Travails, Travels, and Trials: Report from the S.NET Roundtable on Plausibility

Cynthia Lea Selin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


There is much trafficking of futures. From the rush of public policy documents and market forecasts that boldly begin with “The Future of…” to the growing number of STS panels that look at expectations, imaginaries, and visions, the future has become a busy topic. In our 2010 S.NET Roundtable Session, we honed in on a less traveled topic in the domain—plausibility.
The concept of plausibility invites us to think about the quality of anticipatory knowledge and asks us to consider questions around trust, legitimacy and the epistemology of the future (von Schomberg, Periera and Funtowitc 2005). Considering not just ways of knowing the future, but the power and mechanisms through which the future works was a central concern of the session participants. Roundtable participants were asked to explore their associations with plausibility and to delineate what is known about plausibility (state of knowledge, research results, literature and case studies) and what is unknown about plausibility (critical research questions). What follows is a synthesis of a searching and wild conversation that led to diverse insights and intriguing new questions. The rich discussion is thus smashed into three central themes: the work that plausibility accomplishes, the truthiness of plausibility, and the trials of assessing plausibility. These themes are then illustrated in a whimsical case of a confiscated snow globe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQuantum Engagements
EditorsT.B. Zülsdorf
PublisherAKA Verlag
Publication date2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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