Past Program


What will our planet look like in 2050 or 2100? Who or what will control our lives? What will it mean to be human? These and other hard questions were the central focus of this timely Salzburg Global session, bringing together artists, creative thinkers and groundbreaking practitioners from around the world to re-imagine the nexus between the arts, technology and human futures. 

In times characterized by complexity, disruption and unprecedented speed of change, uncertainty about the future is staring us in the face. Some people relish the unknown: the “art of the possible” gives meaning and excitement to their lives. For many, however, insecurity and divisions in society today make it much harder to embrace the future with confidence. The shock of the new can paralyze rather than energize. Making sense of what lies ahead will become ever more important as science reaches further and deeper into space and nanotechnology, and as artificial intelligence and big data transform daily life. 

Artists and cultural practitioners – like inventors and scientists – push the boundaries of the human imagination. They help us move beyond the familiar, transcend borders between the present and the future, and become more curious about the new and emergent. This landmark session aims to launch an unusual voyage into the future, calling on artists to share their “guides to the galaxy.” Outstanding creative talents will forge an unconventional dialogue with technologists, scientists, futurists, policymakers, educators and others deeply invested in breakthrough discoveries and the fate of our planet. They have come together across divides to envision and anticipate what may lie ahead. 

Building on Salzburg Global’s mission to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world, this session provided a generous space for border-busting enquiry to chart collaborative pathways to more livable futures. Participants with radically different perspectives explored how closer collaboration could inspire and inform public debate and enrich educational processes. How can we better connect parallel conversations and initiatives across the globe? Looking forward, how might artists’ visions play a more central role in the way decision-makers and innovators plan and implement for our shared future? 

This session was included in a list, published by, of the most exciting design events of 2018, selected by leading designers, scholars, and experts. Click here to read more.

Audio Clips

During the Salzburg Global Seminar session, The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future, Bethany Bell visited on behalf of BBC World Service to report on some of the conversations taking place.

She spoke to artist Amy Karle, futurist and sustainability engineer Claire Nelson, and author Mark Stevenson. This piece was first broadcast on Newsday on February 25. Listen to the feature in full below.

Outcomes and Impact

Through this five-day session at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg Global Seminar aims to:

  • Facilitate dialogue, exchange and new forms of global networking and collaboration between cultural activators and representatives of scientific and technological sectors working at the intersection of the arts, innovation, and future thinking;
  • Develop strategies and arts-based approached for cross-sectoral collaboration by connecting arts practice to research and policy agendas, framing a call to action around desirable futures, inspiring public debate and educational curricula, and influencing decision-making processes;
  • Raise greater awareness of the unique and often-underestimated role of the arts in intuiting trends, asking hard questions, and ultimately accelerating transformative change;
  • Share learning through reporting from the session (blogs, newsletters, substantive report) with a broad, international group of stakeholders; and
  • Lay the foundations of a global lab for creative future thinking across generations, disciplines, and sectors to forge a more just and sustainable world.


Session Format

The highly interactive program was structured around an inspiring mix of presentations, performances, curated conversations, and small group work. 

The process sought to combine theory, policy and practice across sectoral silos, opening up new perspectives and intensive learning opportunities. Participants explored cross-cutting questions during plenary sessions featuring presentations and discussions led by groundbreaking practitioners. They also worked intensively in smaller focus groups that met several times over the course of the program to focus on specific themes and assignments in greater depth.


Key Questions

Overarching questions to kick-start discussions will include:

  • Can we learn from history? With George Orwell’s 1984 a bestseller in 2017, how accurately have artists in the past “predicted” the future? How have societies reacted to such predictions?
  • What utopian and dystopian views of the future are currently emerging in different art forms? What excitement and fears surround scientific and technological breakthroughs? Where could these interventions take our societies? Who makes the decisions and who owns the knowhow?
  • Do artists, scientists, and decision-makers know how to talk to each other? Could new collaborations across disciplines reshape the face of the world in coming decades?
  • How can we preserve the human element in the face of technologized processes and pressures? Could art, as the ultimate expression of humanity, help to restore a sense of agency and identity? 
  • What futures do we really want and how can we make these futures come to life?



View full set on Flickr

All images are available for download. Please credit Salzburg Global Seminar/Herman Seidl. Unwatermarked images are available on request.


