Research event

To live in the future or live in the now? Understanding different approaches to actualizing transformative futures

A presentation by Moritz Kleinaltenkamp (PUBLIC Germany & Hertie School). This event is part of the Digital Governance Research Colloquium hosted by the Centre for Digital Governance.

In response to the grand challenges facing society today, more and more organizations are working to bring about transformative futures: visions for a future state of the world that looks significantly and positively different from the present. These organizations face a number of challenges. For example, transformative futures present narratives about the future that may be viewed as unlikely or even impossible by some actors, impeding the enrollment of stakeholders and supporters. Moreover, those actors who do subscribe to the transformative future will have to coordinate their efforts to bring it about. Such "actualization" of a transformative future involves making difficult intertemporal trade-offs between benefits that accrue in the present, and ones that accrue in the future. 

In this paper, Moritz Kleinaltenkamp and his co-authors ask how multiple individuals organized around the same transformative future may adopt, enact, and negotiate differing approaches to actualizing it. They address this question by presenting an ethnographic study of a Blockchain company working to create a "new distributed Internet [that] will change everything: From forms of business and social organization to the evolution of human consciousness itself.” Analyzing the case, they identify three different actualization approaches that actors oriented towards the same transformative future may elect to pursue -- prefiguration, anterogradation, and facilitation -- and explain how these are rooted in three different orientations towards the transformative future. They illuminate how actors adopt these different orientations and approaches based on their subjective temporal experience, and elucidate the contradictory practices through which they enact their approaches in an organization, potentially evoking severe organizational tensions and threatening member enrollment. Finally, they discuss the practices through which such tensions may be reconciled. 

Moritz Kleinaltenkamp was a PhD candidate at the Hertie School's Centre for Digital Governance and Lead for Intelligence and Insights at PUBLIC, a GovTech ecosystem firm. His research explores the social and material processes surrounding emerging technologies, digital innovation, and GovTech. He holds a Master's in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge, a Master's in Economics from Peking University, and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Freie Universität Berlin. 

Registration is required for this event. Registered participants will receive the link to this online event along with the confirmation email.