‘Making a Market for the Metamodern: The Productive Tension of Corporate Futurism’ with Gemma Milne

Wednesday 13th March 2024, 5-6.30pm

Richard Hoggart Building 137a, Goldsmiths University, SE14 6NW

Click here to register for a free ticket

This event is part of the PERC speaker series 23/24. Gemma Milne headshot

Corporate futurism is a growing trend for companies keen to stay relevant, beat competition and navigate the ‘perma-crisis’ of today. Some opt for consulting firms’ scenario planning, some turn to quantitative futurist-academics, some hire science fiction writers. Corporates are increasingly investing in projects and personnel dedicated to enlightening senior management about what’s to come next, and how to think about it, to realise the future’s potential. The idea being: if more corporates thought ‘better’ about the future, they would be more ethical, profitable and (positively) impactful.

Future-thinking is not just the corporate futurists’ product and service, but their answer to the question of how to live and work well in our ever-transitioning society. However, there’s a reported sense of being misunderstood and having to ‘Trojan horse’ the ‘real’ futurism into businesses through utilising managerial language and financialised capitalism terminology – there’s a tension between the realities of profit-making and the claimed emancipatory potential of futurism.

As cultural and business understandings and perceptions around risk, the future, uncertainty and speculation shift, corporate futurists are able to play with these ever-changing concepts to continue cementing the need for their services, and propping up a thriving market. My research looks to understand how corporate futurists make a market for themselves, how future-thinking is positioned as not only innovative and necessary, but – in some cases – righteous, and how corporate futurists navigate the perhaps contradictory nature of ‘making the world a better place for all’ within a corporate values-led environment.

Gemma Milne is a PhD researcher at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow and a CIRCE research fellow. She is the author of  ‘Smoke & Mirrors: How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It’, co-host of the Radical Science podcast and a deep tech advisor – for governments, institutions and other organisations working in those spaces.