Exploring the future of work in drama workshops

Future of work. That is making headlines and for a good reason. The way of working and earning a living is undergoing a transformation driven by digitalization, globalization and democratic changes, among other factors. The importance and uncertainty around the future of work is reflected in the large amount of talk and research on the topic. However, there seems to be a lack of diversity of the views around the future of work. Many of the scenarios are characterised by technological determinism, excessive ambiguity or uninventiveness. Part of the reason may be that there is no one clear answer and we are unwilling or unable to question existing structures. While many see that work is changing radically, few think that that would affect their own work. Can we imagine a diversion from the seemingly predetermined? In the Dialogue, work and futures -project we tried approaching the future of work through drama workshops. The idea was to utilise other ways of knowing than just rational thought. We assumed that a drama intervention would facilitate participants to think differently and have a bodily experience of possible futures of work.

And it worked in a way. The drama workshops resulted in the creation of person narratives that helped demystify and illustrate the changes ahead. However, translating the experiences and discussions of the workshops into shareable narratives was not a straightforward task.

Looking back to the process the main outcome was not any particular artifact, such as the person narratives, but rather the oscillation between modes of knowledge through which the future becomes demystified. An internal researcher workshop produced a frame for the drama workshops. This frame was reinterpreted and different personas were explored. The personas were written down and then re-dramatized in a new form for the final seminar. This process of going back-and-forth between codified and embodied knowledge perhaps results in a more nuanced and plural view of futures.