Sounding the Futures: Imaginary:

While Covid-19 may have fractured our public, private, and professional narratives of normalcy, out of this slow-moving and surreal catastrophe, new images of the future imaginary begin to emerge as well as new creative practices for collaboratively (re)imagining the future. The Digital Literacy Centre (DLC) is an arts-based research collective exploring innovative approaches to literacy, digital media, and experimental methodologies for technologically enriched meaning-making practices. Like everyone in the world, each of us experienced the pandemic as a diffracted and intensely intimate individual encounter with the future’s unpredictability, and yet also collectively, as a shared story, one that we narrated together in real time, however virtually. We decided to take up this evolving pandemic moment as a technological and creative research challenge to engage with the digital platforms at our disposal towards collaborative futures writing and imagining during a time of crisis. In this paper, we describe our arts-based research methodology, which was a bricolage of technologically mediated futures imagining, writing, and sounding that enacts “diffraction patterns … aris[ing] when specific aural experiences are rubbed against specific narrations of human-technological coupling”1. Through a series of collaborative creation sessions over the course of 14 months during the global pandemic, we wrote, composed and remixed an evolving futures narrative entitled Skunk Tales. In the following exposition we will describe our storying methodologies and share some of the representational emergences in our generative and ongoing process/product.

A collaborative intra-modal storying methodology


The skunk nudged a pile of shimmering circuitry and surface, pushed at it with its

nose and saw that it was wet-seeming in the afternoon light. Pressed a paw upon

the coils and felt within its own digital enclaves an affinity and it opened its mouth

while the students in the house leaned back to take in the sound of a single record.

We speak by sound

vacillating between a collective consensus filled

with old disks and CDs,

archived pieces of pasts in his storage

carefully catalogued, in the soft, moist soil

are plants that have lived long lives and are as

healthy he speaks, only when he has to,

in a garbled way The skunk nudged a pile of shimmering

circuitry and surface

we are imagining the futures. 2

You are in an old room, filled with old disks and CDs where screens with slow

logos move from one side to the other while people talk and talk. The screens,

ancient as the room itself, are dusty and pixelated – nothing like what we can see

these days. You smell the dusty screens and you know the smell I am trying to

describe but you feel yourself, even before you walk into this holy room of

classical music, that you are in a space that transcends time itself.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, on a mild afternoon in early March of 2020, members of

the DLC research group gathered together in person—by foot, bicycle, and bus—in the basement

of Dr. Kedrick James’ house, to write together about the future. The setting of this first storying

jam is important: Dr. James is a musician, audiophile, and avid collector of vinyl records and

sound-making and sounding equipment of all sorts—both analogue and digital. Along the walls

and down the hallways of the basement are shelves and shelves, floor to ceiling, of meticulously

organized records that are arranged by geographic location, genre, time period, and artist, from

historic field recordings to urban jazz and rock and roll. The place and time of this writing event

is essential for it infused the storying process. The virtual and actual sonic environment, the

visual environment, our togetherness in that subterranean Borgesian library of music—these

provided the imaginative landscape and anchor points from which we each diffracted outwards

into imaginative and literal space, time, and geography.


That afternoon, we gathered around the small table, our laptops open in front of us. The

eery tension of a global pandemic moment of uncertainty provided narrative propulsion, along

with whatever record was playing on the stereo chosen at a whim by one or the other of us. The

story became a form of time travel. Together we turned the basement into a bathyscaphe and

submerged ourselves in an unspecified future unknown. We were ourselves, but in the future: a

research collective studying language, sound, literacy, modalities of communication, and

meaning. Among the questions we wrote with were:

  • What will sounds sound like in an increasingly digitized future?
  • How will meaning and technology evolve together and apart?
  • How can we collaboratively write the future in a way that allows for multiple perspectives and temporalities?


We wrote simultaneously, allowing the thoughts to come freely. We wrote for a set

amount of time, and then read what we had written aloud to each other around the table. In this

way elements and ideas and characters began to circulate among us. At one point in this first

analogue session, a skunk passed by the basement window and into our storied universe,

becoming the central cyborgian posthuman figure of our further imaginings.



Days after this first writing session, social distancing became a reality and our

collaborative futures storying necessarily transitioned into virtual platforms and digital spaces.

However, this first face-to-face gathering in Kedrick’s basement, writing and listening to vinyl

records provided an embodied, analogue, and thematic tether to the physical world; it was a

place that we returned to again and again throughout our futures imaginings.

Context and Research Questions