Introducing Futurists in the media

futurists in the media logoThe Houston Foresight program is initiating a research project to track, collect and analyze mentions of futurists in the media. The goal is to gather evidence for how futurists are being talked about in the media. The initial idea for this project was suggested by APF member Natalie Ambrose in 2008.* In our Pro Seminar class, we have long been doing a module on coverage of futurists in the media that reviews a sample of articles about the field. We feel the time is right to launch a systematic effort here at the university, as it is more important than ever to the profession and we have a supply of capable students to do the work.

The project kicked off last spring with graduate student Gerold “Boo” Gafford. We experimented with different ways to find the mentions of futurists in the media. He devised a social media to capture mentions of futurists on Twitter and Reddit. We concluded, after reviewing results, that it was not a high-leverage approach and have tabled it for now. Simply creating a Google Alert for “Futurist” proved to be more useful.

The trial run on Google Alerts used the search term “futurist(s)” between 1/1/2015 and 4/1/2015 resulted in in approximately 800 unfiltered hits. Of these, 300 articles were filtered out because the body of the piece did not mention futurists (in a sidebar or header data) Thus, 500 pieces were tagged and summarized. A preliminary sort made sure the piece related to futurists (taking out, for instance, the art movement or the band – 114 total hits). We also sorted out press releases (84) announcing presentations by futurists. Thus, we were left with 332 articles were written mentioning futurists, or This 3.6 pieces per day over the three-month time period.

In this semester’s project, two new students are involved, Will Williamson and Joe Murphy. There are three components to this project, based on how we organize our scanning process.

  • Finding: We are continuing to use Google Alerts. Since Joe is a professional librarian, he is exploring other avenues to improve our search.
  • Collecting: The previous APF effort involved creating an annotated bibliography or abstracts of relevant articles. For this project, we decided to use the Diigo social bookmarking site (we are keeping it private…at least for now), which we used to collect scanning hits for our Student Needs 2025+ project.
  • Analyzing: We are still working through how to analyze the results. For now, each piece is tagged with the following:
    • Name (of “futurist”)
    • Note if APF member
    • Note Whether organizational, consulting, academic, “wannabe”
    • Topic of piece
    • Article-specific tags
    • Tone of coverage: Positive – negative – neutral

We will regularly report on findings via the blog. Andy Hines

* The focus of this APF effort was broader – on futures in general (not just futurists as we are doing here). Some intermittent work was done on the project over the next few years, but the project lost momentum. Natalie and I did put together an annotated bibliography of interesting articles that were collected while the project operated.

Ideapod and ADC Forum Scholarship

Together with ADC Forum, Ideapod is awarding a US$2000 scholarship for the best idea on the future of work. University students worldwide are invited to enter.

To apply, just answer the following question on about the future of work, using the #futureofwork:

“What will Artificial Intelligence mean for work?”

The best response, made using Ideapod’s 1000 character limit, will scoop the prize.

Ideapod is a social platform for sharing ideas. Ideas can be 1000 characters long and can include an image or YouTube/Vimeo video. We also have a new mobile app called Capture where users can create 40 second video ideas. If you would like to begin testing Capture, please email:

ADC Forum is an Australian, non-political, not-for-profit leadership organisation which brings together leaders from business, government, the public sector, academia and the broader community to improve their understanding of key issues affecting Australia. You can learn more about ADC Forum here:

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Posted in Education Student Work by Maria Romero. No Comments

Announcing January Foresight Certificate Course

jan foresight ad 1

APF Gathering 2015: The Learning Remix

It’s time to register for the Association of Professional Futurists 2015 Annual Gathering in Atlanta on Oct 15-17 at the Artmore Hotel in Midtown Atlanta. This year’s event features several guest speakers with expertise in of learning, including:

  • DR. RANDY SWEARER Provost, Philadelphia University
  • DR. STEPHEN HARMON Chair of the Learning Technologies Division, College of Education, Georgia State University
  • ELIZABETH STRICKLER Director Digital Arts and Entertainment Lab

There will also be site visits to the Georgia Tech Visualization lab/Learning Center, Living Classroom, the Georgia State University, and STEAM2 Technology Showcase.

You’ll enjoy three days of innovative workshops, expert content and strategic conversations – plus plenty of opportunities to network and create with your professional futurists peers as we explore the futures of learning.

Click here to register

Attendees to the Gathering can reserve their rooms at a special rate of $145.00, plus tax, per night. Wi-fi and breakfast are included. The telephone number for reservations is 01 404 876 6100. You must make your reservation by phone and mention APF Gathering to get the special rate. There are a limited number of rooms available so book early.

