FINAL – Mushon & Shalev – logo no credit

Audio tours from the future

Kosovo, a few decades in the future. The never-ending diplomatic limbo drives the capital, Pristina, further into the hands of organized crime. The mafia invests in renovating the city’s iconic public library, now abandoned and unused, and turns it into Europe’s leading cosmetic surgery clinic. Tourism flourishes, but the real money comes under the table, from identity changes for wanted criminals.

Around the same time, the Zuckerberg family is gathering at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. Like many of the ultra-rich, they are leaving the climate-beaten Earth for the luxuries of the orbital colony. But grandpa Mark has been reconnecting with his Judaism towards the end of his life, and the family wishes to witness the holy city one last time before blasting off to space for good.

These are just two out of dozens of political science fiction scenarios, written and recorded as audio tours by participants of the Speculative Tourism project, since 2017.

Speculative Tourism invites local authors to imagine the futures of their cities and record them as GPS-enabled audio tours. The international project operates at the crossroads of science fiction, historical tourism, Augmented Reality and local action. The Speculative Tourism concept and project methodology have been developed by Mushon Zer-Aviv and Shalev Moran as an invitation to imagine the possible. The idea is to enable the creation of new narratives, unleash socio-political imagination and enable participants to reimagine familiar or historical places. Speculative Tourism can be used as an artistic or creative touristic tool as much as a creative element in policy making. Its goal is:

To free the political imagination, while shedding light on local identities and reacquainting ourselves with our lived environments; we use fiction and speculation to reveal different ways of taking responsibility for our habitats and our future.¹

Speculative Tourism is also Mushon and Shalev’s response, as digital designers, to current trends in Augmented Reality technologies. The tours are created collaboratively in workshop formats. One part of the methodologies used to design the speculative tours is a 2 by 2 scenario-planning exercise inspired by Peter Frase’s 2016 book Four Futures. In his book, Frase describes extreme, yet possible scenarios for a society after what he believes will be the inescapable collapse of capitalism. In Frase’s case, these axes describe shifts towards either a more equal or hierarchical society, and towards more scarce or more abundant material conditions. In the case of Speculative Tourism, defining the axes is a part of the speculative process.

To begin the exercise, questions about the future are designed to match the aim of the tour which is to be created. This usually begins with a collection of broad matters of concern about the future. When enough are collected, those that have two distinct qualities are identified:

  1. We are truly uncertain of what the future holds for this issue.
  2. We can roughly place the possible answers on an axis between two extremes.

These “Axes of Uncertainty”, as Mushon and Shalev call them, are then crossed to form a matrix.

Most workshops have a number of participants and require working and writing together. Participants draw up an axis of uncertainty and then go around to the other participants to share their axis and find a juxtaposition that seems interesting and perhaps surprising. This step helps identify writing partners who might think of very different questions, which in turn can lead to a more fruitful dialogue and more robust speculations. The workshop participants go on to imagine how a future society might work under the parameters of each of the four quadrants, starting in broad strokes and with big ideas about that future.

The beautiful thing about the Four Futures method is that there will always be a quadrant or two that surprises us, that our judgment does not automatically categorize as utopian or dystopian.²

One quadrant is then chosen to be fleshed out in the course of the workshop, using additional methods such as back casting and other creative thinking exercises including storytelling methods, world building and other methodologies drawn from Mushon and Shalev’s design and teaching work. The results of the workshops include audio tours, maps and other outputs that offer touristic guidance through the futures created. Since 2017 Mushon and Shalev have created five collections of speculative tourism tours, the latest in Pristina in 2022. The tours can be downloaded via the Speculative Tourism website.

Photo by Dor Kedmi
Photo by Dor Kedmi
Photo by Dor Kedmi
Photo by Dor Kedmi
Photo by Dor Kedmi
Photo by Dor Kedmi
Photo by Shalev Moran
Photo by Shalev Moran
Photo by Shalev Moran
Photo by Shalev Moran
Photo by Shalev Moran
Photo by Shalev Moran

Stories for Revolution
Obtrusive Relationships
Gathering Multitudes: A bag of stars
Fugitive Memory: for Tu’i Malila
“The Quizumba is On”: Technological Appropriation by Black Women in the Amazônia
Big Green Lies
Letter from the Editors
A guide to the visceral science of time travel
The Unbounded Quest
An interview with Joana Varon
An interview with Jonathan Torres Rodríguez
An interview with futures leader Anab Jain
Where would you like to place your pet giraffe?
Afropresentism – On Incantation and the Machine
Letter from the Editors
A Few Notes on the Cult of Sylphis
Speculative Tourism
Letter from the Editors
Tending to wildness: field notes on movement infrastructure
Aveia, espaçonaves, uma folha de babosa, uma pélvis: fui coletar trechos Oats, spaceships, an aloe leaf, a pelvis: I went to collect parts of the future and decided to turn around.
Προφορικό ποίημα για την προέλευση των Δικτύων Εμπιστοσύνης Narrative Poem about the Origins of Networks of Trust
The Battle to Control the Carbon Media Cycle
Archive of Disappearances
Prototyper la Banlieue du TURFU et transcender la réalité
To Become Undone
Digital artivism: pictures worth thousands of words
Ratios / Proporciónes
Shadow Visions
Letter from the Editor
Future Perfect Continuous
Be Water –  Insights into the Hong Kong protest movement
Care in a techno-capitalist world
HammamRadio, your feminist-love radio station
One Vision, One World. Whose World Then?
Play, imagine, build – the collective verbs
Venezuela – the dual crisis
Letter of the Editor
Terraforms – Or, How to Talk About The Weather
On Persistence: The Past Art/Works of An/Other Future
What the Enlightenment Got Wrong about Computers
Community Learning at Dynamicland
Imagining a Universal Declaration of Digital Rights
An interview with Audrey Tang
Dream Beyond the Wounds
The Blurring
More than HumanCentered Design
The Unpredictable Things
When the Path We Walked Blocks Our Ways Forward
Letter of the Editor
A viewpoint on Craft and the Internet
Who Controls the Internet?
Ethical Tech around the World
Interview with Gillian Crampton Smith
Life & Death
Typographic Craft
The Internet as a Lota
A Medieval Crash
A Gandhian Dream
Evolutionary Craft