Inventing the Future by Writing Science Fiction Stories

:speech_balloon: Speaker: Brigitte Gasser @Brigitte

:classical_building: Affiliation: Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Title: Inventing the Future by Writing Science Fiction Stories

Abstract (long version below): Due to social change and digital transformation, companies need to develop innovations and scenarios for the future. The creative methods used in this process to develop future scenarios are diverse, but only partially scientifically based. In the study presented here, future scenarios in the form of science fiction stories are developed in a guided writing process and evaluated using qualitative and quantitative research methods. The aim of the study is, on the one hand, to elaborate and categorize the topics picked up in the science fiction stories. And on the other hand, the writing process is considered to optimize innovation processes using science fiction stories.


:newspaper: Long abstract

Societal changes in areas such as politics, economics and environmental protection require rethinking. Companies are embracing these changes and seeking new approaches for their raison d’être, products and services. Digitalization or digital transformation is considered to be a promising component of the new approaches. However, digitization in itself does not bring new products and services; these have to be developed. For these developments, companies invest in the development of innovations and future scenarios. Such investments occur not only at the corporate level, but also in other organizations and at the regional and national level. Searching for innovations and future scenarios, companies use different creative methods to find new ideas.

The focus of this study is the development of future scenarios in the entrepreneurial field via the writing of science fiction stories. The writing process should encourage people to think about the future and develop their own scenarios. In the best case, this can influence entrepreneurial as well as personal actions in a positive sense. Two topics are the focus of interest. On the one hand, the topics that are written about are examined. On the other hand, it is analyzed how the writers perceived the writing process. From this, it is concluded how writing processes on innovations can be better supported in the future.

The science fiction stories have been written by students in an MSc in Business Administration program in Switzerland. The stories were created as part of classes on current trends around digital transformation. The students were briefly introduced to the genre of science fiction, and were also given tips on story structure and writing. The following topics were discussed in class: metaverse, games, artificial intelligence, politics, digital art, and digital ethics. In the science fiction stories, at least one of these topics had to be included and play a central role. As a first step, students did a literature review on their topic to know the current state of developments. Before writing the stories, students submitted a concept of their story in the form of a visualization. The science fiction stories could be written either as individual work or in groups of two. All students wrote an individual reflection about the story content and the writing process. In addition, interviews were conducted with individual students about their experiences writing the stories. A total of 30 science fiction stories and 40 reflections were included in the analysis.

The science fiction stories and reflections were first evaluated separately. A quantitative and qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the science fiction stories. The topics included in the stories were categorized and different types of content were identified. The written reflections and interviews were analyzed qualitatively. Software for the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data was used for the analysis of the science fiction stories as well as for the reflections and interviews, whereby the analysis process and the results were structured and partly presented graphically. The results in the form of the typology of the topics picked up and the results from the reflections were contrasted to show patterns between writing experiences and topics chosen.

The results from the science fiction stories show a wide range of picked up topics. Various digital innovations were discussed. In the context of the ideas for the future, hopes, wishes and fears also appeared, which were included in the data analysis. The diversity of the content of the science fiction stories as well as the motivation and enjoyment of the writers showed that the procedure used is helpful for the creation of future scenarios and that the procedure should be refined. The specifications regarding the topics for creating future scenarios were very broad in this study. In following studies, the problems to be solved should be specified more concretely or the focus should be on a specific industry.

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