The Possibility Studies Network (PSN) brings together academics, researchers and practitioners from centres, laboratories or societies dedicated to the study of human possibility, its antecedents, processes, limitations and consequences.
The topics of interest include, but are not limited to, creativity, imagination, innovation, anticipation, utopias / dystopias, anticipation and futures studies, play, improvisation, wonder, serendipity. Research conducted to study these topics is often situated at the intersection between psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political science, the arts, design, engineering, creative industries, cultural studies, and education.
Members of the network agree to collaborate in order to advance the emerging field of possibility studies and our theoretical and practical understanding of how individuals and collectives become aware of and explore new possibilities in the realm of the psychological, material, technological, social, cultural and/or political.
Human beings live in the realm of the possible as much as they do in the here and now of daily experience. We dream, hope, anticipate and create, exploring news spaces of possibility for ourselves and for others. These possibilities are not always appealing or exciting, however. Having too many options can be disorienting, innovating in unsustainable ways harmful, and spending time in virtual realities compete with less satisfying real encounters. And yet, engaging with the possible is, ultimately, what makes us human. Understanding how, when and why this is the case has been a topic of interest for the human and social sciences since their inception. And their exploration led to a variety of answers.
There is no single scientific account about our humanity, but an ongoing story we create and constantly challenge through multiple turns. For example, the narrative turn of the 1970s and 1980s began in semiology and literary studies and soon after led the constructionist movement that made social scientists pay closer attention to language, culture, and context. This emphasis on text and language left many dissatisfied, however, especially those concerned by objects, places and materials. Socio-materiality emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s as a new paradigm aimed at recognizing the relational nature of our existence, embedded as it is in systems that are at once social and material. After the 2000s, the new mobilities turn responded to yet another perceived limitation of focusing mainly on objects, places and institutions – their depiction as mostly static or, at least, seemingly static. This newest paradigmatic approach depicts the world in flux and continuous movement.
Underpinning most of these developments (and the ones above are not, by any means, an exhaustive list) is an interest in possibility, its antecedents, processes, and consequences. The narrative turn brought into sharp focus the potential of language and culture to expand our experience of the here and now. Socio-materiality redefined agency by recognising objects as actants. Mobilities helped us reflect on how a world in movement is also one that is constantly changing.
There are other fields of research that developed since the 1950s to contribute substantially to our understanding of possibility and also its limits. For example, Futures studies, an area with deep historical roots, emerged as an academic discipline mid 1960s, opening up new spaces for thinking about the future and the processes through which we envision it, from prediction to forecast and foresight (central topics for a more recent area of inquiry called anticipation studies). The interest in imagination is centuries old and, during this long time, the importance granted to this process has waxed and waned. The past decades ‘re-discovered’ this phenomenon in a variety of disciplines, from philosophy to psychology and neuroscience. Most of all, research into creativity consolidated into a scientific discipline especially after the 1950s and is today a blooming area of study featuring several dedicated journals and a variety of books, handbooks and encyclopaedias.
These and other developments mark the start of a potential ‘possibilities turn’ within the human and social sciences, a turn that is not only announced by increasing levels of research into possibility-related phenomena, but also by the evolution of society in the 21st century. From speedy advances in ICT and virtual reality to new technologies that revolutionise transport, medicine, and design, we live in a day and age that opens new horizons of possibility for individuals and societies alike while, at the same time, revealing serious dangers and unintended consequences (from the rise of misinformation on social media to climate change).
In this societal and scientific context, the area of possibility studies concerns itself with the triggers, processes and outcomes of engaging with the possible at a psychological, material, technological, sociocultural and political level. It offers thus a wide, interdisciplinary umbrella for a series of either well-established or more recent fields of research including creativity, innovation, imagination, serendipity, play, counterfactual thinking, the future, anticipation and utopias, among others. The great advantage of placing these domains within a broader ‘turn’ is the fact that research on the possible becomes interdisciplinary by necessity, encouraging dialogues across the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities, theoretical and applied fields.
In order to capture this openness and inclusivity, the possible is defined as those features, processes and events that can come into being and transform what already exists. In other words, beyond the ‘here and now’ of concrete experience, possibilities designate the ‘elsewhere’, the ‘not yet here’ and the ‘nowhere’ that, through anticipation, imagination and creativity, shape how individuals and communities think, feel, and act in the present and build a future. This is not a romanticised view, but a critical reflection on who, how, what, when, where and why we strive towards possibilities and impossibilities.
Founder and president of PSN: Vlad Glaveanu, Webster University Geneva and the University of Bergen (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org), vice-president Wendy Ross, London Metropolitan University (contact: email@example.com).
