and Monitoring Change
a quantifiable subject of study, the value of which can change over
a pattern of change over time in some variable of interest. Having
trend data for some variable implies multiple instances of that
variable. For example, one revolution in Africa is an event; two
or three revolutions would call for comparative case studies; fifteen
revolutions in countries in Africa within five years would constitute
a trend. One of the most obvious, and
largest trends, is the increase in world population. A potentially
even larger trend, but much less obvious -- or even agreed upon
-- would be the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Another is the continuing decline in the cost of microchips and
consequently of computers.
commonly used to indicate a widespread (i.e., more than one country)
trend of major impact, composed of subtrends which in themselves
are capable of major impacts. For example, global climate change
will have a major impact, on all the countries of the world, and
can be disaggregated into global atmospheric warming, sea-level
rise, decrease in stratospheric ozone, etc.
issue" or "seed of change" or "weak signal:"
these terms are used by different futurists, but all mean essentially
the same thing: the sources of change -- the first case; the original
idea or invention; the watershed event; the social outliers expressing
a new value -- that is, a sign of change that exists presently in
only a few scattered instances, which might multiply into enough
data points to constitute a trend. You might say that an emerging issue is a trend with
only one or two cases -- a trend only you have noticed!
"Wild cards:" low probability
but high impact changes -- like a global plague, or the invention
of table-top fusion --usually described as events rather than gradually
processes and additional information on line, see:
is Trudi Lang's excellent article, "An Overview of Four Futures
Methodologies: Delphi, Environmental Scanning, Issues Management
and Emerging Issues Analysis." Do, however, note, that your
faculty here at Clear Lake will often use the term "environmental
scanning" as shorthand to refer to environmental scanning,
emerging issues analysis, and issues management as inter-related
is the Arlington Institute's special focus topic webpage on wild
cards. The Arlington Institute was founded by John L. Petersen,
who takes a rigorous approach to analyzing, indexing, and tracking
potential wild cards.
the Impacts and Implications of Change
term loosely encompasses
all the linked changes that change itself causes: mapping the effects
of change in essence looks not just at the result of the cue ball
striking the racked balls, but at the subsequent results of the
balls in motion as they rebound off the table walls and each other.
term, on the other hand, loosely encompasses how all the players
involved feel about the effects of the cue ball striking the racked
balls. The "impacts" of change are our evaluations of all the effects
of change -- and thus vary from person to person.
effects: imagine a change event or an emerging issue as a stone
hitting the surface of the pond: the change itself causes additional
changes, which themselves cause yet more change. For example, consider
personal transportation. Increases in car ownership in the United
States have outstripped increases in population. As a consequence,
it takes longer to get to work, longer to find a place to park,
and more money to pay for parking; air pollution has increased,
car graveyards litter the land, and acres of discarded tires melt
in perpetual smolder. These are all primary effects of the
increase in the number of privately owned cars. Secondary effects
include the creation of the fast-food/convenience store/gas station;
gasoline credit cards; carphones, carfaxes, and trip computers;
and "bedroom communities." To represent tertiary effects, I will
offer only one example: the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Wheels: "...a way of organizing thinking and questioning
about the future; a kind of structured brainstorming. The name of
a trend or event is written in the middle of a piece of paper, then
small spokes are drawn wheel-like from the center. Primary impacts
or consequences are written at the end of each spoke. Next, the
secondary impacts of each primary impact form a second ring of the
wheel. This ripple effect continues until a useful picture of the
implications of the event or trend is clear." [quoted from
Jerome C. Glenn, "The Futures Wheel," AC/UNU Millennium
Project papers on Futures Research Methodology.
processes and additional information on line, see:
you will find pdf (Adobe Acrobat) versions of the AC/UNU Millennium
Project papers on Futures Research Methodology, written in many
cases by the original creator(s) of the tool in question.
(Identifying, Analyzing, Expanding, or Creating Scenarios of Possible
of the future: an imaginary description (in any format or media)
of a possible future outcome for a given item of interest:
a person, a community, an organization, nation, society, bioregion,
planet, etc. An infinite number of possible images of the future
exist. This futures concept is related to the notion in physics
of alternate universes.
present:" a clumsy term to describe the time described
in images of the future: the present-day of the future any image
describes, or the future considered as if we were living in it now,
with our present its past.
a technical term usually used to describe an image of the future
deliberately crafted for planning or foresight purposes. It should
be rooted in identifiable trends or emerging issues data which are
extrapolated and organized using an explicit theory of social change.
It should describe how changes created the particular future present
out of the past, and offer a vivid, provocative, accessible picture
of how the future present differs from today. Scenarios are often
evaluated in terms of plausibility and probability; they should
contain both opportunities and threats – they are statements
of possible future outcomes.
within this curriculum, a technical term used to describe an image
of the future which articulates an individual’s or group's
most closely held values, most cherished ideals, and most preferred
goals in a positive statement of a preferred future outcome.
an imaginary and indefinitely remote place of ideal perfection especially
in laws, government, and social conditions; an ideal and perfect
place or state, where everyone lives in harmony and everything is
for the best; or a description of such a place.
an image of the future which articulates an individual’s or
group’s greatest concerns, worries, and fears, in a negative
statement of a highly feared future outcome.
an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful
lives; an imaginary place or state where everything is as bad as
it possibly can be: or a description of such a place.
Card: previously defined – NOTE: they may be very positive,
very negative, or mixed in effects and impacts.