Category Archives: News


Futures special issue on inaugural emerge conference

Several articles, including one I wrote called “Starting with Universe: Buckminster Fuller’s Design Science Now,” are now available in a Futures Special Section on Mediating Futures; Guest Edited by Cynthia Selin.

The special section collects different research perspectives on the inaugural Emerge: Artists + Scientists Reinvent the Future. This was an unparalleled campus–wide event uniting artists, engineers, bio scientists, social scientists, story–tellers and designers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share.

Selin introduces the special section this way:

Emerge: Artists and Scientists Redesign the Future, hosted by Arizona State University in 2012, united artists, engineers, bioscientists, social scientists, storytellers and designers to build, draw, write and play with the future. Over three days, and in nine different workshops, participants created games, products, monuments, images and stories in an effort to reveal the texture and feel of emergent futures. The Emerge workshops drew from a burgeoning field of future-oriented methods that infuse art, design and information technology into the development and delivery of scenarios and design fictions – a constellation of practices I call “mediated scenarios”. This introduction and the articles in this special issue, work to make sense of these emerging practices, and of Emerge itself, in order to develop appreciation of this rising genre. In doing so, the papers in this issue ask critical questions about the nature of these novel forms of foresight practice and investigate the trade-offs and potencies involved in the workings of mediated scenarios.

Global leaders from industry and creative practice joined ASU faculty and talented students for hands-on workshops as well as the Digital Culture Festival which included exhibits, interactive shows and live presentations. ASU and Emerge featured a line-up of world class keynote speakers for the conference-closing Keynotes Session including noted writers, designers and futurists such as Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline), Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine, Beyond the Beyond), Sherry Turkle (Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other), Bruce Mau (Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, Massive Change Network), Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Remade) and ASU President Michael Crow.

Here was our public presentation on the Starting with Universe workshop themes delivered by my long-time collaborator, David McConville, Board Chair of the Buckminster Fuller Institute.


New chapter on public engagement in international environmental policy

governing_biodiversityUntil the spring of 2012, many of the members of the network Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) had been (for the most part) merely talking about how to make a decentralized model for participatory Technology Assessment possible. It was that spring that we learned that the Danish Board of Technology would again be hosting a World Wide Views global deliberation to provide citizen input into the United Nations Cop11, Convention on Biological Diversity. By the fall, ECAST had managed to organize four sites in the United States to hold this one day meeting, recruiting 100 participants at each site.

There is now a new book out chronicling the experiences of site hosts and researchers who were involved in the event. Governing Biodiversity Through Democratic Deliberation focuses on the intersection of global biodiversity policy and the promise of deliberative democracy.

I and the Director of the Forums program at the Museum of Science Boston, David Sittenfeld, have a chapter in this one entitled “Amplifying deliberative results to access policy networks: the role of informal science education institutions.” In it we argue that deliberative mechanisms like WWViews on Biodiversity involve only a small number of citizens in questions about the global issues that these initiatives address. In response to these concerns and recognizing that even successful dissemination such as the experience at COP 11 is narrowly focused, additional efforts to ‘amplify’ wider consideration of the WWViews themes and the results of the formal dialog events cast a wider net to involve diverse networks, stakeholders and citizens. ‘Amplification’ encompasses efforts to communicate the results of the WWViews citizen deliberation to decision makers and to engage a broader public in activities that expand popular understanding and debate about biodiversity governance.

We derive a notion of how to identify important variables that help or hinder amplification from parallel definitions of contextually situated science and social values. We use a recent policy assessment of the efficacy of climate data in decision making that offers a definition of ‘usable science’ (Pielke, Jr. et al, 2010) as data that can be taken advantage of by decision makers because it is well situated in an institutional context. We posit that social values must also be rendered ‘usable’ in similar ways (Worthington et al, 2012: 49). We pair this concept of contextually situated scientific knowledge and social values with the theory of deliberative systems (Dryzek, 2009) as the framework for our analysis of the Informal Science Education Insitutions’ (ISEs) role in the WWViews event. This systemic view is built upon a theoretical synthesis of the concepts of ‘amplification’ through the dialog event and companion activities as a function ‘civic capacity building.’


