chapter  6
15 Pages

From predicting to forecasting

Uncertainties, scenarios, and their (un-)intended side effects
WithMyriam Dunn Cavelty

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This chapter looks at specific cultural and political contexts that give rise to particular forms of anticipatory practices and modalities, providing insights into the ‘who, what, when, where, why, and how’ of creating and assembling future knowledge. The chapter first looks at literature describing the socio-political context in which future methodologies are situated, paying particular attention to the multifaceted concept of ‘risk’ and its nemesis ‘uncertainty’. When comparing the various ways in which these risks can be analysed, it is noteworthy that the term ‘scenario’ is used with high frequency, yet in very diverse settings and methodologies. By clustering different ways of using scenarios, the chapter then identifies two ideal-types of forward reasoning: predicting and forecasting. Predicting is done with the help of risk assessment, a backward looking method that relies on statistics to calculate the probabilities of an event. This is used in cases where uncertainty seems low, manageable or unimportant. Forecasting on the other hand is based on narrative forms of imagining possible and desirable futures. It is used when uncertainty is foregrounded. The third section of the chapter looks at the larger context of using different forms of anticipatory practices, linking knowledge creation processes to the politics of using knowledge.