The Webster Center for Creativity and Innovation (WCCI) at Webster University Geneva, Switzerland, is a multidisciplinary center dedicated to the scientific study of creativity and innovation and its applications to business, education, art and design, technology and society. Situated at the forefront of research within creativity, innovation, and connected fields, the WCCI collaborates with a wide network of European and international centers, institutes and organizations both inside and outside of academia. Its aim is to advance our understanding of creative processes, teach the management of innovation, and offer a space for companies and organizations to meet and have the facilitation required to foster change and development processes. The WCCI is directed by Dr. Vlad Glaveanu (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Serendipity, Creativity and Innovation Lab, based at London Metropolitan University, UK, is an interdisciplinary research group working across psychology and philosophy to investigate how people navigate uncertainty, ignorance and contingency. We are particularly interested in how people take advantage of the possibility generated by luck in the environment and employ a range of methods to understand this. Contact: Dr. Wendy Ross (email@example.com)
The Centre for the Science of Learning & Technology (SLATE) is a Norwegian centre located at the University of Bergen. It was established in 2016 and is an R&D learning sciences unit that contributes to international research and national competence development on education and lifetime learning. SLATE advances knowledge by exploring and clarifying concepts such as learning analytics, big and small data in education, artificial intelligence in education, assessment for learning, and creativity, learning & technology. SLATE draws together researchers from multiple disciplines including information science, cognitive science, psychology, and pedagogy, and conducts integrated research that advances theory, as well as informs education practice and policy. The creativity, learning and technology heme explores sociocultural underpinnings of technology-enabled creativity, learning and innovation. This is critical for the advancement of new ideas in both school and business, helping businesses stay competitive and enabling learners to cope with uncertain futures (i.e., 21st Century Skills). Theme leader is Dr. Ingunn Johanne Ness (Ingunn.Ness@uib.no). SLATE Centre leader is Dr. Barbara Wasson (Barbara.Wasson@uib.no).
The Serendipity Society is comprised of researchers examining the complex phenomenon of serendipity from a variety of disciplinary and organizational perspectives. Given the growing interest among industry and academic institutions in developing spaces for serendipity, our mission is to create and nurture an active network of serendipity researchers, which supports collaboration among senior and junior scholars, promotes rigorous interdisciplinary research; works toward the consolidation of research and development of theory; creates a platform from which to develop serendipity research as an independent field of study and provides a resource of expertise on serendipity to which organizations, funders, innovators, and planners can turn. Contact: Dr. Samantha Copeland (S.M.Copeland@tudelft.nl) and Wendy Ross (W.Ross@kingston.ac.uk).
The Marconi Institute for Creativity (MIC), University of Bologna, Italy, started in 2011 at the initiative of the University of Bologna and of the Fondazione Guglielmo Marconi. The MIC institute is concerned with all aspects related to creative and inventive thinking, idea generation, innovation. The MIC institute is located at Villa Griffone (Bologna, Italy), the home of Guglielmo Marconi, where radio was invented in 1895. The MIC research activity is dedicated to: the development of theoretical models to describe the process underlying the generation of new ideas and the thinking strategies to be adopted; the setting up of experiments to demonstrate and validate theoretical assumptions; the use and application of the theoretical findings to practical problems. Founder of MIC and President of Fondazione Guglielmo Marconi: Dr. Giovanni Emanuele Corazza (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Institute for Business Creativity, Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, Switzerland. The IBC aspires to be a global leader in practice-based management and organizational research for the creative advancement of the hospitality and service industries and to be distinguished by its creation of progressive knowledge and its inspiring, supportive and inclusive work environment. Its mission is to produce impactful and leading-edge contributions for academia and industry and to build bridges between these two worlds. It will achieve this by: a) Building industry-sponsored research labs that focus on issues, which are of significance to the hospitality and service industries; b) Embracing the concept of creativity by producing and disseminating knowledge that is both novel and relevant; and c) Leading the development of individual students and academics to advance hospitality and service management scholarship. Head of the Institute: Dr. Marc Stierand (Marc.Stierand@ehl.ch)
IdeActivity Centre, Milan Polytechnic, Italy. IDEActivity is a centre of Excellence in Creativity and Design within the Department of Design at Politecnico di Milano, expert in both People-Centred Approach and Design Thinking methods. We merge design research and studies on creativity to support private and public organization in reaching a radical innovation. Our focus is dedicated to generate flexible design methods and tools able to empower the factors of creativity – cognitive, motivational, emotional and social – that intervene in the creative design process. The centre is on the front line in the investigation of digital influences on creative and design thinking. Among others, we are developing methods to exploit digital opportunity to empower creativity in the design process; to guide the application of digital tech to create innovative digital solutions at the service of human needs; and to forecast future design scenarios to orient new business. Director: Marita Canina (email@example.com).
