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  • Observations on Work, Employment & Education

    Jörg Markowitsch

    The Future of Work: Science and Science Fiction

    Futurology has long since established itself as a scientific discipline. Why research should not be aversed to borrow from science fiction films becomes evident in the British miniseries Years and Years (2019) by Russell T. Davies.

    In recent years, I have rarely been in the “here and now” pro­fes­sio­nal­ly. Research projects I super­vi­sed have looked either into the past or into the future, to be precise: into the future of work and education. Together with a research team from all over Europe and various interest groups, we have been deve­lo­ping scenarios for the future of voca­tio­nal education and training in 2035 (Mar­ko­witsch, Grollmann & Bjørnå­vold 2020, Cedefop 2020).

    Scenarios generally function as plausible and relevant stories of an imagined future. In evidence-based policy making, the scenario method is a kind of com­pro­mi­se between science and science fiction. Besides rigorous sci­en­ti­fic basis, the method requires a fair amount of crea­ti­vi­ty and ima­gi­na­ti­on. In this sense, scenarios in social research are very similar to film or comic book scenarios, which are an essential step in any pro­duc­tion process.

    That futu­ro­lo­gy research deals with science fiction films at all is rather an exception. Recently, however, a young Italian scholar in future studies, Ales­san­dro Fergnani, together with his doctoral advisor Zhaoli Song from the National Uni­ver­si­ty of Singapore, presented an analysis of 140 science fiction films and applied their findings to possible future outcomes of the COVID-19 crisis (Fergnani & Song 2020, see also Fergna­ni’s youtube channel). We now know that the various scenarios in science fiction films, from Metro­po­lis to Blade Runner to Hunger Games, always draw on the same six future arche­ty­pes and are on average set 300 years in the future. In terms of current political decisions making, this is then perhaps too far into the future.

    In contrast, I found the British drama tele­vi­si­on series Years and Years (2019) by Russell T. Davies much more tangible and useful for my work. It starts with the present and builds a fictional reality for the next 15 years, which coin­ci­dent­al­ly spans the same time horizon as our voca­tio­nal education scenarios.

    The series follows an average British family, the Lyons, and the meteoric rise of a natio­na­list poli­ti­ci­an (played by two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson) in the UK immedia­te­ly after Trump’s re-election. Over the years, we see a worsening refugee situation, another financial crisis, a monkey flu pandemic, the “Grexit”, an extreme shift to the left in Spain, a US nuclear strike on an arti­fi­cial Chinese island, and the merging of man and machine, which becomes a movement in its own right (“I’m trans­hu­man, not transsexual!”).

    The series provides terrific material for future studies, both in terms of content and method. As viewers, we are not thrown into a distant future, but see how today’s decisions and events influence tomorrow. It thus illus­tra­tes what social science calls “path depen­den­cy”. The main cha­rac­ters are not heroes or heroines who change the course of history, but an ordinary British patchwork family. This allows us to see and feel what the future might hold for own destiny. It also reveals from the very beginning that our reality could have been very different (as a reminder: Trump did lose the re-election). Finally, and perhaps the most inte­res­ting aspect, the Lyons remain the Lyons. Despite the various political and personal crises, the structure of the multi-genera­tio­nal family remains largely stable. This, too, is an important clue for scenario deve­lo­p­ment in social research: which struc­tures change rapidly, which only gradually? Or, as HBO announces the series “As society changes at an ever-incre­a­sing pace, the Lyons family expe­ri­en­ces ever­ything we hope for in the future, and ever­ything we fear”.

    Both Fergna­ni’s arche­ty­pes and “Years and Years” illus­tra­te the potential for the soft sciences in opening up to other (non-sci­en­ti­fic) forms of knowledge genera­ti­on and reflec­tion of practices, i.e. trans-disciplinarity.

    Thanks to Philipp Grollmann, without whom the article would probably not have come about.

    Refe­ren­zen:
    Cedefop. (2020). Vocational education and training in Europe 1995–2035. Scenarios for European voca­tio­nal education and training in the 21st century. Luxem­bourg: Publi­ca­ti­ons Office of the European Union.
    Fergnani, A., & Song, Z. (2020). The six scenario arche­ty­pes framework: A sys­te­ma­tic inves­ti­ga­ti­on of science fiction films set in the future. Futures, 124, 102645..
    Mar­ko­witsch, Jörg, Grollmann, Philipp & Jens Bjørnå­vold (2020). Berufs­bil­dung 2035: Drei Szenarien für die Berufs­bil­dung in Europa, BWP, 3/2020 (49).
    Siehe also the film review  “The near-future shock of Years and Years” (2019) von  Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic.

    Years & Years (2019): Official Trailer | HBO 

    Alex Fergnani, Science Fiction as Foresight: Top Three Methods, Feb 16, 2021 

    Transhuman? 'Years and Years' (2019), Filmstil

    The Lyons Family, 'Years and Years' (2019)

    Emma Thompson in 'Years and Years' (2019), Filmstil

    Tags

    The Future of Work: Science and Science Fiction

    Jörg Markowitsch

    Futurology has long since established itself as a scientific discipline. Why research should not be aversed to borrow from science fiction films becomes evident in the British miniseries Years and Years (2019) by Russell T. Davies.

    In recent years, I have rarely been in the “here and now” pro­fes­sio­nal­ly. Research projects I super­vi­sed have looked either into the past or into the future, to be precise: into the future of work and education. Together with a research team from all over Europe and various interest groups, we have been deve­lo­ping scenarios for the future of voca­tio­nal education and training in 2035 (Mar­ko­witsch, Grollmann & Bjørnå­vold 2020, Cedefop 2020).

