) browse their bookshelves – or you might start exploring the physical evidence around you and make connections between objects – a half-empty wine glass, a torn-up letter.

As Time’s Up defines them, physical narratives need to be physical – there must be a physical space and objects for people to explore. They have to be more than surface, with multiple layers and resonances suggested by the accretion of physical evidence, and carefully authored to build a story which also depicts traces of the identity and experience of the characters within the story. At the same time a physical narrative is not theatre – the only “actors” in the scene are mechanical or digital. Finally, the narrative exists independently of the visitors, present in and played out through the space itself.

Unshocked Futures

With a gift for epitomising a whole state of affairs or worldview in a concise epigram, Scott Smith nevertheless managed to cover a lot of ground indeed in his talk. Founder of Changeist – a lab, research think tank and studio aimed at identifying and making sense of “weak signals of change” – his work spans twenty years’ experience tracking social, cultural, technological and economic trends and helping organisations navigate complex futures. Many of the themes and issues he raised would echo throughout the symposium: using the physical artefact to reflect on, examine and explore possible futures; the implications of (mass) media portrayals of the future; a concern with subtle, nuanced, everyday realities – their “mess, complexity, entrenched and regressive facets” – rather than with an idealised and sanitised realm of hypothetical “superheroes”; a preoccupation with the perceptions and expectations of everyday people, everyday lives, the ubiquitous “person on the street,” and how to engage such individuals as active agents in co-created futures.

The thrust of Scott’s argument for “unshocking the future” was thus to rebalance a slick, dehistoricised, “corporate vision” of the future with something more immediately comprehensible in terms of our everyday lives. He outlined several examples, such as Corning’s World Made of Glass and Microsoft’s Future of Productivity, where scenario authors have “overcooked” circumstances and personas in what amounts to a fictionalised world that has little bearing on real life: where the future has made a radical break with the past, and its protagonist is “the perfect user/consumer, whose average day is an unending sequence of early adopter behaviors or optimal use cases, complete with flawless experiences of new products.” While radical scenarios have their place, their tendency to veer into the absolute and become petri dishes of total transformation can make them “the strategic equivalent of escapism.”3

In contrast to this, Scott appealed to a perspective encapsulated in Nick Foster’s phrase, the “future mundane.” Real life is very often not all that sudden or shocking. In two of the most overused and clichéd tropes emerging from twentieth-century imaginaries of the future, we still don’t take a pill for breakfast or fly with jet packs. Moments of sudden, total technological, social, cultural, and even environmental rupture or transformation are few and far between (though of course, they do happen). Mostly our lives proceed through very small, incremental changes and it’s likely that the next week, month or year is going to resemble yesterday – with slight differences. The challenge, as Scott notes, is to identify which of these slight deviations in the near future may become “drivers of our world’s evolution in the long term.”4 Scott cited several productions that engaged with this kind of perspective, including Tobias Revell’s video Monopoly of Legitimate Use, Near Future Laboratory’s short film Corner Convenience, and CBS TV’s mainstream show, The Good Wife. But the most fascinating embodiment of “future mundane” as a public intervention was surely Near Future Laboratory’s Winning Formula.

Conceived and directed by Fabien Girardin of the Near Future Laboratory and developed by a team that included, in addition to Scott himself, Philippe Gargov, designers Bestiario, and a several writers including Natalie Kane and Margot Baldassi, Winning Formula took the form of a meticulously true-to-life newspaper sports section published during the peak of the European football season, with the World Cup just around the corner – except that it was dated April, 2018. From the outset the idea was “to give the newspaper, which we called Today with intentional irony, as much of a realistic, mundane feel as possible in appearance and content. We wanted it to be a practical, simple and ephemeral artefact, one that could hide in plain sight.” It portrayed “just the sorts of tensions that technology’s advance creates in many other spheres of life, played out on a global field, so to speak, where passions, allegiances, and affiliations can run deep,” and explored such themes as “data doping,” the technopolitics of a World Cup event, as well as back-page articles about grapheme-clay court tennis and cricket in China – “different corners of a near future through the familiar vernacular that shapes sport reporting.”5

The newspaper artefact was disseminated at a variety of venues hosting a range of audiences, with the primary target being the National Football Museum in Manchester during the FutureEverything festival. This forum offered the designers (many of whom are reportedly closet football fans themselves) an opportunity to see if discussions on such themes as big data could be thrown into the heart of Manchester football culture. The newspaper was also “rewilded” in the wider urban context with the idea that it could be given “a brief life among the other free-floating newspapers around the city, going where today’s (or tomorrow’s) news goes, maybe to be found days later by a passerby, picked up by an unwitting late night reveller, taken to a cashier for purchase (it has a barcode), or just used to wrap fish and chips somewhere.” The Manchester Evening News also helped by inserting an edited version of Today in 130,000 copies of a Friday night run of its paper.6

