I’m a constructionist educator who believes we learn through making and reflecting on what we make. Traditional eduction and training often fall back on antiquated models of learning in which we expect people to remember what they have been told (with slides) and regurgitate it under test conditions. It is not just the traditional approach; e-learning has embraced this “present and test” wholeheartedly (because it is the easiest model to automate) without considering that it rarely achieves good outcomes.
World building supports a model of constructionist learning that is very exciting. The learner (or more effectively a group of learners) is in control and builds a world. The teacher is there to facilitate and guide as a “co-learner” or “co-explorer”. The learning from making are the higher order, multi-disciplinary skills and complex problems solving strategies that are so valuable. This is research, social learning and emotional learning and this approach can be applied at any level from schools to training.
But what does building a world actually involve and what gets built?
For most world builders in science fiction, fantasy gaming and film making there will be a written or told story but the opportunities are so much more.
General advice on making things
- Make time for making well
- Start simply and create a draft, a prototype or a sketch, then improve
- Create with a team
- Find tools to help you
- Build on what others have done
- Respect copyright or it might bite you in the future
- Enjoy releasing your inner child. Some of these might feel childish but they will support you in discussing the changes ahead in a safe and enjoyable setting
- Spend time talking afterwards about what your did, what you learned and what you can take into your everyday work
Here is a long list of things that can be imagined, made, discussed and improved
- One or more stories
– short stories are a good place to start
– make a list of things we would find in your world that are unusual in our own (links to what is scarce, abundant and valuable). Draw them
– lots of opportunities at very different scales. Great to help orientate the newcomer to the world. Create lots of maps including climate, terrain, population density and tourist highlight maps.
– take a distinctive idea. Use inspiration from political, revolutionary and marketing posters of the past
- News headlines
– write 10 headlines that show what is happening in your world this week, combining stories that show the main changes in your world plus colourful background and local interest stories. Record the opening of a TV news bulletin.
- Press releases
– write a press release from a company or organisation in your world that is responding to change: a headline, the body of the story, a quote from the organisation and someone affected. Find a picture to illustrate your story. Create an FAQ with 3-5 questions to help journalists really understand your story.
- Mood board
– a classic way to present the feelings of your world, this is a collage of images, type faces, colours, maps and comments
- Similar photos from foreign parts of our world
– find an image that expresses how things have changed by looking at cities, people and nature across the globe
– make a TikTok video, an animation or a record a skit
- Job ads
– what will be the jobs that reflect the changes in your world. Create a series of job ads with new job titles, responsibilities, compensation and experience required
- Technology reviews
– review the latest technology in your world, create an unboxing video or walk through. Adapt the style and language from existing review sites and magazines.
- Scientific papers
– create a short academic paper showing a breakthrough that has been achieved. Spend time researching the viability and connect transformational progress with the current state of the science/technology
– choose a product or an industry and create a 30 second TV spot, print advertising or posts for social media to show how innovation solves consumer problems in new ways
- 3D models
– turn your ideas for places and objects into explorable models. There is a wide range of software out there and libraries of existing models that can be adapted such as 3dnatives and sketch fab.
– ask yourself what the future sounds like, find natural, urban and electronic sound samples and mix them together to help listeners feel that future.
- Set of Postcards
– old technology but still a good way to express simple ideas and choose between them
- Org chart
– how are new teams connected? Explore large and small teams and show the reporting lines and information flows.
– tell stories from the future as a radio show, panel conversation or vox pop. Focus on getting the sound quality as good as you can.
– imagine numbers from the future. Explore more than money: employee satisfaction, weather stats, energy usage changes, population growth etc
- Food/menus/what’s in your fridge
– we understand foreign countries by their cuisines and can tell a lot about what they value and hold precious from their menus and ways of eating. The future is a foreign county so tell us what they eat, produce restaurant menus and reveal what is in their fridge?
- Transportation maps and schedules
– use the London Underground map as inspiration to show transport connections or information flows. Schedules and fares help us understand how connected places are and how long it takes to meet in person.
- Supply chain diagrams
– how will you create value for customers in the future? Draw a diagram to show how raw materials or ingredients are converted into products or services to meet a consumer (or business need).
- Future versions of Google, Facebook, Taobao etc
– take each commonly used online service and design the future version (based on your scenario time frame). Consider how your brand or organisation will be present on these platforms. Be bold in what will be different.
- Children’s diaries
– create pages from the diary of 14 year old in your future. What do they care about? How do they spend their time?
- Apps for this future
– project app technology forward into the future and consider how an app might be used to solve an identified need among your potential customers. Use simple prototyping tools to create screens for your new apps. Remember to harness all of the sensors that might be available in your future.
