Imagining a sustainable future: Shaping emergent thinking by reflecting through aesthetic action

Paul Chan, Christine Räisänen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-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
JournalEngineering Project Organization Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Artefacts
  • Participant Observation
  • Rich Pictures
  • Sensemaking


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