Steve Santer – Digital Art Direction and Motion Design

The Reality Apex & The Four Lens Future Scenario Compass


This illustration has been created to visualise and assemble some of the ideas put forward in Stuart Candy’s 2010 dissertation, THE FUTURES OF EVERYDAY LIFE: POLITICS AND THE DESIGN OF EXPERIENTIAL SCENARIOS. This visualisation also helps view relationships between selected compatible theories that Candy refers to in his work, such as; Henri Bergson’s writing on memory (1859–1941) pair of ‘virtual’ and ‘actual’, in Matter and Memory (1896).[1] . Candy also discusses Dator’s insight of the four basic types of story that people tell each other about the future; Continue, Collapse, Discipline, and Transform; which I’ve included in The Four Lens Future Scenario Compass illustration.

The overall illustration is a frozen instant in time. A snapshot. With this instant we have a cross section of time with, what I have called the Reality Apex, at the centre of the two cones, and also what the Reality Apex can observe in its future with the Four Lens Future Scenario Compass illustration.

Candy puts forward the idea of a cone emitting from its apex, the present, to some future-time. The cone, like a beam of light from a torch, growing ever fainter and broader as distance increases from the source. This cone holds what Candy refers to as Probability Space. As distance from the apex grows so does; uncertainty, the amount of Scenarios, and inversely the level of detail in each Scenario or Image.

In addition to Candy’s concept of a cone looking toward the future I was also interested in the idea of the present, the Reality Apex, and its relation to the past which this Reality Apex has just moved on from. It is important to note the amount of possible Images / Scenarios that are ahead in time and how few are experienced in reality, and the also note the amount of Scenarios that are completely missed. This highlights the profound importance of being able to select carefully, and with considered judgement, which future path is taken moving forward; and this can only be strived for by creating future scenarios.

The illustration also demonstrates by the size, the depth of detail available per Scenario. The larger the point the more detail is available to explore the Image. Generally the further away an Scenario is from the apex, in either direction (past or future), the less depth of detail is able to be explored due to its increase in uncertainty. This may be also true as points spread further to the fringes of the Possible and away from the Probable.

I’ve used several methods to emphasise the idea of uncertainty, in both directions from the Reality Apex. A graphing element that shows uncertainty at zero at the moment of reality; as the Scenario has moved from a virtual state to and actual state. The uncertainty level grows quicker as we look to the future than if we reflect on our past experience or delve into memory. The uncertainty level is also mapped with the straight edges becoming wavy and uncertain as the beams of time grow further away from the Reality Apex or what could be called the Real Instant. And furthermore uncertainty and level of detail is highlighted with the reduction of strength of ‘light’ from the Apex Reality, reinforcing Candy’s metaphor of a torch beam.

The Four Lens Future Compass (based on Dator’s ‘four generic futures’ [2]) offers a starting point of future scenario creation. The illustration shows Probability Space from the point of view of the Reality Apex. Scenarios are larger the closer they are to the quadrant centre, ie the Probable area. This was a method I could use to convey that some Images that lean toward the Probable, regardless of the lens they are viewed with, are more likely to have a depth of detail. The Scenarios toward the rim are outside of the realm of a probable eventuality and therefore have less depth of detail. You will notice that the Transform Lens has separated from the other 3 Lenses. As Candy notes, Transform seems to have a different plane of thought to the other 3 lenses. Continue, Discipline, and Collapse all have a trajectory of a future based on current known parameters. Whereas Transform needs a whole new system to be created, which may be triggered by one of the other 3 lenses first. Transform is offset in the illustration leaving a small portion of the lens within the range of Probable. Also noted, but not illustrated, is that Transform and Collapse both imply sudden shocks to systems to invoke change, whereas Continue and Discipline both have a smoother transition to the future scenario.[3]

‘The Apex Reality’ illustration I have created is what I consider a version 1.0. New variations will be created or added to this, so a collection of visualisations can be used to help others in their creation of future scenarios. I also hope this work sheds some light on to the importance of future scenario creation for everyone from Governments and Policy makers, Organisations, to Individuals.

Future additions or separate illustrations I have in mind include the method of ‘Backcasting’[4]. Which could easily be added in this illustration, with arrows along one of the of the white lines representing a future scenario trajectory, travelling against time back to ‘now’. ‘Backcasting’ is a method of future scenario creation that starts at a point in the future and travels back to the present to evaluate steps required to get to that desired outcome. However, I wish to complete further reading and exploration on ‘casting’ methods before including the backcasting method.

This is a self-initiated project and report that has come from readings associated with a Masters of Design Futures programme I’m currently undertaking with RMIT. Feel free to leave notes or messages. I welcome any feedback you may have.


[1] Reference to Candy page 41. Where Candy quotes Bergson’s work; ‘Little by little it come into view like a condensing cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the actual; and as its outlines become more distinct and its surface takes on colour, it tends to imitate perception’. Bergson 2004, 171.

[2] Reference to Candy page 48. An invaluable overview informed by thirty more years of experience with the method is provided in Dator 2009.

[3] Candy page 51.

[4] Reference to Candy page 55. ‘Backcasting’ is John Robinson’s term to describe a process of working backwards from a preferred vision to figure a path forward.