Global FUTR Lab, FutureEverything 2015

Strange Telemetry was commissioned by FutureEverything to run the inaugural Global FUTR Lab, as part of FutureEverything’s 2015 festival.

In collaboration with the British Council and FutureEverything, we brought together 10 participants from the UAE, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, Ukraine, and the UK. The workshop moved beyond narratives of the ‘creative city,’ exploring how layers of industrial and cultural heritage influenced participants’ own projects and practice.

We started the first day with a walkshop. Over two hours, we took in underpasses, canals, tramlines, railway stations, and housing. Points along the way included reappropriations of railway arches, from public land to private sites of use; the Alan Turing memorial, sited between Canal Street and the university buildings of Manchester and (formerly) UMIST; and the mimicked architectures of new-build accommodation, mirroring and reimagining older industrial elements.


Taking the materiality of the city as a stimulus for reflective thinking about the spaces and places of Salford and Central Manchester, we unpacked what we’d taken in by populating a large map of the area with photos taken over the course of walk. Participants highlighted elements they’d found particularly interesting or provocative, and thoughts sparked relating to their own backgrounds and experience. Drawing on this, we mapped the spaces (local/national/global) and structures (design/futures/systems) of the city on a 3x3 matrix, providing a common point of reference for a diverse and international group.

Using the 3x3 mapping exercise as a scaffold, we started the second day with participants using the same matrix to break down their own practices. Through this unbundling process, participants began to highlight the networks, cultures, and infrastructures which underpinned and supported their work.

We hosted a Mentor’s Lunch, where our participants had the opportunity to meet and engage with a range of people from the domains of technology, art, and politics, convened in Manchester by the FutureEverything Festival 20th Anniversary.

For the final stage of the Lab, we used a deck of custom-designed cards to encourage participants to think about how a range of possible incidents – solar flares destroying satellites; abundant clean energy; the end of alphanumerics – would impact on each of the different elements of their work, identifying the fragilities, flexibilities, and points of dependence.

From Strange Telemetry’s perspect, the Global FUTR Lab was part of a larger discussion we are interested in provoking around critical approaches to innovation, helping people move beyond scalar models of technological development and assumptions about the intrinsic value of ‘disruption’ to a richer understanding of how we might work to remould, scaffold, or route around existing socio-technical systems.

We've written more extensively about the Global FUTR Lab on our blog here.

The British Council have written a blog post about the workshop here.

One of the participants, Areeb Kamran, has been interviewed about it here.

Adebayo Adegbembo has written about the workshop here.

Bhavani Esapathi has written about it here.

Top & header photo credit - Mannox Media, all others Tobias Revell