By way of conclusion, Scott summarised the key ingredients of “unshocked futures,” one of which was the potentially polyvalent notion of “calibrating uncanniness.” Further discussion during the question and answer session suggested that this would involve both a way of measuring the type of impact a design fiction has on its audience, while at the same time demanding some form of shared vocabulary to discuss these measurements. Similar to the situation with The Mission Business’s ZED.TO (see below), Scott acknowledged that his team foundered somewhat on how exactly to do this. The lack of an adequate, shared vocabulary for this kind of research hindered the process of reviewing and assessing the impact of projects like Winning Formula. But developing more concrete ways of determining their success is, we are assured, on the to-do list.

Further evidence of the future mundane was presented in a peculiarly disjointed experimental video dispatch from Julian Bleecker of the Near Future Laboratory. He showcased a recent work of design fiction that sought to take speculation and camouflage it within the very prosaic medium of a product catalogue. Similar to the Today newspaper, a meticulous eye for detail and mimicry of the already familiar was used to explore subtleties rather than extremities and further engage audiences in imagining unshocked futures. Meanwhile, Eva Lenz of the Industrial Design Department at Folkwang University, Essen explored futures design from a very different angle. Emphasising that experience design is much more about designing the intangible stories surrounding and embedded within a particular product than the actual technological artefact in isolation, she presented a simple model based on action theory that she and her colleagues employed to design for particular experiences rather than product categories. Embodied in such experimental products as the MO Loudspeaker and the CoffeeShaker, her approach was conveniently summarised in a set of “Needs cards” – a structured tool to aid in designing the intangible side of things.

Designing stories is the cornerstone of freelance transmedia worldbuilder, story architect and futurist Peter von Stackelberg. He presented a very detailed account of the process of creating transmedia worlds that covered narrative design, audience engagement, user interaction, and the importance of emotional engagement throughout, drawing from his wide experience to illustrate each of these processes. A unique case study in such design of transmedia worlds was presented by Mara Dionisio and Julian Hanna of the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute. Highlighting the distinctive characteristics of the island of Madeira, which historically acted as a port of call for transatlantic voyages to the New World and effectively became a “living lab” for plants introduced from the Americas back into Europe, they outlined a “portmanteau transmedia” story consisting of a single experience told across multiple platforms that went beyond the screen and into the streets of Funchal (Madeira’s capital). Roughly, the backstory follows nineteenth-century heroine Laura Silva who, after some colourful adventures, comes to the Laurisilva forest and devotes her life to creating a vast herbarium of the remarkable plants there. She perishes in Funchal’s great aluvião of 1803 and the manuscript is presumed lost. The transmedia narrative takes up from this backstory as a detective hunt to find traces and clues of the manuscript – with the goal of encouraging alternate ways for tourists to explore Madeira and hopefully become aware of the unique value of the Laurisilva forest and the importance of its preservation.

Shocked Futures

While the emphasis has hitherto been on the microcosmic, everyday, and mundane, surely the lure of a a good old massively multiplayer, dystopian apocalyptic epic remains irresistible. Based in Toronto, Trevor Haldenby of The Mission Business presented a “pervasive transmedia scenario” of how biotech in the hands of greedy corporate execs can go horribly wrong. Created by The Mission Business and running over the course of eight months during 2012–13, ZED.TO was an ambitious production narrating the beginning of the end of the world due to a viral pandemic engineered by fictional Toronto-based biotech company ByoLogyc, and enacted in real-time through a carefully orchestrated combination of interactive theatre and online content. With a corporate website showcasing the company’s range of biotech lifestyle enhancement products, slick and genuinely creepy promotional videos, a strong Twitter presence, a Facebook app, a graphic novel and even an intern programme, the online component was entwined with several live participatory theatrical events held at various places across Toronto. Actors were cast as the company’s staff, including sinister mastermind and CEO, Chet Getram (played by Andrew Moyes).

As the story unfolded of a critical hack into the ByoLogyc database and subsequent mutation of one of their flagship products, ByoRenew, into a deadly virus, many players evolved from being audiences to co-creators, culminating in the emergence of hacker group EXE – the anarchic antithesis of ByoLogyc whose mission was to expose the company’s wrongdoings on their ByoLeaks site. This group emerged mainly through the initiative of participants themselves, and became an experiment in allowing the audience to take control of a major story element of the narrative which was then more or less seamlessly incorporated into the overarching scripted story.