- Rebel/opposition posters
– who are the decanting voices or the dispossessed in the future. What are they saying about change? Create posters, slogans, websites or other material to bring their viewpoint to life.
- Crisis location maps
– if change has caused crises (climate, population, resources, wars, pollution etc) then create a map to show where this is and how these areas relate to where you do business and people live.
- Housing ads
– explore changes in how people live by creating real estate listings. Show the layout of homes and the facilities you expect them to have. Think about special groups of people such as the elderly.
- IKEA catalogue
– recreate a lifestyle catalogue such as that published by IKEA to show how your consumers’ lives have changed.
- Guided or self guided tours
– what are the highlights in your world and how would you explain them to someone. This could be an audio tour.
- School timetable
– what do students learn to be ready for your world? Create a one week timetable to show what skills, knowledge and experiences they will be getting.
- Bank statement
– where is money being spent? Show what a typical individual or company spends in a month and what they spend it on?
- Art work
– what does art look like in your world and how does it reflect the values of the society around it?
- Virtual museum
– create a virtual museum and fill it with art or other artefacts. There are a variety of 3D environments such as Kunstmatrix and artsteps that will give you an empty gallery to start to hang your art.
- Mall or Main Street plan
– imagine the shopping areas of your world and your place in it. Create part of a street or a mall and show the experiences you would find there.
- Political parties slogans and manifestos
– how are people governed and how does the range of political opinion show itself? Create a number of different political groups and show what they stand for. Create an identify for each of them.
- Luxury products ads or packaging
– think about valuable objects in your world and create new premium versions, premium packaging or advertising.
- Top lists
– lists are an interesting way of spotting change and exploring what matters. Create a number of Top 10 lists around cities, brands, issues that engage consumers or ways they spend their free time.
- Police reports based on new laws
– what are the new crimes that people and companies are committing in your world? This forces you to think about new rules and norms of behaviour. Create wanted posters.
- Chat records
– create a dialogue between two people in your world, or a customer and a company or a customer and an AI. What do they talk about? How does this reveal needs and priorities in the future?
- Magazine covers
– choose a popular magazine such as Vogue, Mens Health or Time and create a cover representing what is important to that audience in your future.
- Short drama sketches
– write a short play to tell a story from a particular viewpoint. Act out the play and film to share with others.
- Comic book
– show the future in a comic book format. There is lots of software around to help both online and apps. Work within the comic book genre.
- Company annual report
– design a shortened version of your companies annual report including mission, vision, market observations, highlights of the past year and key numbers. It will be a fiction but will get your team talking about how the future will be different from the present.
- Health records
– explore the impact of the future by creating sample health records. This will enable you to discuss future health emergencies, new treatments, patient expectations and wellness.
- Fashion lookbook
– this is a snapshot of a design collection usually worn by models to convey current trends from a designer or fashion house. Look for specific tools to bring together images of fashion to create a “look”.
– what will companies be monitoring in the future? what will I be able to know about my house, my car, my health or my time? Create visual data dashboards for work or home.
- Classified ads
– what are people buying and selling on 2nd hand goods and services sites? what are they looking for or offering? use an existing site as inspiration.
- Social posts (from influencers)
– imagine a social media infuencer in the future and create 3-5 posts (or videos) to show what is being pushed in your new world
- Board or card game
– design based on traditional games but updated with new settings and new challenges. What does Monopoly or TopTrumps look like?
- Video games
– another idea for games but be careful to link it to your imagined world and not let the game drive the world
- Qualification certificates
– design certificates or badges to be displayed to show life long learning in your world. What will achievements look like?
- Dating profiles
– what will people say about themselves to attract others in the future? Another great way to explore what matters. Copy the format of existing profiles and make sure you include a picture (perhaps generated by AI)
- Farming crop reports
– every industry has it’s own reports and creating one in the same style can be very illuminating especially when it is a fast changing industry such as farming
- Report from global organisation such as UN
– what will UNDP, World Economic Forum, WWF be saying about what happens? Copy the style of their reports but bring them into your future
- Prepare for an interview
– ask someone to interview you about your future world or an aspect of it and prepare notes for the types of questions that they will ask.
- A wiki
– given the complexity of a future world a non linear encyclopaedia of your world can be a powerful too. Use software such as MediaWiki or WorldAnvil to collect your thoughts.
- Time capsule
– what would you bury to represent your future? what artefacts need to be stored to remind future generations?
- Rich picture
– just sketch the big ideas in your world and show some of the connections
- Systems diagrams
– formalise some of the thinking in your world by identifying the components in your future world and considering how a change in one causes effects in another.
I’ll add more ideas to this post soon including those for fantasy gaming and fiction. Please let me know what I have missed.