Uncertain, Contested, and Ultimately Shared: Collaborative Tools For Constructing the Future


The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia
Report by David Finnigan, 2012 Churchill Fellow

I am an Australian writer, theatre-maker and arts producer. In 2012, I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to undertake a research trip to study the intersection of science and the performing arts.

Over January – March 2014 I travelled to 13 cities in North America, Europe and Asia, visiting arts and science institutions and meeting science-arts practitioners. Upon returning to Australia and undertaking several months of further study, I submitted my research report to the Churchill Trust for publication.

This report outlines some of the key insights and discoveries from my study trip and brings together some of the innovative and valuable ideas, theories and stories I received from over fifty meetings with inspiring individuals working across the full spectrum of science, arts and social innovation practice.

More than that, this report brings together learning and knowledge I’ve gained through ten years working in the space between the arts (mostly theatre and interactive performance) and the sciences (mostly climate and earth systems science). Rather than trying to capture the scope and diversity of contemporary science-arts practice, I instead focused on several strands that have been especially relevant to me. In this way, the report is  a fairly comprehensive articulation of my practice up to this point: it is a reflection of where I have come to so far, and a statement of intent about where I plan to go from here.

I focus in particular on two emerging fields of science-arts: Experiential Futures and Systems Gaming. I believe these two fields possess immense potential social value.

In coming years, Australia (like most nations) will face significant challenges and threats arising from changing climates, changing world populations and globalised economies, which have the potential to seriously destabilise our society and way of life. As a society, we are currently ill-equipped to deal with these large, complex and interconnected challenges.

I believe that certain science-art practices can help us to prepare for and respond to large-scale system-wide crises. In this report I look at the potential for science-art fields to provide Australians with new tools and strategies to help us deal with complexity. I argue that fields such as Experiential Futures and Systems Gaming may play a crucial part in helping Australia and Australians address the challenges facing us as we move deeper into the 21st century.

The title of this report is a quote from Mike Raupach et al’s introduction to Negotiating Our Future: Living Scenarios for Australia to 2050, published by the Australian Academy of Science: ‘We face three basic realities: the future is uncertain, contested and ultimately shared.’

If you’re curious, get amongst it! Feel free to leave a comment on any of the entries if something jumps out at you, and feel free to email me also: I’m at uncertaincontestedshared at gmail.

image by jay christian

Despite the blog format, this website is ordered top to bottom – you can start at the top and work your way down. If you get to the bottom of the page, just hit ‘Older Posts’ and it will keep unfolding. Otherwise, the chapter headings run down the right-hand column – just navigate using them if you prefer.

Appendix B: Working in the Third Culture: Belief and Techniques for Science-Art Collaboration is intended mostly for fellow science-arts practitioners or people interested in getting involved in the field. That chapter gets into the nuts and bolts of undertaking science-art collaborations.

It’s not exactly a how-to guide, more a selection of suggetions, advice and stories gleaned from all the people I met on this trip, and gathered together into six ‘lessons’. If anyone has anything to add, further suggestions and/or stories are very welcome – please throw in a comment!


Full acknowledgments and thanks for this report are here, but first and foremost, this report was made possible through the generous support of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust – huge thanks to them.


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