    Scenarios generally function as plausible and relevant stories of an imagined future. In evidence-based policy making, the scenario method is a kind of com­pro­mi­se between science and science fiction. Besides rigorous sci­en­ti­fic basis, the method requires a fair amount of crea­ti­vi­ty and ima­gi­na­ti­on. In this sense, scenarios in social research are very similar to film or comic book scenarios, which are an essential step in any pro­duc­tion process.

    That futu­ro­lo­gy research deals with science fiction films at all is rather an exception. Recently, however, a young Italian scholar in future studies, Ales­san­dro Fergnani, together with his doctoral advisor Zhaoli Song from the National Uni­ver­si­ty of Singapore, presented an analysis of 140 science fiction films and applied their findings to possible future outcomes of the COVID-19 crisis (Fergnani & Song 2020, see also Fergna­ni’s youtube channel). We now know that the various scenarios in science fiction films, from Metro­po­lis to Blade Runner to Hunger Games, always draw on the same six future arche­ty­pes and are on average set 300 years in the future. In terms of current political decisions making, this is then perhaps too far into the future.

    In contrast, I found the British drama tele­vi­si­on series Years and Years (2019) by Russell T. Davies much more tangible and useful for my work. It starts with the present and builds a fictional reality for the next 15 years, which coin­ci­dent­al­ly spans the same time horizon as our voca­tio­nal education scenarios.

    The series follows an average British family, the Lyons, and the meteoric rise of a natio­na­list poli­ti­ci­an (played by two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson) in the UK immedia­te­ly after Trump’s re-election. Over the years, we see a worsening refugee situation, another financial crisis, a monkey flu pandemic, the “Grexit”, an extreme shift to the left in Spain, a US nuclear strike on an arti­fi­cial Chinese island, and the merging of man and machine, which becomes a movement in its own right (“I’m trans­hu­man, not transsexual!”).

    The series provides terrific material for future studies, both in terms of content and method. As viewers, we are not thrown into a distant future, but see how today’s decisions and events influence tomorrow. It thus illus­tra­tes what social science calls “path depen­den­cy”. The main cha­rac­ters are not heroes or heroines who change the course of history, but an ordinary British patchwork family. This allows us to see and feel what the future might hold for own destiny. It also reveals from the very beginning that our reality could have been very different (as a reminder: Trump did lose the re-election). Finally, and perhaps the most inte­res­ting aspect, the Lyons remain the Lyons. Despite the various political and personal crises, the structure of the multi-genera­tio­nal family remains largely stable. This, too, is an important clue for scenario deve­lo­p­ment in social research: which struc­tures change rapidly, which only gradually? Or, as HBO announces the series “As society changes at an ever-incre­a­sing pace, the Lyons family expe­ri­en­ces ever­ything we hope for in the future, and ever­ything we fear”.

    Both Fergna­ni’s arche­ty­pes and “Years and Years” illus­tra­te the potential for the soft sciences in opening up to other (non-sci­en­ti­fic) forms of knowledge genera­ti­on and reflec­tion of practices, i.e. trans-disciplinarity.

    Thanks to Philipp Grollmann, without whom the article would probably not have come about.

    Refe­ren­zen:
    Cedefop. (2020). Vocational education and training in Europe 1995–2035. Scenarios for European voca­tio­nal education and training in the 21st century. Luxem­bourg: Publi­ca­ti­ons Office of the European Union.
    Fergnani, A., & Song, Z. (2020). The six scenario arche­ty­pes framework: A sys­te­ma­tic inves­ti­ga­ti­on of science fiction films set in the future. Futures, 124, 102645..
    Mar­ko­witsch, Jörg, Grollmann, Philipp & Jens Bjørnå­vold (2020). Berufs­bil­dung 2035: Drei Szenarien für die Berufs­bil­dung in Europa, BWP, 3/2020 (49).
    Siehe also the film review  “The near-future shock of Years and Years” (2019) von  Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic.

    Years & Years (2019): Official Trailer | HBO

    Alex Fergnani, Science Fiction as Foresight: Top Three Methods, Feb 16, 2021

    Transhuman? 'Years and Years' (2019), Filmstil

    The Lyons Family, 'Years and Years' (2019)

    Emma Thompson in 'Years and Years' (2019), Filmstil

    Tags


    THE WALKING MAN

    THE WALKING MAN

    Work ennobles. Work makes life sweeter. Sayings like these apodictically inscribe the principle of work into people's consciousness as the right and good thing to do. When American TV show us an example of this ideal, it is to double-down on the proliferation of the message of ‘a hero of labour’ : James Roberston – the walking man.

    Power Plant Employment

    Power Plant Employment

    Movies and documentaries on reactor disasters were trending last year. 10 years since Fukushima and 35 years since Chernobyl rolled the carpet out. For a true insight into the working world of nuclear power plants, however, I do recommend going further back, to Volker Sattel's "Unter Kontrolle" (2011).

    Japan's sea lions

    Japan’s sea lions

    Anti-stereotypical professions: Ama-San and Haenyo ─ apnoea divers in Japan and Korea

    Fischli and Weiss as DIY

    Fischli and Weiss as DIY

    A young Youtuber has presumably unwittingly made a remake of Fischli and Weiss' famous art video "The Way Things Go" (1987), raising interesting questions about the relationship between art, professional craft and DIY.

    Fitness to work?

    Fitness to work?

    Under the topos ‘health’, a comprehensive optimization and enhancement logic is implanted into people. Fitness is one of several influencing factors in establishing innovative, exceptional and performative entrepreneur of oneself.

    Erwin and Elvira, the butcher

    Erwin and Elvira, the butcher

    Fassbinder's outstanding melodrama "In a Year of 13 Moons" (1978) is a consistently topical contribution to today's identity politics debate and a forceful exclamation mark for anti-stereotypical professions.

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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.