The Research Unit in the Psychology of Creativity and Invention at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Italy, aims to promote interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, teachers and professionals who study creativity from different perspectives. The Unit is a meeting point for different areas of expertise, with members coming from Faculties of Psychology, Economics and Education. Research topics include, but are not limited to, assessment/empowerment of creative thinking, the psychology of creative experience, group creativity, music and creativity, and the role of emerging technologies in supporting creativity. The Unit is coordinated by Dr. Andrea Gaggioli (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Institute for Creativity and Innovation (ICI) was established in 2017 at the University of Applied Management in Ismaning (Greater Munich), Germany. Traditionally, creativity and innovation are often examined separately in terms of research and practical endeavors, even though they are indispensable from each other. The ICI strives to combine knowledge and studies about creativity and innovation. The mission of the ICI is to promote a holistic understanding of the antecedents, development and management of creativity and innovation at both individual and organizational levels. To achieve these goals, the ICI takes an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach, integrating perspectives and experiences of both academics and practitioners from different disciplines and across cultures. The ICI is directed by Dr. Min Tang (Min.Tang@fham.de).
Creativity Marketing Centre, ESCP London, UK. Our mission is to be a hub for thought leadership and knowledge exchange on the role of creativity and marketing. The Centre brings together academics, marketing practitioners and experts from all sectors, eager to participate in harnessing creativity to rethink the rules of the game in marketing. The Centre engages in cutting edge academic research on creativity and its role in strategic rethinking and marketing. Marketers need creativity, alongside rigorous analysis, to leverage the opportunities and meet the challenges that result from volatile contexts, markets redefined by interactive and mobile technologies, and the ever-increasing expectations of diversified stakeholders for transparency and engagement. Director: Marie Taillard (email@example.com).
United Platform for Creativity in Education (UPCE), Utrecht University & Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. UPCE brings together creativity researchers across the globe to enlarge our shared knowledge on creativity in education. We aim to map the terrain, to deepen collaboration, and to transfer research findings to educational practice. Researchers from various perspectives will be connected to share their ideas, instruments, and findings. Additionally, we aim to establish sub-networks of researchers that will form the basis for future collaboration. Our conferences focusing on empowering creativity in education will enable both young creativity researchers and creativity experts to share their thoughts and to enrich their ongoing projects. By collaborating with universities across continents and schools ranging from primary to higher education, we aim to bridge the gap between creativity research and practice. By enhancing creativity research and creative practices in education, we aim to better prepare students for a constantly changing society. Founders: Dr. Evelyn Kroesbergen & Dr. Kiene Brillenburg Wurth. Contact: UPCE@ru.nl.
Institute for Creativity and Innovation of Aix-Marseille (InCIAM), University Aix Marseille, France. A scientific multidisciplinary network, conducting fundamental and applied research, in connection with the socio-economic world, to understand and support creative and innovation processes in the fields of health, education and work. It gathers 17 laboratories conducting research in various disciplines, such as Psychology, Management Science and Education Science, focused on the analysis of processes that extend from the emergence of ideas to the implementation of innovations. The collaborations carried out in this institute contribute to a better understanding of creative and innovation processes and to the development of innovations adapted to human capabilities, limitations and needs. This pluridisciplinary research impacts both scientific and socia advances. Director: Dr. Nathalie Bonnardel (firstname.lastname@example.org).
CREATIO group, the Laboratory for Microgenesis in Social Interactions (LABMIS), University of Brasilia, Brazil. CREATIO is a research group created in March 2019, with the purpose of investigating creative processes from a cultural perspective on human development. With a strong interdisciplinary emphasis, the group is informed by cultural psychology, social psychology, dialogism, pragmatism and semiotics, among other areas of knowledge. Among our topics of interest are: the study and scientific investigation of creativity and its development processes; human development and creativity processes; creativity and culture; creativity and dialogism; possibility as a concept linked to the creative act; wonder and creativity; creativity development processes in different contexts: school, work and family; investigation of the relationship between creativity and education; and creativity, construction of values and culture of peace. Head: Dr. Mônica Souza Neves-Pereira (email@example.com).
