Fantasy. Or as capitalism prefers to call it “market research."
November 8, 2016 8:45 AM   Subscribe

The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Issue a Press Release: Audrey Watters, a folklorist by training, examines the storytelling techniques of technology forecasting (especially ed-tech forecasting): If you repeat this fantasy, these predictions often enough, if you repeat it in front of powerful investors, university administrators, politicians, journalists, then the fantasy becomes factualized. (Not factual. Not true. But “truthy,” to borrow from Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness.”) So you repeat the fantasy in order to direct and to control the future. Because this is key: the fantasy then becomes the basis for decision-making.
posted by Cash4Lead (6 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
One of the best essays on afrofuturism that I've read (and one of the best lit crit essays generally), Kodwo Eshun's (PDF) Further Considerations on Afrofuturism makes this point, drawing on Mark Fisher's idea of science fiction capital.

If global scenarios are descriptions that are primarily concerned with making
futures safe for the market, then Afrofuturism’s first priority is to recognize
that Africa increasingly exists as the object of futurist projection.
African social reality is overdetermined by intimidating global scenarios,
doomsday economic projections, weather predictions, medical reports on
AIDS, and life-expectancy forecasts, all of which predict decades of immiserization.

The essay says/implies that there's a political fight over competing futures, and you create the story of the future by what you select from the present and the past. You follow a thread, and you pick which thread, and the threads that the bad guys want to pick are the threads the lead to hierarchy, misery and oppression. They try to pretend that these are the only futures, not competing futures.

My idea when I read this is that there must also be an "Afropastism", where you start in the past and you trace a past that leads to a better future - that there are also competing pasts, and that we're fighting over which ones count.
posted by Frowner at 9:03 AM on November 8, 2016 [15 favorites]

Frowner, thank you for revealing to me that I hadn't been taking Afrofuturism seriously enough. The sudden juxtaposition of what I usually consider the realm of Sun Ra and Nnedi Okorafor's novels with the problematic lock I see that Silicon Valley types have on "futurist" as a job title revealed to me a structural racism I hadn't even realized I should be fighting, but which is very near to my heart. This is fertile ground for rethinking power. Thank you.
posted by gusandrews at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Love this on the difference between innovation/consumption:
But we can’t claim that the pace of technological change is speeding up just because we personally go out and buy a new iPhone every time Apple tells us the old model is obsolete. Removing the headphone jack from the latest iPhone does not mean “technology changing faster than ever,” nor does showing how headphones have changed since the 1970s. None of this is really a reflection of the pace of change; it’s a reflection of our disposable income and a ideology of obsolescence.
posted by not_the_water at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

Really, the main thing you need to know is almost all "ed tech" is driven by the desperate desire of Capital to industrialize education so it can be strip-mined for the last few nickels. As usual, Capital isn't thinking more than a few moves ahead.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

I can't sufficiently favorite this post...I primer for me was David F. Noble's 1979 America by Design
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:32 PM on November 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was depressingly eye-opening, however, to see how "pulled out of thin air" things like the Horizon reports are.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:16 AM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

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