The futures of agency
Exploring the liminal spaces between action and responsibility
25 October 2023 (Wednesday), 17:00-18:00, cowork

The Future of Aeronautics: How Science Fiction Builds New Narratives of Global Mobility

The German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) aeronautical strategy proclaims as its prime goal a pathway to “emission free” flying and “climate neutral aeronautics.” The strategy fits into the European Green Deal and its projection of a climate neutral society by 2050. But while new forms of land-based mobility are discussed and represented in society and culture, the communication around flying has been hampered by prejudices on its incompatibility with climate neutrality. Kim Stanley Robinson’s widely acclaimed science fiction (SF) novel, The Ministry for the Future, describes worldwide aviation coming to a halt (due to eco terrorism) and being replaced by slow travel airships. And it is one of the very few futures narratives that explicitly mentions air travel and develops a narrative on how global mobility will be possible (or not) in a climatically changed world.
As research has shown, cultural narratives are important impact factors on the understanding and shaping of technologies on a larger societal scale (cf. Schwarz; Steinmüller; Zaidi) and need to be considered when developing futures scenarios. The talk will address the DLR’s work within futures studies and its project of scenario analysis on “the future of flying”. Moreover, it will elaborate on how SF is being adopted into the methodology for its cultural representation of futures and the creation of new narratives of a global mobility. From the input of SF professionals in scenario workshops in writing compelling futures narratives to a short story anthology gathering new and innovative visions of global air mobility, the expertise brought by the SF community is invaluable in creating “protopian” (cf. Bielskyte) visions of the future – positive visions of how we could continue to remain globally mobile and be emission free.

German Aerospace Center