A Day in Your Future
Until April 19 you have the possibility to participate in an experiment at SDU. In order to participate you have to release your creativity and write a short story about a normal day taking place in five years. In your story you have to consider which societal, technological, and environmental changes, you believe will happen, and how these changes affect your daily life.
A great number of things influence and threatens our society these years. Prior to 2020, especially the climate situation and our negative effect of the environment were the most serious threats to our society and the world as we know it. A threat, which still exists today, but in the last year has been overshadowed by the threat of Covid. In 2020, our world experienced a revolution. Many people have kept a social distance to relatives and family, surgical masks have become a part of everyday life, and yet another threat has come closer.
By participating in this experiment, you will be able to share your dreams, fears, and concerns about the future with other students through fiction. Bryan Yazell, an assistant professor at the Department for the Study of Culture at SDU, as well as one of the initiators of the project, gives his thoughts on the creation of ”Write Your Future”.
Project ”Write Your Future”
When you submit your story for the participation of the project, you automatically enter into a contest of winning 1st place, first runner up and second runner up prizes of 5,000, 3,000, or 2,000 DKK. At the same time, the three winners will get the opportunity to contribute as authors to a feature article in Politiken. The newspaper will compile a summary of how students at SDU imagine the future, and how these predictions may help society as a whole.
When you participate in the project, your story will be published online as part of the "Write Your Future” project. In addition to this, all participants will be invited to a virtual celebration, where the winners will be announced, and select stories performed orally.
The stories will be read and evaluated by a panel of students and researchers from the five faculties, who will then select the three winners based on the imaginary powers of the narratives as well as the insight into how societal changes are reflected in the life of the author.
The Idea behind
A simple discussion was the genesis of the project. Bryan Yazell recounts that the idea for ”Write Your Future” arose when he discussed the theme of science fiction with his colleague, Christine Stabell:
”Science fiction is a genre that uses future settings and scenarios in order to really pinpoint social problems and concerns in the world today,” Bryan Yazell explains.
Furthermore, he explains that he recently published an article, in which he investigates how texts, speculating in future effects of climate change, also known as Climate Fiction, uses this futuristic framework to aid people in pondering on societal problems in the present time. Bryan Yazell tells that when he presented parts of the research to his colleague, Christine, she asked if it were possible to use science fiction and these speculations on the future, in the same manner with a more pressing subject such as Covid.
There is No End to the Possibilities in Fiction
But what is it that makes fiction so special? And what exactly can fiction provide when you want to make a project about the future like this?
Bryan Yazell tells, that the creators of the project are convinced that they will receive very different and potentially more expressive responses from the students, when they are asked to form their thoughts in the context of a short story, as compared to if they were given a simple questionnaire. In addition to this, he explains, that they have two assumptions:
“The first is that nearly everyone has some idea as to what the near future might hold after a year of changes brought on by COVID-19”.
Nonetheless, he thinks that many might not feel comfortable sharing their views of the future publicly.
“By forming their responses in the form of short fiction, students can elaborate their thoughts in a creative, unique way”.
He mentions, that fiction gives us the possibility to try out another life, and the chance to investigate and test a subject or an idea, which is easily imaginable, but you would not otherwise experience.
Their second assumption is that the project ”Write Your Future” recognizes the manner in which the writing of fiction is especially suitable for speculating about the future. The project is partially inspired by studies in speculative fiction which emphasizes the different ways these narratives utilize their notions of the future to make the reader aware of current problems. Climate Fiction is an example of this fact, he stresses.
”Our present history forms the backstory for the future scenarios these stories explore. The idea here is that things that appear complicated and messy in the present tend to look much simpler in hindsight. This new perspective on the everyday is a big part of fiction’s social value”.
By forming their responses in the form of a short fiction, students can elaborate their thoughts in a creative, unique way
Learning and experience
No matter if you study comparative literature, medicine, political science or another course, you will have the opportunity to submit your contribution of how a day in the future could look like.
Bryan Yazell notes that when they shaped and developed the project, they were especially joyed by and enthusiastic about the fact that contributions were provided by students of all faculties:
”I hope students regardless of background gain an appreciation of how fiction can help address important social issues related to health, governance, and work,” he emphasizes.
