What do our futures look like? Despite countless conferences, educational campaigns and documentaries about climate change, the effects of climate change remain rather abstract to a majority of people. Immersive transmedia project FutureCoast uses participatory storytelling to “de-abstactrifiy” this topic through participatory storytelling. Participants are invited to create and listen to voicemails from the future and hence share fictional snippets of what every day life might be 20 and 50 years from now, “as if these messages [had] leaked out of the cloud of possible near futures” says creator Sara Thatcher. Thatcher is one of the creators of the Jejune Institute in San Francisco, and has worked on FutureCoast with veteran game designer Ken Eklund, creator of A World Without Oil. FutureCoast, backed by the National Science Foundation, was launched in February 2014 as a member of PoLAR Partnership at Columbia University, and will run through April.
The narrative is built collectively through the crowdsourced voicemails, which bring a very personal and authentic dimension to the climate change debate. In 2059, a little girl ask her grandma to take her see the last living lobster at a science expo; a travel reminder from 2031 gives its recipients the timetable to cross the Golden Gate Bridge between high-tides; in 2042 a woman asks her friend Carol if she can fix her home salt water converter; in 2044 a young man gives his friend a heads up that the San Francisco Gondola Coalition and the recycling plant scavengers finally reconciled, so now there’s plastic again.
Voicemails can be recorded and consulted on the FutureCoast website, but they also appear in our physical world in the form of “Chronofacts,” beautiful geocached objects from our potential futures, spread around the world. FutureCoast is leading the Chronofact recovery effort in a quest to better grasp the impact of climate change. When a Chronofact is found, participants can decode it online. Many cities in the United States and Europe – including Portland OR, Seattle WA and Brighton (UK) have already been hit by Chronofalls, and France is next on list, with Chronofalls expected in Paris and/or Aix-Les-Bains. Stay tuned for French Chronofalls at @FutrCoast #Chronofalls, or on the Chronofall Diary.