Design Non-Fiction

The future is a surprising mystery formed by what we can dream and what we can implement. To me, both these aspect are much more subtle than Bleecker’s buggy essay reflects. While I think his conclusions about science, academia, ubiquitous computing and even design don’t really capture any of the nuances that make them each important and relevant to the future, they do manage to support the notion that only when we closely study the constraints of the future can we really make practical conclusions about it. In this way, I think what is needed by this field is closer to our modern non-fiction–caricatures of cutting edge science, chewed up for easy digestion by the public and often distorted to support a world view or state which is, as yet, inconsistent with the data. To me, there is a science of the future, and it does not rely on being the most creative person in the room, but instead the most reasonable, informed, and understanding of the human way.

Designers have a poor track record of writing the future through creative means. Neither Sterling nor Bleecker seem to be very interested in considering that possibility. Being critical and provocative through design can give designers a substantial voice, but the things that cause major change to our existence seem to tend to be far outside of the influence of that voice.

I think to successfully consider designing the future, we need to do more than try to be consistent with practicality, we need to also actively incorporate our rational and organizational shortcomings. Sterling makes an interesting point on the difference between something like marketing and design fiction being the degree to which marketing is designed to be a lie, while design fiction may be more focused on telling the truth of what is marketed.

To me, where this takes us, is to a study of the design non-fiction that is an archeology of the future, of perhaps just a rigorous alternative to its fiction.


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