Mariana Amatullo
Associate Professor, Strategic Design & Management at Parsons School of Design - The New School, New York, United States
Kiley Arroyo
Executive Director, Cultural Strategies Council, California, United States
Sonja Bäumel
Artist, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hasnaa Benlafkih
Computational Designer, Design by Data, Ecole des Ponts, Paris, France
Nicole Bogart
Rapporteur; Freelance Journalist and Professional Writer, Toronto, Canada
Martin Bohle
Advisor "New Organizational Structures," DG Research and Innovation, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium
Stefan Brandt
Director, Futurium, Berlin, Germany
Suzanne Burgoyne
Director, Center for Applied Theatre and Drama Research, University of Missouri, United States
Karl Burkart
Director of Innovation, Media & Technology, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, United States
Alberto Cottica
Head of Research, Edgeryders, Brussels, Belgium
Jennifer Crouch
Artist, Founder, Teacher, Maker, London, United Kingdom
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino
Founder of designswarm & Good Night Lamp, London, United Kingdom
Michael Edson
Co-Founder, Museum for United Nations, Copenhagen, Denmark and Washington D.C., United States
Oscar Ekponimo
Founder, Chowberry App, Nigeria
Alexandre Fernandes
Head of Marketing and Audience Development, Museum of Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Joshua Fouts
Executive Director, Bioneers, San Francisco, California, United States
Tanja Hichert
Founder, Hichert & Associates; Strategic Foresight Practitioner, Cape Town, South Africa
Thomas Higham
Creative Director, York Mediale; former Executive Director, FutureEverything, United Kingdom*
Peter Jenkinson
Cultural Broker, London, UK
Zhouying Jin
Director, Center for Technology Innovation and Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China
Benjamin Julian
Artist, Co-Founder, Conceptual Art Technologies LLC, California, United States
Amy Karle
Transmedia Artist and Designer, California, United States
Brenda Katwesigye
Managing Director, Wazi Vision, Kampala, Uganda
Ariane Koek
Director Science Gallery Venice, Founder & former Head of Arts at CERN, Consultant in Creativity & Transdisciplinarity, London, United Kingdom
Tsz Wai Alan Kwan
Researcher, Artist & Technologist, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Monica Lopez-Gonzalez
Cognitive Scientist; Co-Founder, La Petite Noiseuse Productions
Richard Lum
Chief Executive, Vision Foresight Strategy, Hawaii, United States*
Kit Lykketoft
Director of Conventions, Wonderful Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Kristina Maurer
Producer & Exhibition Developer, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria
Annette Mees
Head of Audience Labs, Royal Opera House; The Space/WIRED Creative Fellow; Founder, (plus)furthermore, London, United Kingdom
Paul Dennis Miller
AKA DJ Spooky, Composer, Multimedia Artist, Editor and Author. New York, United States
Noyuri Mima
Professor, Future University Hakodate, Japan
Claire Nelson
Futurist & Sustainability Engineer, The Futures Forum, Washington DC, United States
Angela Oguntala
Strategic Foresight and Designer; Director, Greyspace Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark
Wit Pimkanchanapong
Artist, Bangkok, Thailand
Celina Pla
Director, Espacio Pla, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rika Preiser
Senior Researcher, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Mariano Sardon
Professor and Chair of Electronic Art Degree, National University of Tres de Febrero Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cynthia Selin
Director, Center for the Study of Futures, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States
Katindi Sivi-Njonjo
Lead Consultant, LongView Consult, Nairobi, Kenya
Mark Stevenson
Author: We Do Things Differently, An Optimist's Tour of the Future; Advisor to Virgin Earth Challenge; Atlas of the Future; Civilised Bank; Futurist in Residence, National Theatre of Scotland, London, United Kingdom
Maija Tammi
Artist and Doctor of Arts, Finland
Eiichi Tosaki
Artist, Art Historian, and Philosopher, Melbourne, Australia
Derek Tumala
Transdisciplinary Artist; Founder, STEAM/Projects, Manila, Philippines
Stefan Wally
Director, Robert Jungk Library for Future Studies, Salzburg, Austria*
Marlies Wirth
Curator, Digital Culture and Head of Design Collection, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria
David Wright
Senior Research Fellow, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology; Text-Tube Futures Studio; f3 Futures Film Festival, Brisbane, Australia
Shelagh Wright
Director, ThreeJohnsandShelagh and Mission Models Money; Associate, Demos; London, UK
Michell Zappa
Technology Futurist; Founder of Envisioning, Milan, Italy


Multi-Year Series


Salzburg Global Seminar’s long-running series on Culture, Arts and Societyfocuses on the transformative power of the arts within and across sectors, acilitates cultural exchange at multiple levels, and provides unique networking and capacitybuilding opportunities. Culture and the arts have had  a prominent place in Salzburg  Global Seminar’s programs since its beginnings as the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in 1947. Today, through multi-year projects and strategic convenings, the Culture, Arts and Society series seeks to secure a more prominent role for the arts on policy agendas and to bring creative change-makers, influencers, and communities together to drive lasting change at scale. As part of our deep commitment to next-generation talent, we support the continuously evolving needs of the creative  sector as a major driver of sustainable economic development and social improvement, particularly through theSalzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators

For more info, visit: