Data for Foresight Research

"Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era: History, Purposes, Knowledge (Human Science for a New Era, 1)" by Wendell Bell is one the best book I've read in the last couple of months. It's definitely the bible of foresight research with some extensive discussion of future research epistemology, introduction to research methods, a detailed description of assumptions and examples of work. I won't comment on the whole thing but will maybe grab and comment some part of the book in different blogposts. There are some really good stuff there, so I need to take notes.

Bell's discussion about the not-factual existence and research about the future is interesting and lead him to describe phenomena that aid the scientific delineating of alternative descriptions and assessments of the future:


  1. Present images of the futures and expectations for the future that people hold, that is, their conceptions of the possible.
  2. People's belief about the most likely future, that is, their subjective probabilities concerning the chances of particular futures occurring.
  3. The goals, values, and attitudes people hold; the preferences they use to evaluate alternative images of the future, that is, people's hopes and fears.
  4. Present intentions of people to act
  5. Obligations and commitments that people have to others (...) knowing those responsibilities can help futurists anticipate future behaviors of the people involved.
  6. Knowledge of the past: Tradition (memories of the past, legends and customs, highly valued patterns of behavior), the use of trend analysis, the restatement of scientific explanations into a predictive form, analogy, past images of the future
  7. Knowledge of the present: we can view the present as containing at least two ways of exploring the future: (a) the design perspective (some things that now exist or are developing can be expected to continue in the future and have implications for shaping the future), (b) present possibilities for the future.


Why do I blog this? As the author explains, no one of these "yields easily to measurement and interpretations" since they are, after all, subjective phenomena but they can have objective manifestation that can be observed and from which they can be inferred. This is exactly the point why I am interested in these "sources".. More specifically, two reasons why I am blogging this (1) because I am interested in what constitutes "data" in foresight research, (2) because I am preparing a course about design+foresight I will be giving in 2008 (possibly at different places, the school and for a master in interaction design in France).