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May 25, 2015

Daniel Bonin shares his thoughts about the possibility of building a bridge between the German and English literature in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

As I am currently traveling around the U.S., I am experiencing the cultural differences and similarities between here and Germany. This experience has made me think about how to make German literature in future studies more accessible to non German-speaking futurists. I get the impression that, when one compares English and German-speaking literature on future studies, a certain pattern becomes evident - both "camps" tend to stick to sources that are familiar to them, not only language wise but also, in terms of organizational and geographic affiliation.


While it is obvious that native English-speaking futurists are unlikely to understand German, their German counterparts do speak English. However, they often do not cite English literature that is considered to be state of the art. This tends to become even more pronounced for people outside of the field of future studies like researchers in the field of business administration. For instance, while working for the Institute for Trade Fair Management, I came across a scenario analysis on the future of trade fairs, commissioned by the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA). The authors, who are mainly from the area of marketing, introduced scenario analysis by only referring to German literature. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I am wondering whether a meta analysis that compares German and English-speaking literature on future studies can help to create a common understanding or even open up new perspectives. I feel that, especially here in Germany, business scholars hesitate to cite English literature on future studies or are not aware of its existence. On the other hand, there is specialized German literature on futurism and even a master’s program on future studies in Berlin. For instance, a Springer book describes how DAX companies apply futurism within their organization (Popp and Zweck 2013). Such literature is not yet accessible to the wide audience of English-speaking futurists. 


This is why I had the idea to do a literature review in order to create a wiki-like platform, which combines information that is provided by both camps and features a review of the main articles that are published in German. So far, I have started to sketch the necessary steps: 

1. Scan the literature and Internet resources

2. Filter and structure the information 

3. Synthesize the information

Like any literature review, the basis is to scan the literature and Internet resources. The results will then be analyzed. In this second step, the aim is to detect the keywords that are used to define, e.g., scenario planning, wild cards or the like. Moreover, information on the author(s) and sources that are citied will be collected. German articles that are reviewed will feature a short abstract in English, so that interested English-speaking futurists can get an impression of what the article is all about. Requests for a more detailed review can then be made. The literature will also be categorized as to whether the focus is on academic or practical purposes. Finally, the filtered and structured information will then be used to define the terms that are relevant to future studies.


Benefits would be twofold: (a) the differences and similarities would become evident and (b) the German literature would be more accessible to non-German speaking futurists. Still the question of how to make German scholars outside of the field of future studies aware of the state of the art literature remains. 


I plan to carry out the necessary steps in the next months after I return to Germany in mid June. Then, until I have figured out how to best present the results from an IT-Technical point of view, I will install a temporary website that features the current status and preliminary results.



© Daniel Bonin 2015

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