Experiential futuring as co-creative methodology to help youth respond to social media outage in (un)liveable climates


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This is one of two research projects examining how young people will use social media to respond to alarming future events. KU Leuven is the home institution for this project.

This project is no longer accepting new applications until further notice.

Due to rapid climate changes and an increasing number of natural disasters many citizens feel ill-prepared for what is predicted as major climate risks in the near future. More than ever we need to connect young generations of citizens with stories that empower them to take their future in their own hands. Millions of young people exchange knowledge on social media and the internet to get their voice out. More recently, power and digital outages have been a reality for many people living in natural disaster sensitive areas. At the same time, digital censorship has become more prevalent under the impulse of authoritarian governmental regimes. Both trends impact knowledge exchange.

In this project, the student (and supervisory team) will apply experiential futuring methodology, within the epistemological framework of collapsology, to engage with the existential question of how the human race will get through an escalating situation of internet and social media shut-downs. Using inclusive, co-creative futuring research methodology we will open up a window for youth on how to survive digital outages under challenging circumstances or alternatively, how to create virtual spaces to continue knowledge exchange in situations where our material environment collapses during climate related and political crisis situations.

Project goals

We will explore the potential of experiential futuring methodology to develop a realistic scenario on how society and civilization is currently built in disaster and political sensitive areas and what our global society would look like under the conditions of a climate-related digital power apocalypse. Starting from the perspective of increasing resilience rather than accepting an apocalypse scenario we will develop hands-on, creative strategies that might need to be considered for preventing and surviving such an existential threat. Here, we will move beyond the commonly promoted solution of self-supportive batteries by adding potential scenarios of politically inspired censurisation of the web to the apocalypse line of argument, both from a global and a local point of view. We will also explore how developed strategies could best be shared with other communities in the absence of a power grid that nurtures our social media accounts, virtual environments or platforms. The following questions will be central to this exploration:

  1. What can be learned by youth from people living in natural disaster or politically sensitive regions with regular disruptions of the digital communication infrastructure?
  2. How do we increase youths' ability to control eco-anxiety and collectively take care of knowledge exchange in the absence of the modern, yet fragile, digital environments that we take for granted?
  3. What sort of digital climate can be built for youngsters to reside when all is lost under pressure from climate change related events and politically disruptive climates.

Secondary to this set of research questions we will explore the added value of using digital forms of creative futuring research methodology in responding imaginatively to collectively aspired climate futures

Supervision team

The University of Melbourne: Professor Marcia McKenzie

KU Leuven: Professor Karin Hannes

*Click on the researcher's name above to learn more about their publication and grant successes.

Who we are looking for

We are seeking a PhD candidate with the following skills:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of social sciences and or education.
  • Demonstrated experience with scientific computation.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date).
  • Excellent written and oral communication skillsDemonstrated organisational skills, time management and ability to work to priorities.
  • Demonstrated problem-solving abilities.

Further details

The PhD candidate will benefit from the combined expertise of the project supervisors, and the embedding into two research environments.

Professor Karin Hannes will provide methodological training through workshops, seminar series, meth-labs, bi-weekly intervision sessions and engagement of the students in the international and European networks of Qualitative Inquiry. She will lead the literature study on power outages in political and natural crisis situations as well as the fieldwork related to the experiential futuring methodology applied through storyboarding and social fiction. For the latter she will work closely with Dr Sarah Truman. Professor Marcia McKenzie’s contribution is through her expertise in both theoretical and applied components at the intersections of comparative and international education, global education policy research, and climate and sustainability education, including in relation to policy mobility, place, affect, and other areas of social and geographic study.

This PhD project will be based at KU Leuven with a minimum 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.

The candidate will be enrolled in the PhD program at the Faculty of Social Sciences at KU Leuven, and in the PhD program at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

This project is no longer accepting new applications until further notice.

First published on 8 February 2022.

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