For more information contact: Joe Tankersley –

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Posted in Event by Maria Romero. No Comments

Alum Survey Results: Is the knowledge gained from the program useful?

Another useful finding from the Alum survey concerned the question: is the knowledge gained from the program useful? The first was around how has the program influenced your thinking? The survey was conducted by student (and now alum) Fatema Tuz Zohra as part of her Master’s Project for the Foresight program. She was able to reach 90 of the 305 alums and 46 of them responded to the survey.

One of the objectives of an educational program is to impart knowledge to its students that enables them to apply that knowledge for their professional growth and the growth of the discipline. Individuals pursue a graduate program to enable them to progress further in their profession. One of the important factors to measure how effective a program is, is by understanding how much of the skills developed through the program is being used in professional activities. According to the survey results, 59% of UH foresight alumni reported that they use the knowledge gained from the program at work.

A foresight program graduate working as VP engineering claimed that:

“I believe my career took off after attaining the foresight degree. The thinking ability that one develops in the program benefits you in the industry. It’s actually the qualification that can be as valuable as an MBA.”

Also, another alumni who learned about the program through a family member said,

“While working in the HR, I use what I learned in the program every single day.” She further supports her experience in the foresight program as she stated, “Going through the program broadens your way of thinking.”

However, there is a mix of students in the program which includes some who seek to be a full time futurists, some attend to gain more knowledge about the discipline, and some take it as an elective or in coordination with other major. This mix of students shows another perspective stated by an alumni who currently is a freelancer:

“The program was too job focused. With the new perspectives we learned, we should create more jobs for ourselves instead of doing the traditional consultancy and move towards being entrepreneurs. I believe fitting into traditional roles is a disservice to the discipline.”

Even though the skills developed through the foresight program is applicable across industries most of  the alumni believe that it is better to have a background education and experience that will be further enhanced with the foresight degree.

Next, we’ll explore responses around the job market.  Andy Hines

Student Publication: Adam in Scenario Magazine

Cowart_HeadshotForesight student Adam Cowart, fresh off a second place finish in the APF Student Recognition Awards, continues to make an impact with his framework research on Alternative Currencies. As part of his internship with the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, he has been blogging on various topics. One of his posts, Alternative Currencies and Economic Transactions,” was published in CIFS’s Scenario Magazine (one of my favorites).

In the piece, he suggests two potential scenarios the future of alternative currencies. One, in which alternative currencies remain a complimentary, community based form of exchange. Or two, in which communities “check out” of the global capitalist-based economy, and there is a convergence of virtual currencies and LETS communities to create sustainable and diverse economic systems.

It is great to see student work getting recognized and published! Andy Hines


Congrats to our Spring 2015 Graduates

john sheehansahi_headshotCongratulations to our Spring 2015 graduates: Omar Sahi, John Sheehan, Simon Stewart, Fatema Tuz Zhora. It is a happy moment to see a student at the end of their journey and ready to launch, but a little bad sad as well. It is also worth noting that they are part of the biggest graduating class we have had so far since move to the main campus in 2007. We also had 8 graduates in the Fall, so the 12 graduates for the 2014-15 academic year doubles our previous high (6) at the main campus. But on to the matter at hand!

Omar has been very active in and out of the classroom, including spending a semester with me as a Grad Assistant. I recall a somewhat skeptical student in the beginning who has really come into his own as a futurist, beautifully drawing on and blending in his background in the arts. He just won third place at the APF Sfatemasimon stewarttudentRecognition Awards!. John has been with us for several years, somehow balancing an incredibly demanding full-time job with his studies. He started with the week–long certificate, then got the four-course Grad Certificate, and finally moving all the way through the Master’s. And he referred a colleague who is starting with us this fall. I met Simon as an undergrad where I came and gave a little talk on the future and that was the spark that encouraged him to join the program. Simon managed the incredible feat of being a varsity track athlete while going through graduate school, as well as being involving in running the family business back in Columbia. Fatema joined us as a double major. She begin in Project Management, and took a foresight elective, and the, as they say, is history. She kept taking courses and eventually decided to go all the way and do the double major. It is such a compliment to us that she found the courses and fellow students so compelling that she took on this challenge, but we were certainly glad to have her perspective in the program.