The project was a great success (and looked like enormous fun to be a part of), winning several accolades as well as international reviews from the likes of Bruce Sterling. Reflecting on the message behind the production, Trevor has summarised ByoLogyc and its CEO as “a living experiment designed to explore how the language of human-centred design, sustainable business, and social innovation could be used to obscure a nefarious and short-sighted vision of profit as generated by a new biological economy.” ZED.TO represented a “new kind of entertainment and education experience” for “engaging mass audiences in a critical conversation about the future of an industry, a technological paradigm, and the human values that drive it.”7

The project brought up other interesting questions. Part of the thrill of alternate reality games is of course their blurring of the boundaries between “game” and “life” for both participants and producers. Trevor admitted that they didn’t quite know at the beginning if people saw ByoLogyc as a real company or an entry point into a game. As the story developed into an extreme, end-of-the-world scenario, it became increasingly clear to participants that it was a playful experience, but this apparently didn’t stop The Mission Business’s lawyers from getting worried. Concerning participant observation – or rather, the observation of participants – it was also acknowledged that the biggest design oversight was not integrating a way to “calibrate uncanniness” in the project. The producers accumulated a lot of video footage of players’ activity, and people were certainly deeply engaged in commenting on and discussing the game through Twitter and the like, but nobody was stepping back to reflect upon the theatrical experience as a whole. However, Trevor avers that The Mission Factory is thinking hard about ways to integrate ethnographic methods into future projects.

Unevenly Ridiculous Tangential Clouds

Enter tangent generator extraordinaire8 Justin Pickard, who possibly managed to pack the equivalent of twenty presentation’s-worth of pufferfish spikes into one. And yet the gist of his message was actually quite circumscribed. Beginning with a reminder of the perils of “expert-driven practice,” he observed that the futures field is very often represented as a Platonic realm of perfect forms, neutral, technocratic, depoliticised, and top-down. Arguing that this illusion of total knowledge, the pretence of objectivity and a neutral, God’s-eye view from nowhere or from above “is not simply wrong, but actively disingenuous,” he outlined the problematic implications of the professionalisation of foresight: inbreeding and a limited “gene/meme pool,” groupthink, compulsory “passage points” enforced by a gatekeeping elite, specialist understandings and knowledges that become simplified, socialised, self-fulfilling prophecies. Furthermore, the critical dimension of future uncertainty is often approached through the lens of risk, as risk factors that are boiled down until they can seemingly be quantified in numbers, leading to the often misguided notion that what is unknown and unknowable can be dealt with as a statistical probability. In short, “futures work is too heroic, too strategic, too logocentric, too ocular.” To address these concerns, he suggested that we reappraise the profession within a wider context, seeing it as “a social undertaking, and only one point in a much wider field of strategies and tactics for dealing with the future.”

Justin framed this broader approach within a discussion of uncertainty, and “how, in in a time of societal turboparalysis and looming climate disaster, we could best use our energies to advance the field” of futures. In effect, this seemed mainly to boil down to getting dangerously, sophisticatedly, and thoroughly weird, and becoming pufferfish.9 The ensuing tangential whirlwind included advocations for doing nothing at appropriate moments (though it’s very hard since you never know when your finished); looking at divination, ritual, Tarot and astrology as ways of making sense through patterns; cathedral building in the middle ages in which builders learnt through doing and took sometimes over a century to complete their works; enacting laboratories through experiments, rathe than vice versa. It included hydras, juggads, and shanzai; croudsourcing the constitution in Iceland; urban acupuncture, zine culture, ginnovation, gonzo journalism, and the “law of anarchist calisthenics.” And this was only scratching the very tip of the iceberg. Suggesting a “liminal interstate” that’s not market or state but something slightly illegal or vague, the common denominator underlying all these pragmatic approaches to uncertainty might be said to be a revaluation of the pluralistic, bottom-up, DIY, small to medium-scale intervention as the favoured mode of engagement, within which strategic foresight and futures work might be realigned as one set of discourses and tools among many.

Maja Kuzmanovic of FoAM came to her presentation as though host to a swirling nimbus of liminal beings and states (and things in between) which included Aleister Crowley, Italo Calvino, sundry mystics, luminous talking plants, and interweaving mycelial webs of storylines and trendchunks. She portrayed FoAM’s approach to futures as departing from a point of radical doubt. FoAM’s members and collaborators doubt the predominantly analytical, verbal and rational approaches and their origins from which they borrow; they doubt whether they understand the futures field at all; but most importantly, they doubt whether the very preoccupation with the future detracts from our experience and appreciation of the present moment. Rather than becoming paralysed with doubt, however, they take their doubts with them, “preferring experience over doctrine and digging deeper into the subject at hand … as doubting, oscillating, or edge futurists.”

