Who we are

Research about how people live, the technologies they use, and the visions they create must also speak back to the world it studies. It should do more than observe how society unfolds; it should engage with and be relevant to society. It should do more than seek to understand the latest issues; it should seek to inform and influence our response to such issues. It should do more than wait for the future to happen; it should help shape which future materialises.

This mission has motivated the Emerging Technologies Research Lab from the start. Indeed, the ET Lab was created as a base for scholars who have been tackling important subjects in ways that are empirically-grounded, theoretically-guided, and outcome-oriented.

Such work cannot only be done in one way. It demands multiple styles for multiple audiences. With that mission in mind, I’d like to introduce the ET Lab’s new publication: Future Matters

Future Matters will be a place for sharp writing with a point of view. This will be a place for speaking critically about pressing socio-technical developments and showcasing the vitality of engaged scholarship about such topics. We are not only concerned with how the world looks now, but with why that matters for how the future will emerge. We aim to set the tone for how to engage with many possible futures.

Future Matters will specialise in publishing what we call Lodestars. They will be succinct pieces with the purpose of making an argument, advancing a position, and offering guidance for a way forward.  We won’t always chase headlines, but we will always speak to issues that matter, and do so in ways that put a premium on being clear, considered, and interesting. The Lodestars will provide serious thinking that synthesises both style and substance. They will not only take the shape of an op-ed. There will be room for flexibility and experimentation. For instance, one of our first Lodestars is a poem that offers a personal reflection on life during disruption. As time goes on, we will also introduce other forms of essay that explore their subject in more depth. But for now, we will make space for the Lodestars to shine.

Future Matters will, in addition to standalone pieces, also organise Constellations that bring together many pieces about the same topic but from different perspectives. Think of it as a tightly focused thematic issue. Constellations will be an occasional but regular event. They might be responding to a major issue, such as a global pandemic, that we think the ET lab needs to make a statement about. Or, they might be formed around other not so obvious happenings that are, nonetheless, impacting how we live now and will live then.

We are living in interesting times. With so much happening so often it can be difficult to have foresight, to look beyond our immediate contexts, to follow the causal chain a few links further, to position the present in a longer horizon. But that is precisely what is required of us. The future does not happen—it is made.

Jathan Sadowski