We hope and anticipate that each will stay involved with the foresight community as they take their next steps! Andy Hines

Alum Survey: 95% Report that “Foresight Program Changed my Thinking”

Perhaps the most striking finding of a recent survey of Houston Foresight alums was that 95% reported that foresight “The foresight program has changed my thinking and positively influenced my life.” I suspect most of us who have been around the Foresight program are not surprised by that, as there are so many stories of students and alums about how foresight has changed their lives. Nonetheless, it is striking to see the numbers — 95% is impressive.

changed my life

The survey was conducted by student (and now alum) Fatema Tuz Zohra as part of her Master’s Project for the Foresight program. She was able to reach 90 of the 305 alums and 46 of them responded to the survey.

Another interesting finding was that 32% of respondents said they “got employed because of their foresight degree.” Basically, one in three students. This fits with a previous segmentation analysis of students suggesting that roughly 3/4ths to 1/3rd of students come to us as established professionals, and 1/4th to 1/3rd are new professionals — looking to establish careers as futurists. The established pros are typically either looking to “futurize” their current position and organization, or to branch out into something new involving foresight. Since they are established, the Foresight degree doesn’t typically led to a new job for these “futurizers” but it sometimes does for those looking to branch out.

For the new professionals looking to become professional futurists, it seems a significant percentage of them are successful. We can assume that some of the 32% getting foresight jobs are from the “branching out” segment of the established, and that the rest are new professionals. Again this fits with the anecdotal evidence, but it’s nice to have the numbers to back it up. More to come from this most interesting and useful project! — Andy Hines

Visiting Scholar Danila Zindato Explores Scenarios and Design

DanilaZindatoIt’s been fun to have Danila Zindato, a PhD student with the Department of Design of the Polytechnic University of Milan, visit with us over the summer as a Visiting Scholar. Her research is focused on the role of scenarios in design and foresight. Designers use scenarios in the design process, but usually or different purposes and a different way than futurists typically do. For instance,designers use an abductive sensemaking process in which they organize, evaluate and filter data, producing new knowledge in different ways according to their target, their tools and the available resources. They help the creative process around a design “target,” whereas one might say the futurists more often use scenarios to map the landscape around a future topic (which sometimes includes a design target).

Danila had been developing a conceptual process model that explores the different roles and positioning of scenarios into the design processes. She is aiming to create a “systematization” among approaches and tools. This scenario framework will facilitate the development of a specific toolkit that is adaptable to different situations.

She recently presented some of her research to date — DESIGNING FUTURE SCENARIOS Approaches and Positioning of Scenario Building into the Design Process— at the World Conference of Futures Research meeting in Turku, Finland. It’s been great to have her here with us in Houston! Her contact info is:   — Andy Hines

Houston Foresight Students Win APF Student Recognition Awards

I am so proud to share that Houston Foresight students won first, second, and third place of the Individual Graduate Student category of the APF Student Recognition program. Selecting the three entrants for this year was very tough as we had many excellent candidates. It was great to see the APF judges agreed with me that this was an outstanding selection of projects! So, let’s congratulate our winners.

1st PrizeJustin Kugler,The Future of Industrial Activity in Space.”

Justin is a graduate student of Human Space Exploration Sciences at the University of Houston whose project was part of the “World Futures” course and has taken other courses in our program. He is also the business development manager for industrial R&D at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. It is very stimulating to have students from other programs in our classes — we’ve been seeing more and more of that over the last few years and Justin really brought some incredible knowledge and experience to class.


2nd Prize: Adam Cowart, “Alternatives Currencies, The Future of Societal Transactions.”

Adam is a graduate student of Foresight at the University of Houston, a Senior Planning Manager for Loblaw Companies Ltd, and a writer. He already holds an M.B.A. and an M.F.A; his intellectual curiosity drove him to the Foresight program. He is already applying what he’s learning in his current position. He has completed about half of the program and we are grateful that we still have some time left with him.



3rd Prize: Omar Sahi, “The Future of News Media.

Omar just graduated from the University of Houston in the Spring, after completing his internship with UNESCO. He is also an artist working with new media and sculpture.Omar has developed a keen interest around speculating on how people communicate in the future. Omar was a GA in the program and a regular participant in activities outside of the classroom (as well as inside).


The students presented their papers at our annual “Best of Houston Foresight” session at the World Future Society in San Francisco on July 25th. They were recognized that evening at the APF’s Annual Awards program and received a Certificate of Achievement (and a resounding round of applause). Justin will receive a two-years student membership in APF or  the registration fee for an APF meeting. Adam and Omar will receive a one year Student Membership in APF. All will be featured in the next Compass Newsletter, and announced to the full APF membership.

Andy Hines