The Transformative Imagination: Emerging media and the sustainability transformations

Project: Research

Project Details


The digital revolution has ushered profound changes in how societies communicate, engage in communities, perceive the world and imagine our common futures. The
dynamics of digitalization have a profound impact on all the 17 SDGs of the Agenda 2030, to the point that the debate on implementation of SDGs can no longer be conducted without an adequate understanding of the potential benefits and risks of the digitalization for the entire 2030 Agenda. Despite the momentous role that digital cultures have on attaining the Agenda 2030, there has been relatively research on benefits and risks. This research addresses this concern by focusing on a sub-set of digital cultures, namely, the field of “emerging media”.

Innovative media forms emerging at the intersection of art, science and technology (e.g. immersive platforms, artificial intelligence, ‘internet of things’, etc.), are radically expanding the possibilities of how societies tell stories and engage with the world and hence are reshaping the human communication and learning architecture. Successful utilizations of emerging media such as interactive tools and immersive platforms have been reported in education, health and medicine, and more recently as a learning tool in international climate negotiations. Concerns have also been lifted about the role, particularly of social-media, on social fragmentation raising a host of ethical and political concerns.

In this research I will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the challenges, possibilities, risks and benefits of emerging media in supporting transformations to realize the Agenda 2030. I build on key insights emerging from a previous Formas-funded project Arts4SDGs, which identified the field of ‘emerging media’ as a particularly powerful space to support transformative changes.

The rationale is that as interconnected risks and global challenges mount, humanity is called to re-imagine its most fundamental assumptions, beliefs and values. Emerging media is a particularly powerful platform for such exploration as they provide unique experiences of story; harnessing the power of technology, media makers can now take audiences into parallel human scale environments, shift first-hand perspectives from the planetary to the microscopic; provide teleconnected spaces of true human connection.

For the first time in history, humanity is equipped with the tools and social-media culture to collectively imagine our future on a global scale. Could interactive tools and immersive platforms be used to create a wide and inclusive process of imagining and defining our common future?

Using mixed methods and in collaboration with pioneers and leading actors in the field I will:
• Interrogate all existing “emerging media” projects related to the Agenda 2030 in terms of their impacts on creators and audiences.
• Collaboratively I will map existing seedbeds that facilitate the interactions between sustainability science, digital creative practices and policy, to critically assess and develop design guidelines of how sustainability challenges can be better included in future projects;
• Critically analyse how emerging media is shaping a transformative imagination of sustainability futures; particular attention will be given to historically marginalized groups and how they are entering the space of emerging media. This include afrotecnology, decolonial perspectives, indigenous futurism.

Overall, insights from this research will be used to revisit theories of transformations from the perspective of digital cultures. As we witness unprecedented collective efforts to contain a global pandemic, digital cultures are providing a space for connection, sense-making and solutions. In the post-pandemic world, it is paramount to examine how to harness digital cultures for sustainability transformations; how they may support the inquiry into profound questions of what it means to live in the midst of planetary ecological upheaval, and how to empower communities to systemically transform social-ecological systems for a prosperous future within the social and planetary boundaries.
Effective start/end date2021/01/012023/12/31

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Performing Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Other Engineering and Technologies

Free keywords

  • Digitalatisation
  • Digitalculture
  • SDG:s
  • agenda 2030
  • Sustainability science
  • medborgarskap