“Speculative Writing and the Future as an Actual Event” – Anthony Nestel
In Felicitas Macgilchrist, Heidrun Allert and Anne Bruch social science fiction paper titled Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology (2019) the writers propose three divergent possible futures for technology and education. While their three distinct future scenarios are extremely thought-provoking and insightful I will reflect on the speculative practice of writing about the future, or what they call social science fiction.
I believe that speculative, future-oriented academic writing situates itself within a process rather than outside. This writing, which can also be coined as writing-with, writes-with situations, manifestations or ideas rather than phenomena as static objects. Looking at phenomena as ever-changing events is to acknowledge that phenomena travel, transform in time and space. They are never static entities, where one can take distance from, they always exist in relation. (Heathfield 2006, 180) This relational aspect is the liveliness of the event – an event that describes the future in the present that is already a memory. Every perceptible and imperceptible alteration of the writing event alters the event’s course (take for example the introduction of the coronavirus). It is therefore that writing-with the event is to change the course of the event, in which the future takes part. To write-with the event is thus living the intensity of the present in the name of the future by appreciating one’s evolving role in the event.
Curator and writer Irit Rogoff wants to part away from the model of critique that operates outside the event. This sort of critique, as she argues, heightens awareness and lays upon judgment. In contrast, the embodied criticality, such as the paper mentioned above, comes from within since it creates from within a new world set in the future. This criticality from within, as Rogoff argues, has huge power for transformation because it is unpredictable: “So it would seem that criticality is in itself a mode of embodiment, a state from which one cannot exit or gain a critical distance but which rather marries our knowledge and our experience in ways that are not complimentary.” (Rogoff 2006, 2) The writers’ created futures are not entirely complimentary with their knowledge of the now (and the past). What is generated is a creative act, an embodied act from within, for the sake of movement – the event’s movement. This movement is directed towards the future, a time which will always, as Bergson teaches us, co-exist with the past. Students and society in the 2020s. will some time in the future co-exist with the year 2040 – the present year in the article.
- Allert, Eidrun, Bruch, Anne and Macgilchrist, Felicitas. 2019. “Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology.” Learning, Media and Technology, Volume 45 – Issue 1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235
- Bergson, Henri. 2004. Matter and Memory. New York: Dover Publications Inc.
- Heathfield, Adrian. 2006. Writing of the Event in A Performance Cosmology, ed. By Judie Christie, Richard Gough and Daniel Watt. London: Routledge.
- Rogoff, Irit. 2006. Smuggling: An Embodied Criticality. https:// gold.rl.talis.com/items/48A2BAC5-8C5B-0602-2E97-863D663C78C6.html.