Footprints of the Future: Timelines and Exploratory Forecasts in Futures Research

by Peter von Stackelberg


The presentation of time-oriented data can provide significant insights into both the past and future. The use of timelines that integrate disparate quantitative time series data and other time-oriented information into a unified visual presentation can reveal patterns, causes, probabilities, and possibilities across complex social, technological, economic, and political systems. Cycles, waves, logistics curves, and other archetypal patterns, when laid over historical data, can provide a deeper understanding of the dynamics of change. Timelines and these archetypal change patterns can also be used in the field of futures studies as key components in a “hypothesis-to-forecast” (exploratory forecast) process to identify potential long-term patterns of change and make long-range (25+ years) forecasts.

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