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Identifying, Analyzing, and Building Scenarios

Thursdays, 7:00 - 9:50 pm
Dr. Wendy L. Schultz

Course Description | Assignments

This course will explore in depth the concept of "scenarios" -- images of alternative futures -- why they are theoretically important in futures studies, where images emerge in society, how they are linked to emerging trends and critical issues of change, how they are used in advertising and politics, etc. Participants will engage in an "image hunt" and in the process develop a taxonomy to aid identifying, categorizing, and analyzing images of the future. One of the key goals of the course is developing participants' own fluency in identifying and synthesizing images of alternative futures for scenario-building.


  • any three of the following four 1-2 page reports: 1) map the predominance of a religious view of the future in the world as represented by populations of its adherence; 2) choose a new political/party or movement and research its growth over the last 5-10 years; 3) choose a technology development scenario and ID indicators of its development; and 4) choose an environmental scenario and ID indicators of its development -- each are 10% of the final grade, completing three results in a combined total of 30% of the final grade;
  • read one analysis of some critical trend of change along with a related speculative fiction book which portrays the future implied by that trend, and compare (5-7 pages) -- 20% of final grade;
  • compare two different consultant's scenarios for approach, data and trend use, and presentation (5-7 pages) -- 20% of final grade;
  • draft three scenarios on the subject of your choice; identify for readers' benefit the assumptions and trends you used, and what indicators should be monitored to evaluate probability of the scenarios (approximately 10 pages) -- 30% of final grade.

Formats for each assignment/class activity: specific, detailed descriptions of the format and content required for each assignment to be handed in will be included in the coursepack. As an example, the book report format is described below.


  • Master approaches to identifying, classifying, and analyzing images of the future in different format and media;
  • Develop a taxonomy of images of the future;
  • Establish personal database on scenarios relating to different issues and sectors of society for use in further futures research;
  • Practice drafting scenarios of alternative futures;
  • Communicate the above clearly to others via discussion, presentation, and writing;
  • Use the Internet and WorldWide Web for research.

Required Texts
Millenium III, Century XXI
1996 Boulder: Westview Press.

The Future as Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the anti-utopians. 1967
Arcturus Books/Southern Illinois Univ. Press

The following books will be on reserve:

ALDISS, Brian and David WINGROVE
Trillion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction
1988 London: Paladin

CORN, Joseph J. and Brian HORRIGAN
Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future
1984 New York: Summit Books

HAWKEN, Peter, James OGILVY, and Peter SCHWARTZ
Seven Tomorrows
1982 New York: Bantam.

The Third Millenium: A History of the World AD 2000-3000
1988 London: Paladin.

January 1996

Header: Author. Name of the Book. Place published: publisher, date of publication. Number of pages.

Body/non-fiction: After stating all the pertinent information listed above, a book review should contain at least a paragraph (conventionally at least four sentences long) on each of the following:

  1. Why did you pick this book to review (liked the cover? friend recommended it? threw darts at the book list? came to you in a dream?);
  2. Brief explanation of the idea or argument the author is making about the world, trends in change, crises, or whatever (please include a mention of how or where facts were obtained to support this argument);
  3. Implications: the author is, presumably, describing some startling change or crisis situation. What changes does this imply for social systems? political systems? economic systems? technology? the environment? what else? you will need to think about this in order to compare the author's implications with the details offered by the artists' scenario offered in the speculative fiction work you have chosen.
  4. Was the book interesting, well-written, and did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

Body/speculative fiction: After stating all the pertinent information listed above, a book review should contain at least a paragraph (conventionally at least four sentences long) on each of the following:

  1. Again, briefly explain why you chose this book (presumably, because you thought it represented a scenario linked to the non-fiction book you chose);
  2. Brief summary of the plot or narrative: this will certainly take more than one paragraph, but should take less than six -- do, however, mention crucial information like the main character's name, where and when the action takes place, etc.;
  3. Describe as best you can, from what the author describes outright or implies, a) what system of governance exists in this future; b) what the characteristics of the economic system are (production, distribution, currency); c) any really startling social innovations (people are all one gender; nobody can hear; everyone has an extra set of thumbs; group marriage covenants; etc.
  4. What has the artist told you that the analyst did not? What were the most riveting details (i.e., details that caught your fancy, totally revolted you, or otherwise snapped you to attention) the artist extrapolated from the patterns of change suggested by the analyst? What weaknesses or logical inconsistencies can you find in the artist's scenario?
  5. Finally, did the author write the story well? Did you enjoy the book itself? Why or why not?

This looks like requirements for a twenty-page paper, but trust me, it isn't. Be concise; try just sketching succinctly the authors' key thoughts and your impressions. YOUR IMPRESSIONS are critical -- and don't just say you like or didn't like some aspect of this future, say WHY. Be as specific as possible; citing descriptive phrases from the work helps.

One more thing: I am a compulsive editor, and it is possible that your book report will be returned to you with red corrections all over it. THIS WILL IN NO WAY AFFECT YOUR GRADE, WHICH IS BASED SOLELY ON CONTENT. On the other hand, experience tells me that salable skills in business include the ability to write clearly, logically, and, where possible, elegantly. This editing service is extended as an aid to improving your writing skills. If you have any questions, or are totally outraged, please come talk. WLS

examples of trend analyses with matched speculative fiction:

analysis ///

/// speculative fiction

environmental holocaust:
CARSON, Rachel. Silent Spring
///BRUNNER, John. The Sheep Look Up

feminist social reconstruction:
EISLER, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade
///TEPPER, Sheri S. The Gate to Women's Country
OR BRIN, David Glory Season

religious fundamentalism:
MOJTABAI, A.G. Blessed Assurance: at home with the bomb
in Amarillo, Texas

///ATWOOD, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale
[book or movie]
OR The Rapture [movie]


> Resources > Course Syllabi > Intro | Classics | Systems | Methods | Facilitation | Governance | Images | World | Leadership

15 February 2003. Email IF.
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