Democracy, global transitions, and education: Using speculative fictions as thought experiments in anticipatory critical inquiry

Year: 2002

Author: Gough, Noel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of a thought experiment, as the term was used by quantum and relativity physicists in the early part of the twentieth century, was not prediction (as is the goal of classical experimental science), but more defensible representations of present 'realities'. Speculative fictions, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the Star Wars cinema saga, can be read as sociotechnical thought experiments that produce alternative representations of present circumstances and uncertainties, and anticipate and critique possible futures. In this paper I demonstrate how two examples of popular speculative fictions, Frank Herbert's Dune (1965) and Ursula Le Guin's The Telling (2000), function as thought experiments that problematise aspects of contemporary social and cultural transformations. I argue that critical and deconstructive readings of these novels might help us to produce anticipatory critiques of possible ways in which democratic institutions are being transformed by globalisation. I conclude by considering some implications of such anticipatory critiques for generating questions, problems and issues in educational inquiry and for choosing appropriate methodologies for investigating them.