The Emerge Team at Play (and Work)

On November 20, the core Emerge team took a break from our work on Emerge 2015 to begin planning for Emerge 2016. We wanted to try something a little bit different this time; something to match the playful spirit of Emerge. So we began a new tradition: an Annual Mini-Retreat for our merry pirate band to gather and participate in shaping the future of Emerge. This particular event involved improv games, arts and crafts, and discussions about jetpacks. This was serious fun and it helped us brainstorm a new model for Emerge 2016. We also uncovered two truths about Emerge that will serve as guideposts for our future work.

1. Emerge is a collaborative, participant-driven process. Because the future is not shaped by a technology or a field, but by many actors across many networks, visions of the future should be collaborative efforts that draw on multiple perspectives, disciplines, and practices. We envision Emerge as a way to share ideas from collaborative endeavors that cross big boundaries. Artists working with scientists; engineers working with digital humanists; historians working with mathematicians. Varied backgrounds make for richer visions, so we want to foster collaborations between and among new partners from across ASU, Phoenix, and our global network of unusual minds.

Core members of the Emerge team form a “human machine” as part of an improv game to express their roles in Emerge.

Core members of the Emerge team form a “human machine” as part of an improv game to express their roles in Emerge.

To ensure these are strong collaborations, we will recommit ourselves to developing Emerge as a process, and to revealing and reveling in the messiness of that process. This means that the work we show at our annual March event might be in different states of completion. Some may require audience participation to complete, and may be presented in full the following year. Others may be polished performances, or written stories. Still others may be failures. Projects that, for whatever reason, did not work. We want to share those, too, to illuminate the challenges of working across disciplines and the ineffability of the future.

2. Emerge shares visitations of the future When visitors step into an Emerge event, we hope they will feel as though they are stepping into a glimpse of a potential future. The playshops (because these are not your average workshops) developed to help shape these collaborative processes will focus on how to think through the complexities of potential futures. They will help creative teams to design not the dystopian or utopian futures we see on television or at the movies, but nuanced, thoughtful investigations and representations that ask more of an audience than they might be used to, or even comfortable with. These visitations beg questions about whether we want the future they predict, and if so, how we create that future.

The Emerge team uses their visions of Emerge 2020 to think about what Emerge 2016 will look like.

The Emerge team uses their visions of Emerge 2020 to think about what Emerge 2016 will look like.

To better align these two visions of Emerge, the March event for Emerge 2016 will be a culmination of a yearlong process involving quarterly playshops. The first of these collaboration-building events will incorporate a kind of speed dating game to develop partnerships across disciplines. Over the course of the year, these partnerships will periodically meet and be led through a process that involves design prototyping, improvisation games, and even field trips to create their visitations.

We will also be hosting a special event for participants in 2015’s Emerge to bring them together to find connections between and among their visitations. This event will be half party, half playshop, and may well transform what we think we have planned for 2015.

In the next few months, we’ll be introducing our reinvention of Emerge, beginning with never before seen mission and vision language for Emerge and a new handbook for participants. Like the retreat, and the playshops we envision for 2016, these documents are likely to be a transformation of their traditional forms. Won’t you join us?

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