The Futures Studies Toolbox and iPod Touch: Digitally Enabled Futures Images for the Japanese University 2020 Project

By Michael Vallance and David L. Wright.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With a volatile economy and perceived indeterminate futures, Japanese companies are being forced by circumstances to change the way they recruit university graduates. One particular recruitment strategy currently being promoted at companies is to ask applicants to present a future strategy for the company. Unfortunately, Japanese universities are not preparing students to carefully analyse and strategise perceptions of the future leaving students poorly equipped to conceptualise alternative future possibilities and dangers. Given this background, one Multimedia Communication course at a techno- logy university in Japan adopted a Futures Studies & Thinking approach. The aim was to provide Complex Systems students (n=79) with a theory driven Futures Toolbox to design and present digitally enabled futures images (DEFI) of their university. The 15-week, 45-hour core course was split into explicitly teaching a Futures Studies Toolbox which included the Futures Triangle Analysis (FTA), scenario building, SWOT analysis, backcasting and Lasswells’ Communication Formula, in conjunction with practical multimedia skills such as movie editing and enhanced Podcast development. The context of all activities was Futures University 2020. Futures-oriented sub themes were structured around a STEEPV model: Societal contribution; Technology use; Environment; Educational philosophy; Politics and people; Values that underlie the university. The challenge was how to communicate new ideas, derived from strategically applying the Futures Toolbox, in a creative, innovative way. Student teams were provided with an iPod Touch. Two iPod Touch applications in particular were used to develop the presentations: Strip Designer and StoryKit. These linked to students’ previously created photos and Podcasts synchronized on each iPod Touch. The students added text and recorded voice-overs to support their futures images. The originality of this paper resides firstly in the synergies produced by combining Futures Studies as praxis with the creation of digitally enabled futures images (DEFI), and secondly in the critical and self-reflexive nature of the unit of analysis: the Future University itself, whose very name, and cultural contexts, have not been critically examined before by its students.

Keywords: Futures Studies, Image Of The Future (Theory), Communication Formula, Value Ecologies, Digitally Enabled Futures Images, DEFI, Futures Film, iPod Touch, New Media Technologies, Complex Systems, Creatives, Employment, 2020

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.261-274. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 944.566KB).

Dr. Michael Vallance

Professor, Department of Media Architecture, Future University Hakodate, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Dr. Michael Vallance is a Professor at Future University Hakodate (FUN), Japan. He has a Doctorate in Education from Durham University and a Masters Degree in Computer Assisted Learning from Stirling University, UK. He has been involved in educational technology implementation and research for over ten years, working closely with schools, pre-service teachers and computer companies particularly in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. Michael is widely published in academic educational technology journals and computer magazines. His ‘My-Dream’ is to implement the Futures Studies Tool-Box in an interactive 3D virtual world. Michael’s Website is at

David L. Wright

Associate Professor, Department of Media Architecture, Future University Hakodate, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

David L. Wright is an Associate Professor at the Future University Hakodate (FUN) in Japan. He completed his Masters of Business Communication within the Business Faculty at Queensland University of Technology, and his Doctorate with the Creative Industries Faculty from the same university. His principal research focus is in Futures Studies and Thinking, into which he integrates aspects from Communication Studies, the Creative Industries, and Complex Systems. Under the name TExT-TUBE STUDIOS he is currently developing a new genre of futures-oriented film-making. David also teaches the course - Broadcast Media Design - at Sapporo City University.


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