top of page
Open Site Navigation

Habitable Futures

Using a semi-structured futuring framework to help local communities visualize more equitable and inclusive futures and inform big proposals

Dear inhabitant of the white-supremacist​, colonial, racist, and patriarchal world,

why do we need to envision a habitable future?

We have all envisioned futures in our minds. The images of the imaginary future inform the decisions we make and how we act. But as for the world that we're living, only a small number of people are given the power and privilege to foresee and determine our future. To name a few, futurists, strategists and designers of speculative future.

They work in institutions, companies, and governments, using a handful of normalized frameworks to identify and analyze emerging trends, issues, and scenarios, and then develop strategies accordingly. The approach is similar to asking "What is happening in the world? What could happen in the future? What does the future look like? And what should we do?" 


However, these frameworks are drawing signals, insights, and conclusions within the dominant paradigm that is capitalist, patriarchal, and western-centric. Therefore, the future visions that come up from these frameworks are usually linear, biased, and do not represent the worldview and ideas of non-western cultures.


In other words, those are not the habitable futures they create, because a habitat is meant to be the condition for the co-existence among diverse species and the emergence of reciprocal relationships. What are created, instead, are the glossy landscapes that reflect the western-dominated world views and their interests.

It is not the imagination and tools that those futurists and strategists lack, what is missing, is the space to examine the existing power structures, unlearn the white-supremacist and patriarchal mindsets, and give birth to non-western, abolitionary, queer, inclusive, and equitable visions to challenge and even subvert the old ones. 

Who are the participants and who are the audience?

The new framework

The framework is made of 4 parts:

Part 1 Layer of Histories

Before framing for the futures, we need to learn and unlearn about the past. The past is layered with multiple contexts, ideas, positionalities, events, figures, terrains, ownership, etc. Understanding the histories of a place often gives us a clue of how things come into existence/erasure, and what bigger ideas or isms opened up spaces for their transformations. 

Activity for participants: Listen to an audio prompt or watch a visual prompt and then discuss what has been displaced, erased, and appropriated.

Part 2 Layers of memories

Personal memory and oral histories are crucial in this framework to support plural ways of knowing as many languages and cultures around the world are underpresented. “The process of acquiring knowledge begins as partial perspectives, and specific ways of seeing emerge. The more of such partial perspectives and cultural narratives we gather, the closer we get to objective observations. Situated knowledge, therefore, stands against the unlocatable, the disembodied, and the irresponsible.” ——Donna Haraway.

Activity for participants:  Recall things that stood out to us, things that make us feel connected, and things that makes us feel disconnected to this space. Then use sticky notes to pin them on a map of the local community. ​

Part 3 Remix

Activity for participants:Take out the​ disconnected factors and bring back the displaced, erased, and appropriated factors on the map. Talk about what kind of future emerge from that map. 

Part 4 Backcast

Activity for participants: Talk about what kind of value needs to be shifted, what knowledge needs to be build, and what actions need to be taken to reach to that future.

The trauma and crisis since 1800s

And the opportunity.

...because of its past trauma, present crisis

and future opportunities.

For most of its history, Chinatown was bordered to the north by Canal Street, to the east by Bowery, and to the South and West by the city’s federal courthouse and jail. The center of this community lies on the low wetland above a filled-in and polluted lake called the Collect Pond. Historically, this area contained the city’s worst housing stock, was home to the city’s first tenement building (65 Mott Street), and was the epicenter for waterborne cholera during the epidemics of 1832 (~3,000 deaths) and again in 1866 (1,137 deaths). The city’s first slum clearance project was also in Chinatown to create what is now present-day Columbus Park.

In November 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that Manhattan’s Chinatown had been selected to receive $20 million in investments to revitalize the neighborhood while the plans for building a mega jail and homeless shelter remain unchanged. I got the chance to work for 3x3 studio as a bilingual facilitator and translator for the public visioning events, where I got to learn about their public engagement approach and to hear about the aspiration and concerns from the Chinatown residences.


And I've chosen Manhattan Chinatown

as the 1st community to work with...

bottom of page