Outlining the prehistory of FoAM and her own background, Maja noted that working with change and foresight has been on FoAM’s agenda from the beginning, and the way this thread has evolved offers an interesting parallel history to that of Time’s Up, with whom FoAM has collaborated for over a decade, sharing “similar conceptual and ethical starting points, but very different aesthetics.” From an interest in forecasting through fashion and textile design, the creation of a transmedia story worlds inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and early online communities such as LamdaMOO, the founding of FoAM in 2000 and the production of large scale “responsive playspaces” similar to those of Time’s Up, to their longest running initiative, groWorld, the enduring focus has been on things that grow and evolve, on creating worlds rather than single products or artworks, and is best summed up in FoAM’s motto, “grow your own worlds.”

While Time’s Up removes actors from its physical narratives, FoAM has sought to bring everyone into the story as characters in such physical and online narratives as Borrowed Scenery, where participants were immersed in a parallel reality in which plants are central aspects of human society through online games, workshops, walks, choir concerts in botanic gardens, eavesdropping on mycelial networks and “connecting our brains to ferns.” In parallel, FoAM began looking at ways to “prototype ‘what-if’ questions as immersive experiences to make the urgency of dealing with environmental and social challenges more tangible and discussable.” Resilients was a project that tackled the question of cultural resilience in times of social and environmental turbulence. FoAM’s part in the project was to look for ways to prepare for any possible future, and this led directly to an interest in scenario building and experiential future pre-enactments or “prehearsals” which are their primary concern in the Future Fabulators project.

While FoAM draws on a number of tools and techniques familiar to everyone in the futures field, previous experience in responsive environments, alternate reality narratives, and even human-plant interaction necessarily makes their approach somewhat distinctive. In Future Fabulators, they seek to bring the experience of possible futures into the present. Firstly sketching the scenarios and fleshing out the narratives in words and images, the next step is translating these abstractions into embodied experience through pre-enactments. A key difference in comparison to most of the approaches discussed previously is that this process must include participants from beginning to end. “There are no stories premade by ‘foresight experts’ or designers – they are created by our ‘experts of everyday life,’ the people whose futures we’re exploring.” This kind of “embodied improvisation” takes people out of the comfort zone of words, ideas and thought-experiments into the uncertain realm of somatic, emotional, creative, interpersonal engagement.

Borrowing from theatre improv, meditation, disaster drills, action research and experience design, this approach invites participants to imagine their actions, feelings, personalities and behaviour in the alternate scenario. The process is not always easy and participants are often tempted to turn themselves into superheroes or play the role of a different character entirely. Contradictions and misunderstandings can become conspicuous when the the words and images of the scenario planning stage are prototyped in action. “It can be unexpected or uncomfortable, but it is usually quite revealing – both about the situations and about participants’ habitual behaviours.” But the experience can lead participants to recognise a scenario as a caricature of their present condition, at which point it’s like they acquire a “mysterious searchlight that can be used to illuminate different parts of an otherwise murky, entangled situation.” Such moments of clarity that spark the imagination and encourage a more proactive engagement with one’s life constitute the most rewarding moments of future prehearsals.

Maja rounded out her talk by looking at Italo Calvino’s “six virtues” of the new millennium, which have been FoAM’s guiding lights throughout its fifteen-year existence, and related these to their experiments in experiential futurism. Memorable syncretisms included the lightness of sharing an image of the future that sloughs off the ties to a consensus present and can lift participants into a temporary magical world; the quickness involved in facilitating futures sessions, capturing moments of inspiration from any person in the room and folding them into the narrative in a matter of minutes; the need for exactitude in the careful planning and testing of each component of the scenario workshop and its overall flow; the importance of the language and images used in crafting stories about the future to draw out their visibility; the multiplicity needed to bring a scenario world thickly into reality; and the latent consistency emerging from the prehearsal and carried through into everyday life by the participants themselves. The hope is, Maja concluded, to free foresight from its utilitarian, functional, and goal-oriented futures and take it in more speculative and whimsical directions – even giving voice to the voiceless entities with whom we share our futures.

