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Grappling with the Futures: Insights from Philosophy, History, and Science, Technology and Society

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


Peer-reviewed paper: ‘Powerfully seductive forms of mass public entertainment and education’: narratives of the future at scientific soirées

'History alone’, remarked Eric Hobsbawm over 35 years ago, ‘provides orientation and anyone who faces the future without it is not only blind but dangerous, especially in the era of high technology' (1981, 16).
Taking scientific soireés as a case study, this presentation will explore the potential contribution of the growing field of visual STS to understanding the exploration of the futures as a material, social, and institutional practice. By the mid-19th century a typical soirée programme included an informal evening meeting at a museum, learned society or civic building, a trade-show like exhibition and a number of lectures (Alberti 2003). How have narratives of the future been mobilised and materialised through the informal networking and encounters with new technologies at these events? And are soirées forgotten or marginalised sites of future-making, amongst what Bennett (2004) called the ‘secondary discourses’ of exhibitions.
By focussing how our understanding of ‘futures past’ (Koselleck), can inform our anticipations of the future, this presentation also explores aims to broaden perceptions of the inter-relationships between past, present and future, and the agency of different understandings of history and of historical methodologies in the process. What do the internal geographies of such events tell us about the visions for the future development of the objects and expertise within the specialist disciplines concerned? In foregrounding the central role of museums in relation to futures, the presentation posits curatorial and exhibition development as powerful methodological resources for futures studies, reflecting social, cultural and economic concerns.

Event (Symposium)

TitleGrappling with the Futures: Insights from Philosophy, History, and Science, Technology and Society
LocationHarvard University
CountryUnited States