According to Bryan Yazell, the creators of “Write Your Future” hope that students will view this project as a great opportunity to form their thoughts, opinions, and hopes regarding the question that many are asking themselves: ”What changes are in store for the ‘new normal’ that awaits us?”.
Byan Yazell additionally stresses, that he hopes students will find time among studies and training at the university to write these narratives.
”Perhaps a student in political science will have a different approach to a story than a medicine student or an engineering student”.
He adamantly believes that everyone on the other side of "Write Your Future” can also benefit from the project, just as the students contributing with their stories:
”All of us share a genuine curiosity about what the future will hold, and we are all likely to have strong opinions or ideas about how the future should turn out” he emphasizes.
Bryan Yazell tells that he himself reads numerous best-case and worst-case-scenarios from experts and scientist, in the different newspapers, but that they are especially curious to hear which scenarios we as university students imagine for the future.
”That is to say, people who will be starting new careers or making big moves in the next few years. This group is likely to heavily be impacted by any societal changes they imagine taking place,” he further remarks.
In addition to this, he mentions, that the judges can also benefit from the project. They will have the chance to read and become exposed to types of material which is normally outside of their typical fields of research. Hence, no person will occupy the domain of all aspects of all stories, as these probably will center around subjects ranging from health, politics, and technology, he adds.
After all, if enough people imagine the future more or less the same way, that undoubtedly plays a part in making that imagined future more or less likely to appear
The Unknown Future
Bryan Yazell holds the opinion that a project such as this can help us reflect on the future.
”This project operates on the assumption that nearly everyone has been thinking about the future more than usual, whether it be about large-scale societal transformations or summer vacation plans,” he explains.
He mentions that the project wants to foster these ideas and thoughts on the future, which in some size and form exists through the fact that most of us enter a dialogue with others who possibly share the same thoughts and ideas as ourselves.
Bryan Yazell is convinced, that the fact, that the project has fiction as a point of focus, and that the students can form their ideas on the future in the framework of a short story shows how important fiction is for the purpose of forming the future. He additionally stresses that:
”After all, if enough people imagine the future in more or less the same way, that undoubtedly plays a part in making that imagined future more or less likely to appear”.
Share Your Dreams and Worries of the Future
”The project hopefully will give us a sense not only of what people think is most likely to happen in the short-term future, but also what people think should happen”.
Bryan Yazell emphasizes that common values, dreams and expectations in a community create our notions of what is possible and impossible, desirable and undesirable. He believes that shared dreams, concerns, and notions have a power in the real world. Furthermore, he is convinced that everyone has an interest in getting as clear of an image of the future, especially in light of the many changes, throughout the last year.
According to Bryan Yazell, all aspects of the predictions in the stories are important, no matter how worrying, wishful or probable, they will provide an impression of how students imagine the future.
Additionally, he mentions, that he personally is interested in which scenarios will reprise independently in these stories, and which changes the students think will occur in the future.
”Stories that are set in the workplace, at home, or on a train all tell us something different about how people anticipate technology, infra structure, and government oversight might feature into their everyday lives.”
More Projects as These
”I think that reflecting about how our collective actions in the present might affect the future can only benefit us.”
Reiteratively, Bryan Yazell brings the genre of Science Fiction into the discussion and muses over the fact, that when we read this genre, which reaches into future territory, we are actually compelled to focus on present things which we would not otherwise do.
As mentioned multiple times, pondering about the future helps us evaluate the present. Additionally, to this, it provides a picture of how trends and habits in the present time may evolve, and where they may potentially end. This way of thinking makes us more critical of the present and what we might take for granted.
Future-glancing stories depicting dystopia can inspire us to change our society in the present, hence, preventing the horrible outcome. Meanwhile more hopeful depictions can inspire us to embrace innovative ideas to make these hopeful scenarios a reality, he believes.
Projects such as ”Write Your Future” does not only provide a unique look into the dreams, concerns and ideas of the future found among students. These projects also provide a unique view of our present time, from which we can benefit immensely.