Tales of prospects past: on strategic fallacies and uncertainty in Technology Forecasting

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Abstract:

The paper contributes to the 25th anniversary celebrations by inviting readers to share a journey back to the early 1980s when the future of Marketing as an academic discipline remained unclear. At this time the author's academic future in marketing was also unclear. He was working in the area of Technology Forecasting, a highly specialised field, not only within social policy and techno-economics, but within the then emerging field of strategic marketing and its subaltern, environmental scanning. In the spirit of "The lessons of history" (Baker 2006) the paper revisits scenarios generated by the author 25 years ago regarding technological futures in the offshore oil and gas industry. It draws on the premise that understanding can be gained by taking a forecast, a knowledge claim, whose tenure is now over, and revisiting it in the light of the present which at the time of making the forecast was, of course, the future. In the arts this historicising approach to a subject is a necessary conjunction to the development of knowledge on matters of creativity, judgement and interpretation. The cultivation of aesthetic sensibilities takes place through disciplinary frameworks of historicism and comparative interpretation, widely known as 'critical and contextual studies'. This paper is the product of such study. It attempts to set knowledge claims in historical and cultural context, suggesting where critical marketing can contribute. The forecasts of technological development were generated by means of an international Delphi study which was conducted during 1980-1983. The paper reflects on the passage of time and the evolution of the offshore oil and gas industry against the flux and flow of circumstance and event. It discusses localised historical accounts of where and how the original futures scenarios have been found to diverge or otherwise from what has come to pass, reflecting on the framing of uncertainty by broader socio-technical discourses. In this way the paper illuminates the indeterminate and emergent nature of uncertainty and the implications of this for our understanding of decision making in marketing management.

Keywords: CRITICAL AND CONTEXTUAL STUDIES; HISTORICISM; NARRATIVE; PRACTICE; UNCERTAINTY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1362/026725709X461777

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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