Imagining a Sustainable Future: Shaping Emergent Thinking by Reflecting Through Aesthetic Action

Paul Chan, Christine Raisanen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The contested nature of knowledge about sustainable development makes it difficult to embed sustainable development in engineering curricula, which tend to have a deterministic approach to understanding theoretical concepts. Such an approach does not align well with the emergent thinking of sustainable development, where thinking about the future requires dealing not only with what is known, but also with what is unknown and at times unknowable. Text-based approaches that privilege explicit and codified knowledge are limited in helping students visualise what a sustainable future might look like. To facilitate such visualisation would require expansion of the repertoire of tools and artefacts beyond text-based materials. In this article, we critically reflect on a series of student-centred ‘Open-space’ workshops over the past several years aimed at promoting debate and co-production of knowledge around developing sustainable futures using a range of artefacts such as pictorial illustrations, wiki terms, art materials and chill-out music. Attention is paid on critically appraising the role artefacts play in developing knowledge to empower students to collectively reflect on, imagine and visualise sustainable futures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-98
    Number of pages16
    JournalEngineering Project Organization Journal
    Issue number1
    Early online date14 Aug 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


    • artefacts
    • participant observation
    • rich pictures
    • Sensemaking


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