“I wish my sister took the time to send me a text message for my birthday or at least post on my Facebook wall!” –December 2, 2050
Over the past few months, a variety of data has surfaced regarding a particular trend reversal. Companies are offering traditional communication like “snail mail” as a service. Last summer, Snail My Email introduced a global art project. 10,457 handwritten letters were penned by 234 volunteers from email submissions around the world. Another organization, Paperfinger, provides calligraphy services to enhance traditional love notes. Quarterly Co. sends participants physical objects along with letters from key tastemakers as a monthly “show and tell”.
Futurists would be remiss to discount nostalgia in alternative scenario generation. Yet, as far as I know, future studies does not have a formal method to forecast future areas of nostalgia.
The power of the “snail mail” countertrend isn’t in the data points. Instead, the idea of a resurgence in past conceptions can be used as an extended metaphor for enhancing future scenario sets. Electronic communication can quite possibly replace other methods of future communications. But what is the post-digital age? Why would some groups want to go back to a landscape dominated by “digital” media?
Using current countertrends to construct future ones could be a powerful tool to generate a remarkable scenario set. There are values and traditions future societies will yearn for from the past.
What role should nostalgia play in scenario development? How can futurists systematically generate a scenario set where feelings of nostalgia resonate with a particular audience? Is there an approach where participants could be excited by the future while longing for a past that does not yet exist?
Jim Dator writes about the idea of “aiglatson” or nostalgia spelled backwards. Dator believes it is critical for futurists to revere the future; without being disrespectful to the past. Futures provides society with narratives that bring them into new future worlds. Part of these worlds should include remembering a past that has yet to be created.