Emerging Words for the Future – Spring 2022 Edition!

Over the last couple of years and through my own foresight journey (as a social worker and a human)…I’ve found emerging language regarding the future to be really interesting, illuminating, sometimes troubling, and valuable. Sometimes there are words that are more “pop culture” words that emerge from the mainstream (they are a little like popcorn…not much substance). I’m less interested in these and more interested in terms that reflect some deeper shifts in the emerging world. Though sometimes words are themselves signals…they seem silly or superficial at first…and then shift to mean something very important. Some of you know that during the life of this blog, I’ve developed an “alphabet of the future” (linked below) with a cumulative accounting of this little project.

As always, when I’m learning about this concepts, I’m wondering how they fit in social work, if I see any trace of responsivity, relevance or connection to them – and if they’d be useful for us, and if so why. The list is always a work in progress – things that might refresh our perspectives and our imaginations. I haven’t posted one of these in a while. I gather up words as I hear them go by – if I’m not intrigued and curious…I let them go by. These have been gathered up over the last 6 months or so. When I’m done, I add them the full version (linked below).

Algospeak – web actors codes or invented phrases specifically developed and used to fly “under the radar” of online content moderation systems. During covid-19, this phenomenon really accelerated according to this piece. Author Cory Doctorow takes a deeper dive in the emergence and evolution of the phenomenon as an emerging vocabulary itself.

Bug Bounties – A bug bounty program is a deal offered by many websites, organizations and software developers by which individuals can receive recognition and compensation for reporting bugs, especially those pertaining to security exploits and vulnerabilities (from Wikipedia). This is a really interesting example of collective effort in technology and almost gamify inevitable glitches that are going to happen with emerging programming. This piece talks about the increase in and reasons for the growing popularity of these programs. Here’s one list of available bug bounties.

Climate Contrarianism – despite the massive, repeatedly affirmed body of scientific knowledge about climate change, there remain those who actively push back against this knowledge and/or participate in trafficking in or creating disinformation in this space. These folks have gotten their own title – “climate contrarians.” Scholars are now beginning to study these people and the varieties of their attitudes and activities (as well as underlying drivers). Here’s a podcast episode with author Richard Black, who has written a book on the subject. The point of the focus is to learn to navigate and address the disinformation purposefully.

Epistemic Web – one view of a future of the world wide web that seeks to rectify current limitations. The epistemic web posits that it would become a universe of knowledge that parallels human knowledge and evolves to be a dynamic repository of knowledge that is co-created by those using it. Read more about it here. (Related interesting and relevant piece about the epistemologies of the internet and challenges ahead in this space.)

Life Affirming Institutions – abolition thinker, activist and writer Ruth Wilson Gilmore coined this term to describe institutions that are an alternative to our current systems of carceral surveillance, control and punishment – especially to Black and Brown people. Ultimately, the idea that community organizations should be expressions of love, liberation and peace as an alternative to racism, social control and necropolitics. (See also – Beloved Community via Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Pluriverse – According to “Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary” (available free to download at this link), the pluriverse is the presence of many divergent co-existing ideas in an ecological balance, yet always changing based on principles of emergence. Writer Arturo Escobar describes pluriverse-centered design as: coexistence of plural meanings and connotations, is centered around the idea of building design practices that are situated in plurality: participatory, socially oriented, and open ended. The metaverse – focused on increasing immersive technical acumen stands in contrast to the idea that the pluriverse can and must hold multiple kinds of knowledges – and not all of them need to be immersive and technological. Something to keep thinking about.

Toxic Positivity – Things are very intense in the world right now – we all feel it. And yet over and over again, someone will suggest that everything would be better if we just “stayed hopeful” “positive vibes only” or a similar kind of advice. Increasingly, there’s reaction to this kind of tone. It’s called “toxic positivity” and described here as: as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. Much is being written about the importance of seeking meaning from the individual and collective challenges, injuries and grief we’re witnessing and sharing rather than minimizing, ignoring or numbing ourselves to them. It doesn’t reject hope…but it affords that authentic hope emerges from meaning making, evolution, genuine connection, love, healing, and action – not platitudes.

Here’s the full list with new items incorporated!

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