Research Projects


THE FUTURE THROUGH THE PRESENT is a research project by Erik Gandini, Professor of Documentary Film.

The project's thematic premise is our relation to work in the future, in a time when AI and automation is expected to replace us on a large scale within most professional fields. This perspective invites us to pose the existential question of what will we do when we don’t have to work. Challenges us to formulate a new idea about work, beyond the role it has had so far, especially in a Western context, as one of the most central activity in our lives. Redefining the meaning of work requires imagination, a task for the art and for creative documentary film. The purpose of the project is to explore a documentary narrative that creates a projection into the future. Formulate a creative documentary aesthetic that releases documentary film from the constraints of dealing with either the present or the past.

Aim and research questions

How can a documentary film portray something that does not yet exist? A universe of ideas, hypotesis and assumptions? How can we formulate new aesthetics that releases the documentary from the limitations of representing either the present or the past? How can a new 'documentary aesthetics for the future' be formulated that is not an imitation of fiction or the SCI-FI genre? A new narrative that through the contemporary manages to create a projection into the future?

Research implementation and anticipated impact

Our society is a work society. From childhood, we are taught to be result-oriented and competitive. While we learn how to work, we tend to forget all the other aspects of being human. Can we think of a different future? Is the ethical superiority of work really untouchable? If we are living at the pinnacle of society’s productive, is there still a need for everybody to work most of the time? The paradox of work is that many people hate their jobs, but they are considerably more miserable doing nothing. Or? Are we miserable because we are not earning money or because there is a cultural pressure around us? The aim of this research is to challenge, through art, the work-centered nature of modern society.


The project is interdisciplinary and collaborative, with a clear goal of strengthening the cross-pollination between creative documentary film and sociology. It is conducted in collaboration with Roland Paulsen, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Lund and Jyoti Mistry, professor of film at Valand Academy in Gothemburg. I work also with Sandra Pauletto, associate professor and Roberto Bresin, professor of Media Technology from KTH / MID within the NAVET collaboration. Together we explore how a world with less work can be represented with Sonification and other methods in sound technology.


Release in December 2023.

The project is financed by the Swedish Research Council.

Photo: Fredrik Wenzel


Professor of Documentary Film, Erik Gandini

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