LU Magazine (2041 Jubilee Issue)

LU Futura was a temporary cross-faculty “think-tank” body at Lund University (LU), where it was charged with looking at the future(s) of that institution, and of higher education more broadly.

Thanks to the successful reception of the Rough Planet Guide to Notterdam, a small team of researchers managed to sell LU Futura on the idea of a narrative prototype which would explore a possible future for LU in a familiar and accessible format.

And in LU Magazine, we had the ideal template for that prototype! It was (and still is) a source of amazement to me that LU produces a ~40 page magazine with high production values and prints off hundreds of physical copies to give away to university staff and visitors. This also meant that we had a container in which we could stash our speculations, whose familiarity might mean that the readers “lowered their guard” a bit.

LU Magazine‘s content is very focussed on interviews, which meant that in order to produce the right sort of articles, we needed to take an approach to generating stories that started with characters rather than ideas or events. With the unsurpassed guidance of Sjef van Gaalen of Structure+Narrative—futures facilitator extraordinaire—we put together and delivered a series of eight workshops with nearly seventy participants drawn from every faculty and stratum of the university, from students through teachers and administrators, all the way to deans. This would have been a challenge even if we hadn’t been obliged (by an ongoing pandemic) to do it all online…

The workshop materials were then passed to the writers and editors who work on the regular issues of LU Magazine; the writers “interviewed” the characters we had developed in the course of the workshops, and told their stories, while the editorial and layout team did a knock-out job of making the thing look almost exactly like a normal issue of the magazine, but for that “special edition” roundel in the top corner of the cover.

(Well, that and the methodology section we hid in the middle… but we figured anyone who made it that far would have realised what the game was long ago.)

A super-fun and super-unusual project, it was really fun to just turn the magazine loose on campus and see the reactions… and those reactions really endorsed our belief that the familiar form of a narrative prototype does powerful work when it comes to lowering barriers and sparking curiosity.

You can download a copy from here; the (very extensive!) list of collaborators involved in its production can be found in the aforementioned methodology section in the middle.

(And if you’d like a physical copy, let me know—see, we had rather a lot of them printed, and quite a few can still be found in a corner of my former PI’s office…)