Thursday, May 02, 2013

Presentation: Storytelling and the Future

Scenario Lab Director Dr. Patricia Riley recently gave a talk at the Communication Leadership Exchange Conference on “Storytelling and the Future”.
You can download her PowerPoint for the presentation here.

Posted by Zhan Li on 05/02 at 07:06 AM

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NIC Scenarios: Global Trends 2030

The US National Intelligence Council has released its latest Global Trends Report, a major scenario planning based report that it has published a new version of every few years since 1997. Drawing on the knowledge of the US intelligence community as well as experts and think tanks from around the world, the Global Trends reports imagine various long-term strategic challenges for the US. The latest one is called “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” (previous reports can also be found through that link), and this time NIC is also sponsoring an online discussion hub in support of it.  An explanation of why the NIC uses scenarios can be found here. As the NIC stresses, these reports are not meant to be predictive but, rather, are meant to expand the national discussion about strategic priorities in long-term future-facing ways, as well as promote collective learning about different possible futures by all involved.  We at the Scenario Lab would emphasize seeing this as major exercise for the US intelligence community in public policy communication and rhetoric as well as a means for strategic thinking.

Posted by Zhan Li on 12/18 at 05:56 AM

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Talk: University of Hawaii’s Emerging Futures & Futurists Symposium

Zhan Li, Scenario Lab researcher (and the Research Manager until Fall 2012), was honored to be invited to give a talk on sensemaking, transmedia, foresight, and futures at a symposium held at the famed Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies (also known as “the Manoa School”; the center has long been led by Jim Dator, a giant in the futures field) at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Political Science. The Nov. 30 event was also sponsored by the Association of Professional Futurists (link includes event agenda). Zhan was asked not only to explain is current research at USC but also especially to address how the aesthetics (a new area for him! but one which was led to a fruitful new lines on enquiry) dimensions of new media technologies should be approached by the professional foresight and futures field as it adapts to new media innovation. Zhan thanks the very generous help of the organizers at U. Hawaii in bringing him to their beautiful state, and was also excited to learn a lot from the gathered futurists. A video of the afternoon session which Zhan’s talk was part of can be found here.

Posted by Zhan Li on 12/05 at 05:51 PM

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How will Big Data reshape the scenario planning field?

Two recent reports in The New York Times describe the incredible ambition and potential in the Big Data field. One article examines he work of Gil Elbaz, a mathematician, Caltech graduate, and former Google employee, who also the founder of Factual, a company which is collating unprecedentedly large amounts of data with an extremely wide range of topics and sources. Factual’s mission is to try to identify and store every available fact in the world.  Elbaz sees the world as “one big data problem,” and believes that “If all data was clear, a lot fewer people would subtract value from the world. A lot more people would add value.” The other article reports on the work of researchers in probabilistic topic modeling such as those of the Cultural Observatory, a Harvard-based group which are developing powerful algorithmic search and analysis tools for revealing patterns and associations in large information repositories such as arXiv, a massive scientific paper archive.

These new developments in the Big Data field will lead to tools that will offer not just an unprecedented scale of data availability for innovation in scenario planning and other foresight methods but will also create new demand and opportunities for scenarios as a robust narrative form for conveying data pattern and association analyses. The drive to use the new data capabilities to better manage and communicate organizations’ strategic response to future uncertainties will also generate the challenge of data overload and overly complex data analysis - all data must, after all, ultimately be transformed into stories for widespread human understanding.

Posted by Zhan Li on 03/27 at 10:23 PM

Friday, January 27, 2012

Scenario Planning at the World Economic Forum

  It’s Davos season again as the influential global conference series and think tank for invited international leaders from all fields, the World Economic Forum, presents its main annual gathering. The World Economic Forum is also a prominent user of scenario planning to promote foresightful dialogue and networking amongst its members. The Forum’s in-house scenario planning team’s recent reports includes a look forward to the Mediterranean region of 2030 as well as an analysis of trends in cloud computing. And here’s a fascinating interview explaining the history of how scenario planning came to Davos.

Posted by Zhan Li on 01/27 at 03:56 PM


Acceleration Studies Foundation, USA

The Centre for Scenario Planning and Future Studies, University of Strathclyde, UK

Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, Denmark

Global Business Network, USA

Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, University of Hawaii, USA

Institute for Alternative Futures, USA

Institute For The Future, USA

Oxford Scenarios Program, Oxford University, UK

RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition, USA

Scenario Planning Institute, Colorado State University, USA

Singularity University, USA

World Future Society

World Futures Studies Federation


Jamais Cascio

Jane McGonigal

Matt Novak

Alex Pang

Noah Raford

Richard Slaughter

© 2010 USC Annenberg Scenario Lab