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James Auger

Towards new imaginaries

The practice of design is intrinsically linked to notions of the future, through the arrangement of elements to accomplish predetermined goals (Eames, 1972). More familiar is design’s near-future role – the arrangement of existing elements to create useful, marketable objects. Design, however, also has an important role in longer-term planning through the arranging of potential elements (for example, emerging technologies) to create hypothetical objects and related future imaginaries – visions of how the future could be, should that technology reach maturity. 


During the 20th century, the vision or ‘dream’ phase became increasingly important in shaping the technological future. Such dreams take on a variety of forms, exist for a plurality of reasons, and inform futures in complex ways. The presentation will focus predominantly on socio-technical imaginaries (STIs), described by Jasanoff & Kim (2009) as ‘collectively held, institutionally stabilised, and publicly performed visions of desirable futures.’ 

The belief system behind the dominant 20th century imaginary continue to influence contemporary visions of the future and what is seen as the ‘good life’ despite the mounting evidence against its ideals and methods. This section concludes with a list of 6 reasons why future dreams have stagnated or are simply inappropriate for the ‘polycrisis’-ridden world of today.

The second part of the talk will feature recent design projects that both expose and question out-of-date socio-technical imaginaries and also present the first steps towards the creation of new and more appropriate imaginaries through a re-organisation the relations between social life / order, nature and the role of science and technology.



James Auger is director of the design department at the École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay (ENS), co-director of the Centre de Recherche en Design (ENS / ENSCI Les Ateliers) and an Associate Professor at RMIT Europe. His work explores ways through which practice-based design research can lead to more considered and democratic technological futures.

After graduating from Design Products (MA) at the Royal College of Art in London James moved to Dublin to conduct research at Media Lab Europe (MLE) exploring the theme of human communication as mediated by technology. After MLE he worked in Tokyo as guest designer at the Issey Miyake Design Studio developing new concepts for mobile telephones. Between 2005 and 2015 James was part of the critically acclaimed Design Interactions department at the RCA, teaching on the MA programme and continuing his development of critical and speculative approaches to design and technology, completing his PhD on the subject in 2012. After the RCA James formed the Reconstrained Design Group at Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) in Portugal, exploring the potential of the island as an experimental living laboratory through a combination of fictional, factual and functional multi-scale energy-related proposals and projects. This work was awarded the Cultural Innovation International Prize by the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) in 2017.
Running parallel to his academic work James is a partner in the speculative design practice Auger-Loizeau, a collaboration founded in 2000. Auger-Loizeau projects have been published and exhibited internationally, including MoMA, New York; 21_21, Tokyo; The Science Museum, London; The National Museum of China, Beijing and Ars Electronica, Linz. Their work is in the permanent collection at MoMA. 

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Valérie Pueyo

Contribution to desirable futures responding to the challenges of the Anthropocene: a Prospective approach to work

The Prospective approach to work propose to contribute to desirable futures responding to the challenges of the Anthropocene. To do this, we will present the reasons why work can help meet these challenges. We will present the spirit of this approach and its stages. Finally, we will conclude by discussing the paradigm shift that this leads to operating in Ergonomics.




Full Professor in Ergonomics at the Lyon Institute for Work Studies, Lumière Lyon 2 University, researcher at Environment City Society (UMR 5600), a multidisciplinary laboratory interested in how humans design their environments, co-coordinator of Labex Intelligence of Urban Worlds, a research and experimentation device focused on metropolisation and urbanization and ecological, societal and environmental transitions.

Scientific and Technical Manager of the Operational Center Modeling Initiative for Sustainable City and Innovative Buildings (PEPR Sustainable city and innovative buildings) and director of "Sustainable metropolis in transition(s): work, being health and prospective" designed as an research’s incubator which brings together a diversity of researchers, practitioners, partners.
I am working to constitute a Prospective of work from the perspective of Anthropocene thinking. The challenge is to contribute to the creation of a desirable future now by maintaining the centrality of work. The idea is to help the protagonists to found projects and carry them out over the long term. This requires thinking about both the rationality of action and professional transitions.
It is in this dynamic that with Pascal Béguin and Christelle Casse we carry the Master Ergonomics - Ecological and Societal Transitions and organize Work and Anthropocene  each year.

Peter Sturm

Designing and assessing sociotechnical alternatives: toward participatory approaches


This talk will provide an overview of research done in the STEEP team at Inria Grenoble, towards the design of participatory approaches for territorial prospective exercises.
The starting point of our work is the conviction that it is crucial to understand the material and energy base of economic and other human activities when considering their sustainability. The first part of the presentation will review concepts of material and energy flow analysis.


Developed methodologies as well as software and visualisation tools will be described, along with a few sample applications, especially in the analysis of agrifood chains. These tools and analyses are conceived as decision aid tools, mainly targeted at experts for now.
In the second part of the presentation, we will show our efforts toward making such tools useful in participatory approaches for territories.
This entails several research questions such as on the appropriate tools and models to foster participation of non-experts, on how to go beyond sectorial analyses in order to grasp the systemic nature of sustainability issues, on how to conceive and assess sociotechnical alternatives for the future.
Ongoing scientific works will be described, together with their application in a pilot territory.



Peter Sturm obtained his PhD from Grenoble INP in 1997. From 1997 to 1999 he was a post-doc at Reading University (UK) and since 1999 he is a researcher at Inria.
Prior to 2011, Peter was doing research in computer vision. Since 2011, he is mainly working in the area of sustainability science. His work is motivated by the fact that environmental issues now pose a threat to human civilisation worldwide.
Peter and the STEEP research group he is part of, believe that it is important to rethink socio-economic and institutional models in order to leave room for a possible paradigm shift. They work on understanding systemic risks - global and local ones - and on tools and methodologies aimed at elaborating and implementing socio-technical alternatives, including through participatory approaches.

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