Waking up in the twenty-first century

Emerald Group Publishing Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
On the Horizon, 2013, 21 (3), pp. 174 - 186
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore metaphors of human awakening in four recent futures works and propose a research agenda on the nature and future trajectories of awakening. Design/methodology/approach The paper reviews metaphors of awakening in Slaughter's The Biggest Wake-up Call in History, the Great Transition Initiative, Gilding's The Great Disruption and Inayatullah's Waking up to a new future. It identifies seven characteristics of awakening and uses these to create an environmental scanning framework. It reports on a preliminary application of the framework and proposes a future research agenda. Findings The paper identifies seven signals of awakening: futures literacy, shifting values, activism, collective agency, engaged dialogue, distributed leadership and inspiring visions. While evidence for most of these signals can be found, it is often weak and dominated by other trends. Research limitations/implications The environmental scanning framework needs to be expanded using additional literature and testing. The question of when confrontation with apocalyptic future images can deliver positive outcomes remains unresolved.
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