DEC, the Laboratory of studies on Dialogism, Aesthetic Experience, and Creativity at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil. LabDEC aims to expand our understanding of the emergence of novelty within I-other relationships. Based on a dialogical analysis, creativity is studied as a psychological process inherent to symbolic action and actualized in opportunities for meaning that are unique, affective regulated and culturally mediated in human communicative interactions. Thus, one of the main challenges of the study of creativity is to effectively develop an understanding of its aesthetic-holistic, affective-cognitive and, especially, intersubjective dimensions. These are the main subjects researched by DEC in various contexts. This Lab is coordinated by Dr. Marina Assis Pinheiro, at Federal University of Pernambuco (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Creativity, Innovation, and Leadership Assessment (CLIA) Lab is located in the Department of Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA. The lab is directed by Dr. Roni Reiter-Palmon (email@example.com). The lab includes graduate students in I-O Psychology and undergraduate students. Our research includes both basic and applied research. Research areas studied include: 1) Evaluating cognitive processes of creativity, especially early (problem identification and construction) and late (idea evaluation and selection) processes at the individual and team level. 2) The intersection of team cognitive creative processes and team social processes that facilitate or inhibit creativity. 3) Malevolent creativity. 4) Creativity measurement. 5) Leading for creativity and innovation.
The Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation (FTDi) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) explores creativity between and across disciplines to address the complex challenges of our time. The faculty pioneers new possibilities in transformational learning through programs like the world-first, multi-award-winning Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII). Radical in its ambition, this degree combines students from 25-degrees across UTS in a future-oriented, industry-engaged curriculum that encompasses high-level critical and creative thinking, invention, complexity, innovation, future scenario building and entrepreneurship. The faculty’s educational and research aim is to re-imagine innovation across, between and beyond singular disciplines for greater social impact. The Course Director for the BCII and the lead in the Possibility Studies Network is Dr Bem Le Hunte (Bem.LeHunte@uts.edu.au).
Creative Agency is an innovative research lab at RMIT University based in the School of Education which seeks to Innovate—Activate—Educate research about creativity, creative practice and its power to change social structures. We work across sectors, co-designing transdisciplinary projects that provoke social change through education, creative and cultural industries, and theoretical and methodological experimentation. Launched in August 2017, Creative Agency provides a space for linking key sectors such as community arts, public education, design, digital media, government, economics, healthcare, business, and cultural industries. Our regular series of community collaborative playdates continues twice yearly, and our Artist Fellow program is in its second year. We provide consultation on creativity studies, creative education, workplace futures, and socio-cultural creativity. Co-director: Dan Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State College researches and teaches Creativity, creative problem-solving, and change leadership for more than half a century. It is the first educational institution in the world to offer a Master of Science in Creativity studies. The Center carries the unique vision of its founding fathers to this day: Dr. Alex F. Osborn — an outstanding creative practitioner and the ‘O’ in the global advertising firm BBDO, and Dr. Sidney J. Parnes — a pioneering academic and scholar. The duo has developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem-Solving model, today a gold-standard for innovation practices. Thus, ICSC is an Academic department with a profound inclination towards applied Creativity and problem-solving. Its faculty members are a blend of renowned scholars, educators, and practitioners. The Center’s mission is to ignite Creativity around the world. Its vision is of a future where Creativity would be taught in every school and at every level, everywhere. Department Chair: Dr. Gerard Puccio (email@example.com).
The Creativity and Emergent Educational-futures Network (CEEN) is a research group within the Graduate School of Education at University of Exeter, which seeks to bring together individuals with overlapping and intersecting philosophical orientations, ideologies and values that challenge the status quo on education. Despite our diversity, we all do work that argues for the centrality of difference and emergence in our practices of thinking, being and doing, and the necessity of researching education beyond boundaries. Our aim is to grow and support an eclectic, open and flexible network of researchers and thinkers (colleagues and students from UoE and beyond) who mutually inspire each other. Underpinning our multiple perspectives is the idea of ‘pluriversality’, which challenges dominant linear, ‘monological’ understandings conducted exclusively within one point of view or frame of reference. This stance positions much of our research as inter- or trans- disciplinary. Examples include research into: science/arts transdisciplinary education in formal schooling and Higher Education; decolonising educational relationships in HE; arts research in health and education. If you would like to join CEEN please contact Professor Kerry Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org
For discussions about the possible with experts from within the network as well as other academics and practitioners, please see our Youtube channel here.
Key publications from members of the network:
To be updated periodically
The Possibility Studies Network is delighted to announce the 1st International Conference of Possibility Studies, an event that took place online between 10 and 13 of May 2021.
This conference brought together an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars that explore the expressions, processes and implications of engaging with the possible in a variety of disciplines including psychology, philosophy, education, cognitive science, business and organisational studies, technology studies, and the arts.
Talks from the event can be watched on our Youtube channel here.
The constituent members of PSN also organise events. The following includes links to the events pages of our members, do check them regularly to be kept up to date with possibility related events.
Inc. the Creativity Week
Guest lectures and symposia
Inc. annual conference
A Twitter journal club
To be updated
If you would like to know more about or potentially joining the Possibility Studies Network, please use the form below or email Vlad Glaveanu at email@example.com or email the network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently we are not open for individual membership but consider applications from centres, laboratories and societies whose mission and activities are in line with the aims of PSN and those of its members.