Skip to content
We Are On A Mission - Jean-Marc Côté, En L'An 2000, edited by HIIG, CC0 1.0

“We are on a mission”. Exploring the role of future imaginaries | Workshop

Please register in advance via the form below until the 25th of April.

“We are on a mission to build a more open, accessible, and fair financial future, one piece of software at a time” promises the software platform Blockchain. “Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, without tired, drunk or distracted driving” envisions the self-driving car company Waymo (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.). “The Regulation is an essential step to strengthen citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital age and facilitate business by simplifying rules for companies in the Digital Single Market” claims the European Commission with regard to the General Data Protection Regulation.

These examples show how imaginaries of future societies are enacted to promote digital innovations or legitimate certain modes of internet governance. They illustrate how software providers, tech companies and legislators dig into the rich pool of cultural norms, visions and values to support (or question) digital tools, rules and regulations. Future prospects seem to be central for making decisions in the present.


“We are on a mission”
Exploring the role of future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology

Friday, 27 April 2018 | HIIG | Französische Straße 9 | 10117 Berlin

Keynote: Sally Wyatt, Professor of Digital Cultures, Maastricht University



09:00 Welcome

09:15 Keynote: ‘Imagine you are an iPhone, recharging’. Technological imaginaries in fiction, policy and everyday life Sally Wyatt (Maastricht University)

As more and more attention is given to mindfulness and digital detox, it was a surprise to hear my yoga teacher asking us to imagine being iPhones. It set me thinking (probably not the intention of my yoga teacher) about the multidirectional nature of imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technologies. In this lecture, I will examine different sources of future imaginaries – such as novels, films, metaphors, policy documents – and how they might affect designers, industrialists, policy makers, and (non)users (in all of their potential roles as citizens, consumers, patients, passengers). I will also pay attention to the recursive relationship between imaginaries and the realities they attempt to describe or construct.

10:00 Session 1: Conceptual Impulses

Goda Klumbyte and Claude Draude (University of Kassel)
From Figurations to Scenario Building. Towards constructing a methodology for accountable imaginaries

Christoph Ernst (University of Bonn)
“Techno Imagination” – Towards a theory of imagination as media practice

Niels ten Oever and Stefania Milan (University of Amsterdam)
Imaginaries and metaphors of a changing internet: Against the ossification of infrastructure

Anita Chan (University of Illinois)
Of Data Cultures and F(r)ictions: Decentering Data Futures from “Internet Freedom” Community Networks

Karsten Weber (OTH Regensburg)
Computers as crowbars to change society: Images of computers and the future they will bring about in the early days of IT

11:30 Coffee Break

12:00 Session 2: Methodological Innovations and Interventions

Mirko Tobias Schäfer (Utrecht University)
“We built this city on proprietary algorithms” Revisiting Corporate and Governmental Imaginations of data‐driven Public Management

Hannah Glatte, Fabian Schroth and Gesine Last (Fraunhofer CeRRI)
Broadening Horizons: Shaping future technology solutions for rural areas – process design, speculative scenarios and needs orientation

Tuukka Lehtiniemi (Aalto University)
MyData as a national socio-technical imaginary of a future data economy

Karsten Wendland (Hochschule Aalen) and Christian Wadephul (KIT)
The Magic of Blockchain – A Look behind the Scenes of three Smart Contract based Flagship Projects

Aafke Fraaije (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
The creative democracy

13:30 Lunch

14:30 Session 3: Case Studies – Policy and Infrastructures

Bernd Stahl, Tyr Fothergill, Inga Ulnicane and William Knight (DeMontfort University)
From Grand Design to the Unimagined. Competing visions of big neuroscience technology and their normative implications

Anna Wallsten (Linköpings University)
Mobilized, tweaked and curtailed: On how imaginaries are enacted in a smart grid demonstration project

Leslie Quitzow (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung)
Imagining smart urban energy futures

Götz Bachmann (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)
Radical Engineering. An Ethnography of Promise

Philippe Saner (University of Luzern)
Educating the future. The role of “skills gaps” and methods in political and economic scenarios of the future”

16:00 Coffee Break

16:30 Session 4: Case Studies – Media

Delia Dumitrica (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Georgia G. Jones (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology)
Developing the Control Imaginary: TIME magazine’s symbolic construction of digital technologies

Joachim Haupt (UdK Berlin)
Exploring Facebook’s Circulative Communication about the Future of Humanity

Jaron Harambam and Mykola Makhortykh (University of Amsterdam)
All the news you want to read: Personalization as the future imaginary of the news industry

Tamas Tofalvy (Budapest University of Technology and Economics)
When future visions and traditions of innovation collide: lessons for the future from the early reception of the iPad

Maud Bernisson (Karlstad University)
When innovation disrupts tradition…

18:00 End of Workshop

Find here the Call for Papers and the Book of Abstracts.


Astrid Mager
Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), Austrian Academy of Sciences
Elise Richter Fellow, Austrian Science Fund (FWF), project no. V511-G29

Christian Katzenbach
Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Header image: Jean-Marc Côté: En L’An 2000, edited by HIIG, CC0 1.0

Event date

27.04.2018 ical | gcal


Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society,  Französische Straße 9,  10117 Berlin


Christian Katzenbach, Prof. Dr.

Associated researcher: The evolving digital society


This high-profile lecture series thrives to develop a European perspective on the processes of transformation that our societies are currently undergoing.


Once a month we publicly discuss the impact of digitalisation on the society. Therefore we invite special guests and engage in a dialogue with the audience.


Be the first to learn about our new events and exciting research results.