Kaya Barry is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Griffith Centre for Social Cultural Research (email@example.com), Michelle Duffy is Associate Professor in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle (firstname.lastname@example.org), Michele Lobo is Lecturer in Human Geography, Deakin University (email@example.com)
Saltwater incursions, mangrove loss, species decline, ocean acidification and declining sea ice are expressions of global environmental change that are incredibly hard for the average person to fathom. Such slow emergencies are closely monitored by a complexity of scientific measures, yet the general public can often find this hard to digest and understand. Even as authoritative reports and global agreements – such as the 2019 IPBES Global Assessment or the Paris Agreement – emphasise the need for shared responsibility for planetary futures, these ‘big’ questions of how to act can lead to paralysis and paradoxically strengthen narratives of climate denialism and scepticism. When seeking to understand things that exceed our human grasp in the diverse planetary worlds we inhabit, the philosopher Bruno Latour urges us to learn ‘how to get our bearings, how to orient ourselves’. Speculative listening with the planet opens up possibilities for thinking and acting otherwise.
Shawn Bodden PhD Researcher at Edinburgh University (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jen Ross is Senior Lecturer in Digital Education and Centre co-director (Digital Cultures) at Edinburgh University (email@example.com)
It’s been a year of glitches, large and small. The glitch has become inescapable in the wake of the worldwide disruptions, failures and uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the faltering, inadequate responses of too many world leaders to its challenge in their pre-emptive drive to return to a ‘new normal’. But what is a glitch, and should we understand it as more than an error (technical or otherwise)?
Glitches are a kind of encounter, where expectations, preferences and plans are disrupted, but which thereby provoke new, previously unthought possible futures. By responding to and using glitches, we engage in future-making practices that negotiate what feels possible here-and-now. Irksome glitchy moments can lead us—grudgingly at times—to improvise creative alternatives to our original plans. Rather than seeing the resolution of a glitch as a return to a pre-existing, smooth-functioning way of doing things, speculative decision-making and experimentation involves achieving something following the uncertain situation of a glitch. Repair thus becomes a situated and practical act of reflection on how to work with a glitch: a ‘new’ normal accompanied by lessons-learned, scars, corrosion, raised insurance rates and other unexpected changes. The glitch becomes a space for practical and critical speculative thought about here-and-now possible worlds.
Living in a world beset by so many new and uncontrollable challenges, there is small wonder that there has been a resurgence of interest in questions of justice. Justice clearly matters profoundly, but there is another social virtue that is arguably just as important, and as both the necessary condition for the ‘good life’ and as an end-in-itself, namely liberty.
Yet today ‘liberty’ is not only rather neglected but often actively repudiated. The reason for this allergic aversion to liberty is obvious. For the term occupies a central position in the political project many of those concerned about justice today aim precisely to dismantle. The US-centric project of neoliberalism underpins the whole gamut of overflowing complex system problems that now threaten to overwhelm us, including both ecological destruction and socioeconomic inequality.
Dr Maximilian Jablonowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Zurich; Dr Anna Jackman (Anna.Jackman@rhul.ac.uk) is a Lecturer in Political Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.
On the evening of 1 December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos presented on CBS a video advert for the company’s new project; named Prime Air, the venture promised the shipment of goods to customers via drones within thirty minutes. This announcement was likely the first discursive event of commercial drone use. While initially exposed to ridicule, Amazon’s plan went on to change how commercial drones, and in fact drones more widely, are publicly imagined. Since then, drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have been increasingly re-imagined and re-spatialised from battlefield origins to their growing embrace as domestic actors transforming urban skies. If we are, as it is asserted, entering into a ‘drone age’ or ‘zeitgeist’, the aerial delivery drone is a key facet of this evolving drone imagination.
The Museum of Carbon Ruins is… well, we’re still not sure how to categorise it, in truth. Is it an art intervention? An immersive research exhibit on decarbonisation? Climate change theatre? It’s all of these things, in a way – the common thread being the creation of a space of speculation about climate change, and how we might adapt to it.
More prosaically, the Museum of Carbon Ruins (MCR) is a set of vitrines (or an antique suitcase, depending on the venue) full of familiar objects and images, which are reframed for the museum’s ‘visitors’ by researchers performing the role of curators or guides to the museum itself, which purports to ‘exist’ in 2050 or thereabouts.
If you’re wondering what the point is, you’re not the first! However, we flatter ourselves that most of the museum’s ‘visitors’ have grasped it, even if they haven’t taken away exactly the same point as one another. It’s in the nature of the thing that describing it can’t come close to reproducing it – and I might go so far as to say that’s the point. But what of speculative methods in general? Why are we academics messing around with the tools of science fiction, product design and participatory theatre? I have three answers, or three aspects of a single answer: the creation of speculative climate futures can serve to concretise the challenge, situate the consequences and democratise the discussion.