Guys in Glasses and Black Elephant Selfies

With Justin and Maja we were reminded of several themes and concerns that seemed to fall off the beaten track and slip between the gaps of the symposium’s main avenues of enquiry. It was accidental and shouldn’t make a difference anyway (though we all know that on both more and less subtle levels it does) but with the exception of Maja, Eva, Mara and Tina, it was impossible to overlook a preponderance of Anglo-Saxon guys at this symposium (almost all wearing glasses at that!). We know Time’s Up tried to counter such biases. As well as Noah Raford and Stuart Candy, they invited Fiona Raby of Duanne and Raby and Agatha Jaworska, but these people had prior commitments and couldn’t attend. There’s no doubt they would have enriched the scope of the discussion and taken it in alternate directions. Even so, one couldn’t help reflecting on the implications if our futures, too, remain fractured along the very same gender and ethnicity lines as our pasts.

In the same vein, by the end of the symposium I was acutely missing the direct representation of something like alternate social, cultural, philosophical and spiritual worldviews – not just as cosmetic dressings to our own (and sidestepping for now the debate about what “our own” and “alternate” might exactly entail), but as serious systems for understanding time, space, causation, and thus also the symposium’s key concerns of agency and engagement. Granted I was never expecting a conference on astrology (there are plenty of these already). But I thought it would have been stimulating and productive to engender a collision between the prevailing tenor of the futurologies fields represented here with alternative “futurisms,” even if these might not be immediately recognisable as such. In short, I would have liked the symposium to bust out of the “Anglo-Eurobubble” on a few more occasions than it did.

If anthropology has been haunted throughout its existence by the spectre of the cultural “Other,” which must variously be understood, analysed, engaged, destroyed, embraced, objectified or subjectified, objected to or subjected – then the futures field (as represented here) appears to be similarly haunted by the ubiquitous “Person on the Street.” At first, this entity remained somewhat mysterious and perplexing to me. I could gather that it was a “non-expert,” it did not possess specialist knowledge, that it was susceptible to the blandishments of advertising and mass media persuasion; hence that it may need to be guided, engaged and encouraged, enlightened but also forewarned of potential perils in its path. It was not unintelligent, exactly; merely perhaps uninformed, at worst misinformed. Reading between the lines, it might be said to suffer a little from apathy; or maybe in some cases just plain indifference. The more I pondered this entity, the more familiar it sounded. I really got to thinking and finally realised: hey, this sounds just like me.

Cuing from the themes mentioned in Justin and Maja’s talks – the concern here is that if we really want to transcend the divide of “expert” and “lay,” such an entity must cease to exist. How many of us have actually not set foot on a street in our lives? If we’re all collectively people on the street, then the Person on the Street becomes an undefinable, meaningless quantity. Conversely, the notion of “expert” becomes proportionately diluted. In this perspective, we’re all simultaneously “experts of everyday life.” Which experts, then, can claim ultimate authority in determining who needs to be “enlightened,” and in what ways? If we really want to promote a future of radical co-creation beyond the experts of big corporations, big data, big governments (and any other big fish in the pond), it would surely also involve the (possibly unsettling) relativisation of our own positions as privileged players in the field.

This symposium was a pleasure to attend. It was awe-inspiring to be among so many remarkable people packed into one place and time. The hospitality of Time’s Up, as well as Luis and Sandra letting their apartments to us for several days, was nothing short of Homeric. The hand of Andrea’s managerial magic has already been mentioned. Several anarchic, absurdist, and tasty dinners added icing to the cake. Big thanks to all!


Written sequestered in a high tower tower to the flu-like symptoms of workshop overload, and in the deep countryside assailed by soft breezes, flowers, and indefatigable acrobatic monkey leprechauns jumping off the walls and ceilings.

It would be both unwieldily and redundant to attempt an exhaustive discussion of each speaker’s presentation here. Risking omission and misrepresentation, this writeup has its eye on some of the perceived highlights of the symposium, and as such is very unevenly selective (without of course implying final value judgements on any of the presentations themselves!). Interested readers can pursue links to the symposium notes and external websites to rectify these omissions.

The following summary leans heavily on the symposium minutes assiduously taken by Tina Auer, Pippa Buchanan, Nina Wenhart, and Maja Kuzmanovic, and posted on the Physical Narration wiki and the Libarynth. Other general sources include,,,,

Scott Smith, “Tomorrow is Today, Just Later,” 22 July 2008,


Scott Smith, “Winning Formula: Future of Data and Football,” 10 June 2014,; “Winning Formula by Near Future Laboratory,”


Trevor Haldenby, “April Fools: The Truth about ByoLogyc‏,”

In Pippa Buchanan’s apt phrasing.

From a Bruce Sterling quote that seemed to make its way around the symposium several times.