STEEPed In Urban Futures
Most forecasters immerse themselves in a method known as “environmental scanning.” It is simple in theory: use libraries and the Internet to glean, identify, and summarize emerging trends. Minnesota trendmaster Robyn Waters defines a trend as “something that is happening – and/or will happen – for a reason.” International futurist Wendy Schultz uses the phrase “360 Scanning” and describes it as a “review of any relevant media covering the social, technological, economic, ecological, and political (a.k.a. ‘S-T-E-E-P’) environments.” She adds that it is a “foundation skill in futures research and a survival skill for any forward-looking person.” Cover terms I gave recently to a dozen and a half of my urban design college students were AIR, WATER, FOOD, SHELTER, MOBILITY, and GOODS & SERVICES. As part of a month long 360 Scanning effort I aimed the first two topics at students because they literally “sustain life” and the last four because they are key indicators for calculating ecological footprints. All have implications for imagining “a more sustainable future,” which, as our college is less than a mile from Minneapolis’ city center, will always be a venue for urban futures. These forecasts admittedly portray quite a “wide-angle view” of patterns and informatics from urban to global scale, but we reasoned, “better broad than narrow”! Here is the link to the efforts just published: http://intranet.mcad.edu/modules/gallery/65/intro.php Taking a look might help you get a feel for what “twenty-something” students hauled in as they cast their nets onto the 'net. Some efforts were even prescient: one student had commented a month ago on his forecasted subject of growing crops in urban “vertical farms,” lower left piece here, then the Economist had two full pages in its Tech Quarterly section on just that recently.