Imagination infrastructuring for better urban futures

Transforming Cities debate


Faced with climate change and other interconnected existential crises in the twenty-first century, it is quickly becoming a cliché to say that there is a strong need to “imagine better futures.” But such a statement hides many questions and challenges. Who gets to imagine these futures? Who feels safe and supported enough, economically, politically and socially, to be involved? Who gets excluded from imaginative processes? How do or will they impact daily life, policies, and action in the present? What about the futures of non-human species? For those not part of small privileged groups, possibilities for participating in truly powerful and impactful imagination seem so limited. As a result, feelings of powerlessness in the face of global catastrophe are common.

'Public square' by Enora Mercier

The notion of 'imagination infrastructuring', introduced by UK-based systems innovator Cassie Robinson and her colleagues, can be used to investigate what infrastructures are need for societies where people can contribute to public imaginations in ways that lead to present-day change. Providing the safety, trust, and flexibility for radical public imaginations with a keen eye for power dynamics in such processes is the deep work of re-shaping societal imaginative capacities for the benefit of all, including other species. Imagination infrastructures include physical spaces, financial resources, knowledge infrastructures, institutional support structures and more. Cassie Robinson will join the session to introduce her ideas about the concept of imagination infrastructuring.

The session will be facilitated by Joost Vervoort, Associate Professor of Transformative Imagination at the Copernicus Institute. Different perspectives will be used to reflect on how the lens of imagination infrastructuring can help us consider policies, strategies and pathways toward more democratic public imaginations in urban contexts.

Next to Cassie Robinson and Joost Vervoort, there will be more speakers joining the debate.

Josie Chambers is Assistant Professor of the Urban Futures Studio at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. She develops and tests creative and political methods with diverse societal actors to transform our collective imagination and institutions. She will also critically extent Ruth Levitas’ idea of utopia as method.

Lorena De Vita is Assistant Professor at Humanities. She is a historian of international relations. Her research analyses how the traumatic past (re)surfaces in international diplomatic settings, and her expertise combines a theoretical international relations approach with historical methods.

Roy Bendor is Assistant Professor of Critical Design in the department of Human-Centered Design at TU Delft. His research explores the social and political contexts of design, and more specifically, the capacity of design to disclose alternative social, political and environmental futures.

The event is organized in collaboration with Utrecht Young Academy

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End date and time
Social Impact Factory, Vredenburg 40, Utrecht

Participation is free, but please register here