Dryzek, J.S. (2009) ‘Democratization as Deliberative Capacity Building’, Comparative Political Studies, vol. 42, no. 11, pp. 1379–1402.

Pielke, Jr., R., Sarewitz, D. and Dilling, L. (2010) ‘Usable Science: A Handbook for Science Policy Decision Makers’ at

Worthington, R., Cavalier, D., Farooque, M., Gano, G., Geddes, H., Sander, S., Sittenfeld, D. and Tomblin, D. (2012) ‘Technology assessment and public participation: From TA to pTA’, Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) report at

Participate in online forum to Inform NASA’s Asteroid Initiative

The next phase of Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative is an open invite to participate and weigh in on the questions considered by the in-person and online forums.

This phase is open now, and anyone can participate. Visit to get started.

Why participate?

“Public engagement is crucial to the effective development of science and technology policy,” said David Guston, Co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO), one of the founding members of ECAST. “It is essential to consider input from diverse constituents, and nowhere are citizens’ values, hopes and dreams more important than in the future of the planet and the future of humans in space.”

Danish Board of Technology will run World Wide Views on Climate and Energy for Cop 21

World Wide Views on Climate and Energy (WWViews on Climate and Energy) is a global citizen consultation, providing unique information about how far citizens around the world are willing to go, in order to deal with climate change and to bring forward an energy transition.

On the same day, citizens selected to reflect the demographic diversity in their countries or regions (at least 100 per country or region) will attend daylong meetings, starting at dawn in the Pacific, and continuing until dusk in the Americas. The ambition is to involve 10,000 citizens in 100 countries. All citizens will receive information about pros, cons and views on different climate and energy policies, targets and measures (both in advance and on that day) and all meetings will follow the same agenda and guidelines in order to make the results comparable.

Citizens will express their views on an identical set of questions, designed to reflect policy controversies at the COP negotiations and political discussions about climate and energy in general. The results will be published in real-time via a web-tool, allowing for easy exploration and comparisons of results; one country with another, developed countries with developing, etc.

ECAST awarded a cooperative agreement with NASA

asteroid_sample_retrievalNASA wants to know what the public thinks about how the agency is accomplishing both the Asteroid Grand Challenge and the Asteroid Redirect Mission, what inspires them about exploration, and what they think is valuable in the mission to find, capture, move and explore an asteroid.

Last year, the agency asked for ideas on how to engage the public directly in the Asteroid Initiative. One highly-rated response to the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information was the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a consortium of respected universities, science centers and non-governmental organizations. After a presentation at the 2013 Asteroid Initiative Workshop, NASA chose to award the ECAST consortium a cooperative agreement to conduct peer-to-peer deliberations and solicit citizen input on NASA’s asteroid initiative.

Exhibition and Opening Reception: Futurescape Springfield

FCT_email_postcardDuring the 19th and early 20th centuries, Springfield was a center of innovation in technology and manufacturing. Today Springfield is a great place to ask “what’s next”? Funded by the National Science Foundation under the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), Futurescape City Tours are interactive, community engagement projects where participants explore how new technologies could change their city and their lives in the near future. Springfield is one of six cities, including St.Paul, MN; Portland, OR; Phoenix,AZ; Edmonton, Alberta; and Washington, D.C., hosting engagements in which local residents, stakeholders, scientists and engineers tour their neighborhoods and talk about how new technologies like nanotechnology may change buildings, transportation, food, healthcare, energy use and more. Join us for an Exhibition and Opening Reception of photographs and material artifacts from the Springfield tour. Thursday, December 12, 5:30-8:30PM at the UMass Design Center @ Court Square, Springfield, MA