University of Technology Sydney

94657 Futures Thinking: Making Futures

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Transdisciplinary Innovation
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Requisite(s): 81539 Impossibilities to Possibilities


This subject engages participants in examining connections, patterns, and trends in the contexts of real-world challenges in order to discover avenues for initiatives, innovation and future development. The subject begins with identifying conditions required for the emergence of ideas, inspiration and change through examining historical cases of innovation. Participants analyse a contemporary challenge to situate its components and inter-dependencies as part of a big-picture complex system. Drawing on that collective case analysis, they propose worthwhile avenues for speculative exploration and innovation. They experiment using futuring methods to explore alternative future scenarios or worlds and to evaluate them in terms of impact. The subject culminates with participants developing an argument for and a speculative vision of a 'Future of X', recognising its implications and their agency with regard to making futures.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Analyse real-world innovation contexts and cases in order to discern connections and patterns that are supportive of emergence of ideas, innovation and change.
2. Identify issues of interest or concern, and apply a range of disciplinary and professional practice approaches to examine the potential for action.
3. Analyse trends observed in real-world contexts and creatively combine futuring methods to speculate about future developments.
4. Apply appropriate methods to conduct enquiry into real-world challenges to identify their constitutive elements and connections situated in specific contexts.
5. Evaluate the alternatives and articulate a compelling argument for a proposed direction for innovation in response to a real-world challenge.

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

Identify and represent the components and processes within complex systems and organise them within relational frameworks (CILO 1.1).

Select, apply and evaluate various techniques and technologies for investigating and interpreting complex systems (CILO 1.2).

Explore the relevance and test the value of frameworks, approaches and methods from different disciplines, professional practices or fields of inquiry for gaining insights into particular problems, proposals, practices, contexts and systems (CILO 2.1).

Communicate, explore, network and negotiate in ways that are inclusive of and mine for ideas from diverse disciplines (CILO 3.1).

Articulate often-complex ideas simply, succinctly and persuasively to a diverse team or audience (CILO 3.4).

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject will consist of six full days scheduled over 3 weeks, supplemented by online modules and activities.

Learning will take place in a collaborative, immersive, experiential, studio-based environment. Students will work with academics and professionals across a wide range of disciplines.

Content (topics)

  • Systems thinking and complexity
  • Inquiry and disciplinary epistemologies
  • Futuring methods: environmental scanning, forecasting, scenario planning, world-building
  • Ethics, impact, unintended consequences


Assessment task 1: Innovation Hubs

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 30%

1000 words

Assessment task 2: Future of X

Type: Project
Groupwork: Group, group and individually assessed
Weight: 50%

5000 words

Assessment task 3: A Leap into a Future

Type: Essay
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 20%

800 words

Minimum requirements

Students must attempt each assessment task in order to pass this subject.

Required texts

No required texts. Readings and other resources will be provided online.

Recommended texts

Angheloiu, C., Chaudhuri, G., & Sheldrick, L. (2017). Future Tense: Alternative Futures as a Design Method for Sustainability Transitions. The Design Journal, 20(1).

Bergman, R. (2017). Utopia for realists: how we can build the ideal world . NY Little Brown and Company: New York.

Dunne, A. & Raby, F (2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming . The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Available as an e-book through UTS Library)

Watson, R., & Freeman, O. (2012). Futurevision: Scenarios for the World in 2040. St. Brunswick/London: Scribe Publications.

Isaacson, W. (2014). The innovators: how a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming. foresight, 10(1), 4-21.

Inayatullah, S. (1990). Deconstructing and reconstructing the future: Predictive, cultural and critical epistemologies. Futures, 22(2), 115-141.

Irwin, T. (2015). Transition design: A proposal for a new area of design practice, study, and research. Design and Culture , 7 (2), 229-246.

Johnson, S. 2014. ‘Introduction: robot historian and the hummingbird’s wing,’ in How we got to now: six innovations that made the modern world, Particular Books, London, pp. 1-12.

Laland, K. N. (2018). Darwin's unfinished symphony: how culture made the human mind. Princeton University Press.

Latour, B. (2012). Love Your Monsters: Why We Must Care for Our Technologies As We Do Our Children. The Breakthrough Journal, Winter 2012.

McGrail, S., Halamish, E., Teh-White, K., & Clark, M. (2013). Diagnosing and anticipating social issue maturation: Introducing a new diagnostic framework. Futures, 46, 50-61.

Rose, D. 2014. ‘Six future fantasies’, in Enchanted objects: design, human desire, and the internet of things, Scribner, New York, pp. 251-264.

Shaviro (2018) Unpredicting the future. Alienocene, Theory/Fiction:

Snowden, D.J. and Boone, M.E., 2007. ‘A leader's framework for decision making.’ Harvard Business Review, 85(11), p.68

Stengers, I. (2015). In catastrophic times: Resisting the coming barbarism. Open Humanities Press.

Urry, J. (2016). What is the Future?. John Wiley & Sons.